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1,000 prepare to saddle up for the return of an epic challenge

Over 1,000 cyclists will get back into the saddle after 12 years for the return of the Co-Operation Ireland Maracycle this weekend.

And the charity believes the foundations have been laid to make the two-day 200-mile challenge between Belfast and Dublin a highlight in the annual sporting calendar.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the peace-building charity a huge operation has been put into place to ensure the event — supported by the Belfast Telegraph and Irish Independent — runs smoothly.

The cross-border route has 1,000 signs erected warning traffic and directing cyclists.

Among those who will be gearing up to follow the signs is Pearse Tipping from Craigavon, who at 77 years old is the oldest entrant.

But Mr Tipping says he is ready to take on the challenge.

“I don’t feel my age, but I am looking forward to it,” he said.

“I’m a regular at the gym, I try my best to keep fit, so I just thought why not do the Maracycle.

“I’ve never done it before but the training has been going well.”

Starting in Belfast on Saturday morning, participants will snake through many towns, north and south of the border, before finishing at Dublin City University.

Then on Sunday cyclists will retrace the route back the Belfast.

Terry O’Neill, fundraising director at Co-Operation Ireland, said: “It looks quite likely that we’ll meet our target of 1,000 cyclists, which is a superb result for the event and a great boost for our charity.

“The foundations have been laid to make this event a highlight in the annual sporting calendar.

“Next year we hope to welcome 1,500 cyclists from Dublin to Belfast on the last Saturday of June.”

Belfast Telegraph