Gran Fondo: Results, times, positions and pictures as thousands descend on Belfast for 2016 'big ride'
Race draws crowds as last year's winner retains crown
The rider who has won Northern Ireland's Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo for the second year in a row has told of his delight after he crossed the line in a nail-biting finish.
In sweltering conditions, Ballywalter man Mark Kane's race ended in a photo finish before he was announced as the proud winner of the bike race for the second year in a row.
One of Mark's rival riders was his own dad, Dave Kane, who owns the famous bike shop bearing his name in east Belfast.
Mark (46), a member of the Northern Cycle Club which was established in 1914, pipped others to the post, finishing the 180 kilometres in just over five hours.
"I'm delighted - absolutely over the moon," said Mark, who works full-time in his father's shop. "I won last year and I was hoping to repeat it, so I am really pleased.
"Though it was a challenging course - some steep hills and beautiful scenery, with some excellent cyclists taking part and it was a close finish.
"But what a fantastic day for everyone, the kids and supporters and the weather is great too. The best thing about the course is that the roads are closed off making it very safe.
"It's a great experience for everyone who took part, to be able to take either route and cycle with people of the same ability whether you are competing or cycling for fun.
"And there are people here from all over the world, it's great for the economy too and an excellent day for the whole family."
More than 4,000 cyclists and spectators rolled into Belfast yesterday for the second Gran Fondo. Pedalling in the scorching sunshine as temperatures soared to 23C, cyclists of all abilities completed one of two tough courses to gain their bragging rights.
With amateurs and elites flocking to take part from as far away as South Africa and Australia, as well as across the UK and Ireland, the family day proved a winner for people of all ages.
Now in its second year, riders pedalled their way around the gruelling Mourne course which snaked through Castlewellan and the hilly terrain of Spelga Dam before going through Rostrevor and Slieve Croob.
Those wanting a more leisurely but still challenging cycle took the 40km Strangford route through Ballygowan, Moneyreagh and Comber.
Mark's father Dave (75) took part in the 40km and said he was delighted to see such a turn out and especially the number of women who signed up this year.
"It's not about competition, it's about the enjoyment," he said.
"It's a good boost for the economy as well with so many people coming to such a great event in our wee country, staying in hotels and spending money here.
"There are only 12 Gran Fondos in the whole world and we have one of them right here. It's absolutely brilliant!"