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Motorists criticise organisers of Northern Ireland Gran Fondo cycling event after suffering traffic delays

Darach McQuaid argues there had been "a massive awareness campaign" prior to the event...

A number of motorists have complained of traffic disruptions as a result of the inaugural RCS-backed Northern Ireland Gran Fondo on Sunday. However, Darach McQuaid, who has been heavily involved in organising the event, says there were signs every kilometre and has proclaimed the event ‘a huge success’.

Aaron Abernethy told the BBC that a journey between Carryduff and Ballynahinch in County Down took nearly an hour, when it normally takes 15 minutes. He said that he had been unaware the Gran Fondo was going to be taking place.

"Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I didn't see a single sign in the area that said there was going to be any traffic disruption.  The only sign I saw was maybe 60 or 70 yards before the actual cross-point where the cyclists were crossing over the main road.”

Abernethy believes that RCS Sport need to find a better way of notifying people of disruptions. "It didn't seem like I was alone in thinking that road would be passable yesterday."

One driver travelling to Roselawn cemetery in south Belfast for Father's Day claimed that a two-mile trip had taken almost two hours, and said there were no signs for diversions.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board secured the rights for the events from RCS and its Irish partners, Shadetree Sports, at a cost of £400,000. Shadetree Sports’ director, Darach McQuaid – the younger brother of former UCI president, Pat McQuaid – said there had been a large awareness campaign prior to the event.

"Around the route, we had, about every kilometre, signs saying the road was going to be closed, for about nine days before the event. We had a mail drop that went to thousands of houses around the route, and we got massive feedback from that."

The event will also be run in 2016 and 2017. Organisers were hoping for at least 4,000 entrants in the first year, building up to 8,000 by the third year. While numbers were slightly down on that first year target, McQuaid still professed himself pleased with how it had gone.

"Ninety-nine percent of the event was a huge success. The routes have been very successful from a tourism point of view. The feedback from the riders was amazing, the feedback from a lot of the towns and villages we went through was amazing.

"There are 3,200 riders, many of who from around the world, heading back to their homesteads now, saying that was spectacular countryside with welcoming people."

Earlier this month, we reported that the closed-road Velothon Wales event had attracted a degree of local opposition as a result of the planned road closures. This resentment may have been the motivation for saboteurs who spread tacks on the road at two points along the route.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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