In Pictures: Sore but happy, 700 take the strain to complete Maracycle
They came in their hundreds - pedalling a gruelling 200-mile journey from Dublin to Belfast and back again to help break down sectarian barriers.
Some 700 cyclists from all walks of life across Ireland were enjoying a well-earned rest last night after completing the two-day Co-Operation Ireland Maracycle over the weekend.
Their aim was to complete the tough journey from one capital to another and back again - but also to raise money for Co-Operation Ireland and charities of their own choice.
The cyclists' long trek began in Dublin on Saturday morning before they made their way north across the border. Weather conditions were kind as riders began to arrive in Belfast at around 3pm where they received a warm welcome at the Queen's University's Physical Education Centre.
The PEC was buzzing as tired and hungry cyclists, many who had been training for six months, arrived safely bringing the first leg of the ride to a close.
The first entrant to arrive in Belfast was David Coyle, who completed the first leg in an impressive five hours and 50 minutes. There were still cyclists in Newry at the time of his arrival, highlighting his speedy progress.
After a well-earned rest many of the cyclists enjoyed a special dinner at the Europa Hotel on Saturday evening. But it was an early night for many with the next day's return cycle to Dublin looming. And with blisters barely healed, the hundreds of riders taking part were back at the PEC at 8am yesterday to set off south towards the skyline of Dublin. They filed into the city safely once again yesterday afternoon - exhausted and sore but delighted with such an achievement.
Co-Operation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan paid tribute to the varying ages and backgrounds of the participants.
"It has been a really super event. It is great when you see people on the road who have had double kidney transplants and heart valve operations. The determination of these people is huge but there is also a sense of fun and good humour," he said.
"There is a woman in her sixties cycling in a skirt, tights and school-like shoes. There are no age brackets with this challenge. Our youngest competitor is 15 years old, while our oldest is a 72-year-old gentleman. It incorporates one generation to the next." Mr Sheridan also paid tribute to road marshals who helped the event run smoothly and came to the aid of any cyclists in distress.
They also checked the route in advance for unexpected roadworks and obstacles. One man who fell off his bike on Saturday had to be taken to hospital for assessment after being helped by marshals.
"Along the roads locals were coming out and providing the cyclists with water and drinks, these volunteers are fantastic," he added.
Winnie Orr, from Co-Operation Ireland, hailed the Maracyle as a great success. "The Maracycle first began in 1984 and had to finish in 1998 with the roads between Dublin and Belfast becoming too busy and difficult for so many people to cycle safely.
"We started to run this again two years ago and it's been a huge success."
The money raised from the maracycle will go towards projects which help break down sectarian barriers and build relationships between different communities, both north and south of the border.