The stunning location of Montalto House in County Down provided the perfect backdrop for the first ever Chain Reaction Cycles-organised Spring Classic, the first of three events in the Iconic Cycle Events Series delivered by Pioneer Group.
At 10am the mass of riders rode out from Montalto Estate accompanied by the Campiones, all looking magnificent and proud in their bespoke Santini kit. Chaperoned by our motorbike marshals it was a great sight to see nearly 300 riders roll out of the estate and down into Ballynahinch where the PSNI held the traffic to allow the riders to roll out and onto Crabtree Hill.
Very quickly the chatter stopped as the 15% climb kicked in – so this is what a Spring Classic feels like! Another 68km of rolling hills, including the legendary Cornmill and new riders' favourite of Clougher Road, followed in what was widely acknowledged to be a challenging, testing and exciting route.
Tucked in amongst the riders was our very special guest, the legendary Sean Kelly, who chatted, posed for photographs and shared his stories along the route. When asked about the route afterwards he firstly said it was "rolly" and then added "and very hilly!" – a compliment if ever there was one from one of the best Spring Classic riders of all time.
Upon returning to Montalto House, with a long majestic climb up to the finish arch, the riders were then treated to complimetary free Erdinger Beer (thanks Adrian), frites and mayo (thanks Gary at Fabulous Food Factory), tea, coffee, biscuits and bananas (thanks to Action Mental Health) and massage (thanks to Active Health Solutions) and even more sunshine. It looked more like the end of the finish line at a South of France sportive rather than Ballynahinch but who is complaining?
The Milan San Remo was being shown on the big screen – hard to believe we had better weather than them – and Sean Kelly held a Q&A before everyone set off for home with some heavy kilometres in their legs and beer and frites in their bellies. Even more importantly there were plenty of smiles as they headed off.
Thanks to everyone who came and supported the event, those who helped out and to all the sponsors. We hope you will join us again next year. Please keep an eye on the Iconic Cycle Events website for further information.