Team Sky star Richie Porte to ride in our Gran Fondo
One of the biggest stars in cycling, Richie Porte, will participate in next month's Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland.
The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland on June 21 is a legacy event from the hugely successful 2014 Giro d'Italia which began in Belfast before travelling around the country for its first three days of competition.
At the time Northern Ireland turned pink, the colour associated with the race, with thousands of spectators lining the route to support the riders. The Gran Fondo, which invites cyclists of all ages and levels to participate, will no doubt bring back some of the feelgood factor that landed here with the Giro.
There are two routes, starting and finishing at the Titanic Belfast building; the Mourne Route, a 177km ride, which will challenge the fittest riders, and the Strangford Route, a 58km loop, achievable for novice cyclists.
And you never know... Team Sky rider Porte may have the famous Maglia Rosa (winner's pink jersey) with him if he finishes first in this year's Giro d'Italia, which starts next Saturday.
Porte, from Australia, is ranked the number two rider in the world and has won this year's Paris-Nice, Tour of Catalunya and Giro del Trentino races. He is one of the favourites, along with the renowned Alberto Contador, for the Giro.
Five years ago Porte announced himself as a force to be reckoned with when he wore the Giro's Maglia Rosa in his first Grand Tour, finished seventh overall and won the Best Young Rider's jersey by a margin of over seven minutes.
The 30-year-old moved to Team Sky in 2013 and has developed into one of the most respected riders in world cycling. He is the current Australian time trial champion and in the Giro d'Italia will be the leader of Team Sky.
On coming to Northern Ireland, Porte said: "I am really delighted to be heading to Northern Ireland in June to take part in the inaugural Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia. Seeing the spectacular success of the Giro d'Italia Big Start there last year left me wanting to come and visit and ride my bike and experience the scenery and this event gives me the perfect opportunity to do that.
"One of the best memories I have in professional cycling was wearing the Pink Jersey in the 2010 Giro. It is a special race and the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland is a great legacy event. See you all on June 21!"
Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports, organisers of the Gran Fondo, said: "To have a rider of Richie's calibre riding our event is something very special indeed. We cannot wait to see Richie share the road in our Gran Fondo in June with all of our riders.
"We would like to see Northern Ireland adopt Richie this May and support his bid to win the Giro d'Italia and bring the winner's Maglia Rosa to Belfast in June. The hashtag will be #AdoptRichieNI and we will be creating competitions all throughout the Giro, offering our riders and fans opportunities to win cool Giro related prizes while supporting Richie."
Susie McCullough, Tourism NI Director of Events, said: "The legacy of last year's Giro d'Italia Grande Partenza is still very much alive across Northern Ireland, and has been given another great boost with the news that one of the top riders in the world will join us for the Gran Fondo."