Belfast Telegraph

Cycle fans tickled pink as Gran Fondo is coming to Northern Ireland

Run by Giro d'Italia organisers, RCS, the Gran Fondo will take place here for the next three years, with the first event scheduled for June 2015.

By Amanda Ferguson

Cycling fans rejoice - the first of three Gran Fondo events to be held in Northern Ireland takes place on June 21, 2015.

The legacy project from the 2014 Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza (Big Start) in Armagh, Belfast and Dublin earlier this year invites cyclists of all ages and levels to participate in a challenging ride, with an expo and Italian themed pasta party adding to the festival atmosphere.

The Giro d’Italia  is one of many world-class sport events that have been attracted to our shores in recent years.

In May the focus of the cycling world was on Ireland and the Giro d'Italia Big Start with three days of pre-race celebrations in Belfast, followed by spectacular opening stages in Northern Ireland before racing from Armagh to Dublin.

Run by Giro d’Italia organisers, RCS, the Gran Fondo will take place here for the next three years, with the first event scheduled for June 2015.

Speaking at today’s announcement at Titanic Belfast, Arlene Foster said: “The 2014 Giro d’Italia captured the imagination of the people of Northern Ireland and was hailed as a resounding success by the organisers, who were bowled over by the warmth of our welcome and enthusiasm.

"Cyclists are now coming to ride the Giro stages and other routes across Northern Ireland and we want to capitalise on that interest.

“The Gran Fondo will establish a tangible legacy event to the Giro d’Italia and further increase awareness of Northern Ireland as a premium cycling and tourism destination.

"There will also be a positive economic impact, with riders and their families filling local hotels and restaurants.

“The event also has the capacity to generate significant media interest in the lead up and across the weekend of the Gran Fondo.

"Both the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland will be working hard to engage with cycling media across our key markets close to home and overseas.”

Following the success of the Giro Grande Partenza, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board entered into negotiations with RCS and partners Shadetree Sports to secure the event, a sportive aimed at amateur cyclists across the world who travel to the host country to participate.

Two race routes have been scoped and provisionally recommended by the organisers, preceded by cycling activities on the day before the main event across Northern Ireland. Both routes, one 177 kilometres and the other 59 kilometres, commence and finish at Titanic Belfast.

Darach McQuaid, Shadetree Sports director said: “We are very pleased to announce this new partnership with NITB on Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia.

"The success of the Big Start last May was just the beginning and we are looking forward to working closely with local stakeholders to make this new event a big success over the next three years.

“We aim to make Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Northern Ireland one of the best in the world and one which will attract riders from all around to globe to ride on Northern Ireland’s roads and experience the warmth of the welcome here, along with the unique Giro theme.

"Being part of this growing global series will give us the ability to market Northern Ireland as a leading cycling destination and attract new visitors.

“There will be strong engagement with the local communities the event will pass through and our aim will be to create the “pink magic” that was done so well in May during the Big Start.”

Andrea Trabuio, Head of Mass Events, RCS Sport said: “Following the great success of the 2014 Giro d’Italia Big Start from Belfast, in the amazing scenery of the Northern Ireland coastline, we are very happy to announce a new three-year partnership that will see a series of Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia events hosted in this fantastic country.

"We are sure that this ‘Made in Italy’ event will be a big success and will positively promote Northern Ireland.”

Gran Fondo events take place throughout Europe and the rest of the world but are limited in number in an effort to keep the events unique.

SDLP culture, arts and leisure spokeswoman Karen McKevitt has welcomed the news.

The South Down MLA said the Gran Fondo "will bring back world cycling’s attention to Northern Ireland after the successful staging of the Giro d’Italia".

“It’s very important that we build upon momentum and opportunities that arise from the staging global sporting events and maximize the potential for staging more," she added.

"Legacy promotions are an intrinsic part of that. Irish cycling received a massive boost this year. The Giro also introduced people to the sport for the first time. We must continue that good work.

“In the recent past this island has been represented on a world stage in golf and boxing, to name only two, massively increasing spectator and participator interest in both, leading to opportunities for hosting global events in both codes. Cycling can be added to those.

“It was very important that legacy projects continue to arise from the Giro and news that the Gran Fondo will return here for the next three years certainly fulfils that.”

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