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Stormont Estate is gearing up to host the 2017 Gran Fondo


By Robert Jones

Crowds will converge on Stormont Estate in June to soak up the atmosphere at the eagerly awaited 2017 Gran Fondo.

The event's popularity has soared with a huge field of riders from as far afield as Russia, USA, Canada, Australia and across Europe moving through the gears.

This year's start/finish, rider registration and event expo has switched from Titanic Belfast to Stormont Estate which was featured in the iconic opening team time trial of the 2014 Giro d'Italia Big Start.

The action gets under way on June 3 and 4 and as almost a quarter of participants in the 2016 Gran Fondo travelled in, it will be a big boost to the Northern Ireland economy.

Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports, the event organisers, said: "We have really enjoyed our two years of having the event based at Titanic Belfast.

"We had great partners there from TB to TQL and the Harbour Police. Moving to Stormont Estate, we hope to minimise the impact our event road closures have on Belfast in particular.

"The route changes are minimal and the overall length of both the Mourne and Strangford routes will not see much change.

"We are excited to move to Stormont Estate which saw such big crowds during the 2014 Giro d'Italia Big Start opening stage.

"In particular, the Estate itself will offer our riders and their families a beautiful setting throughout the weekend.

"Also for Shadetree Sports, delivering on our economic impact aims for our key partner Tourism NI is very important, and this has been a success."

Aine Kearney, Tourism Northern Ireland's Director of Business Support and Events, said: "The Gran Fondo is a major legacy event following 2014's hugely successful Giro d'Italia Big Start, with a growing economic impact on Northern Ireland.

"It showcases our beautiful landscape to riders and international media, increasing awareness of Northern Ireland as a premium cycling and tourism destination."

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance NI Stormont Estate Management Unit said: "The Estate is delighted to welcome thousands of cyclists and supporters when it hosts the start and finish of the third edition of the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland."

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