Belfast Telegraph

Gran Fondo memories: Five share stories and experiences from a truly remarkable day

By Victoria O'Hara

Rev John Dickinson (61) from Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. He said:

"This time last year I hadn't been on a bike in 40 years. I really needed to do something to get fit. I have a son who is a fanatic and was doing the long ride. He'd been trying to persuade me and I did.

"There is a group of guys at the church who ride every Saturday and I started to work with them. I did 35 miles and that is a big deal for me.

"When I was at theological college I cycled every day.

But there is just something about being out in the fresh air, the pain and then feeling really good again when you finish. It was just really class today.

"It was amazing being out with hundreds of other riders. It was very special."

Joelene Browning (38) from Lisburn. She said:

"I've been involved in cycling for about 20 years and it's just great to keep fit. Watching the Giro last year and then being able to be part of this has been so enjoyable. The atmosphere has been fantastic. The guys at the side had all the pink out and had their bells out ringing them.

"Going through Strangford and going through Comber there were so many people out. The working hard, and digging deep up the hills... I think that is where you get the buzz from. It has been amazing."

Gordon McKay (46) from Belfast. He said:

"I was always into cycling even from when I had a BMX as a kid. It was a great route, very well organised.

"The one thing that struck me was the amount of people who came out of their houses and cheered us on. Around Whiterock especially I couldn't believe the support. The freedom you feel when you are out on the road and the adrenaline you get and when you finish you do get a sense of achievement. It has been just great to see."

Joe McAuley, principal of St Macnissi's Primary School, Newtownabbey. He said:

"I only started cycling a couple of years ago. This is the first big event that I've done. The idea of being able to cycle on open roads was the appeal.

"It was a really great experience and very enjoyable.

"You are competing against yourself, but to be part of such a big event and to experience that buzz is just great.

"The crowds have been fantastic. The hills around Strangford with all the people and the sun was just lovely."

Alex McGreevy (43) works for the NI Hospice. He said:

"We went out as a big group and mixed with other cycling clubs - the etiquette in cycling is second to none. People are so friendly and supportive.

"The atmosphere was just brilliant. Last year we were all fans of the Giro and this year we are taking part.

"The support along Ballygowan and right around the route was just brilliant and to have so many people out that early in the morning was fantastic. It was great to be part of it."

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