Lizzie Armitstead and Rebecca Romero among those who rode 13-mile course from Eastlands to Old Trafford

Some 7,000 cyclists including Olympic champion Rebecca Romero and British national champion Lizzie Armitstead, plus Ashes to Ashes actor Dean Andrews and former footballer and cancer survivor Geoff Thomas, took to the streets of Manchester on Monday for the inaugural Daily Mirror Great Manchester Cycle.

Participants in the sold-out event, which featured routes of 13, 26 and 52 miles, were able to enjoy a 13-mile closed loop running from Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium in the east of the city to Old Trafford and Salford Quays in the west, incorporating the city’s Mancunian Way, usually out of bounds to cyclists.

The city, of course, is the home of British Cycling and Armitstead, who is aiming to win gold in the Olympic road race at the end of next month, said: “I spend a lot of time in Manchester and to be able to explore the city in this way is something I really wanted to do. It was a fantastic day and something I was delighted to be a part of.”

Romero, who switched from rowing to win gold on the track at Beijing in the individual pursuit, added: “For people who cycle recreationally, to have this kind of structured event with a timing chip and to have the route mapped out, is a great opportunity to test themselves.”

The event was organised by Nova International, which is also behind event’s such as the Great North Run. The company’s communications director, David Hart, commented: “We were thrilled with the reaction to the Great Manchester Cycle, which in its first year, has become the UK’s biggest timed cycling event.

“With the three distances, it was a celebration of cycling on the closed roads of Manchester to suit different levels of ability and we believe this event has a hugely exciting future,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.