Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster today announced that a major cycling event, the Gran Fondo, has been secured for 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.
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 huge success of the Giro Grande Partenza, 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.