Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland gearing up for an exciting Gran Fondo

By Jonathan Bradley

A grey November morning outside the office seems an unlikely place for inspiration to strike but that is exactly where Titanic Quarter Cycling Club was born.

Now with over 70 members, and preparing to play a major role in this weekend's Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo, Philip Corr smiled as he remembered their earliest days.

"Myself and Alex (fellow founding member, Alex McGreevy) batted around the idea at first," he recalled. "We were outside Titanic House one morning, just locking our bikes up, when it was mentioned and it all just went from there.

"We met with Cycling Ulster to find out how to go about it and spent a year, from November 2013 to our first ride in November 2014, putting in the hard graft during the evenings to bring all the different aspects together. It's all been worth it."

As well as setting up a Street Velodrome in Titanic Quarter as part of the Gran Fondo festivities, the club will have more than 30 riders in the 3,000-strong field for Sunday's race, an amateur sportive associated with the Giro d'Italia and making the first of three trips to Belfast as organisers attempt to establish a legacy from the visit of last summer's Grande Partenza.

It is fitting, therefore, that a club inspired by the visit of the Giro - the team kit even features a pink band in a nod to the leader's famous maglia rose jersey - will be so noticeable on the day.

"I think a lot of people were inspired by the Giro coming here and that was definitely the case with our club," opined Corr, who acts as a project manager for Titanic Quarter Ltd.

"When we came up with the idea, it was just when the Giro was being announced and everyone was talking about it."

Since then, Corr has noted an increased appetite for cycling among beginners, something he is sure will be buoyed further by the Gran Fondo.

"We have a lot of members who cycled when they were young but were only coming back into it when they joined and it's definitely a legacy aspect from the Giro," he said. "Now they're doing 50 or 60 miles each Sunday."

Marketed as a sportive for riders of all ages and ability, Corr has the team prepared for what he thinks will be a punishing endeavour.

"The short route is going to be a tough challenge and I think it'll surprise people," he asserted. "If you think you can rock up and do it without training then it'll catch you out. If you're not ready for the hill-climb at the start, then you could do damage.

"The hills are going to be severe on the bigger ride also and that's where we've focused our training."

The club are set to continue expanding and will also organise their own race, to be held on the first August Bank Holiday, through a leg of the Seat Super Seven Criterium series.

"We've got plans and we're looking to go away on a few training rides, but I think this is just the start," Corr enthused.

Belfast Telegraph


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