Obviously it is early in relation to the nitty-gritty, but having just signed up myself, it is clear it will still be two parcours- the 58km Strangford Route and the 173km Mournes Route and roads will be totally closed again. Also included this time in the price (early bird £55 for the 58km, £65 for the pleasure of the more painfully vertical option) is a Castelli event jersey. However if you want to dress up as the ultimate fanboy/girl then bibs, gillet, gloves and caps are also available to add to your basket on top of the initial entry fee. These pieces can be bought individually or all together for £180. There really seems to be a major push on getting wallets open further this year but then again, no one is forcing anyone to fork out on the extras.
I am slightly disappointed that they didn't extend the length of the short route which was one of the complaints many people had about last year. 173km is doable on the flat by most people- however these kms go up a bit more vertically than a man of my stature could manage before the roads open again so that only leaves the 58km route which is fine for those less experienced, but for club run "B" and "C" riders like me it is a bit short to leave any real feeling of satisfaction. If it wasn't for the attraction of closed roads and the other paraphrenilia then I would probably have passed this time. However managing the traffic over two routes is a big enough job without complicating it further with course extensions.
Me with the Trofeo Senza Fine at last years Gran Fondo
There is also the added attraction of bumping into legends of the sport with Stephen Roche and Richie Porte making appearances last year and a whole weekend dedicated to cycling taking place, and it is more or less definite that some high profile people from past or present will be there. It does seem weird writing about next June as I sit here, balancing my laptop on the sofa arm while trying not to dislodge the ornaments on my Christmas tree but this year demonstrated just how quickly that time goes in, and I have my motivation to up the winter miles again already.
Just before the off in the 2015 Gran Fondo NI.