David one in 5,000 in the Gran Fondo cycling event

David Kerr and his partner Andrea Nash at the Titanic Quarter start of the Gran Fondo cycle event on Sunday
David Kerr and his partner Andrea Nash at the Titanic Quarter start of the Gran Fondo cycle event on Sunday

David Kerr was a man in 5,000 in the massive Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo cycle spectacular on Sunday – the only hand cyclist among the thousands who tackled the punishing courses in County Down.

There were 2,600 starters in the 175km Mourne route and 1,500 in the 60km route which took in much of Strangford Lough – with David and his cycling partner Andrea Nash finishing about halfway up the massed field of the shorter course.

While the other competitors relied on leg power, Portadown man David (34) used his considerable arm muscle power to stay among the pack, and was making no allowances for the fact that he has to lie virtually flat as he eats up the road.

“I’m not really at a disadvantage with hand cycling,” said David, who lost the power of his legs when he was 17, due to a motorcycle accident. “I have a world class machine, an End Force RX built by ‘Invacare’. They’re an American firm which supply Special Olympians for a wide range of sports – from tennis to basketball, as well as marathon and racing wheelchairs.

“I’m at a slight disadvantage going uphill, but this is compensated on the level and going downhill where I can go faster than conventional bikes.”

Competitors travelled from various parts of the world to compete – including the USA, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, all over the British Isles, Canada and Italy. So David and Andrea were delighted to hold their own in such a competitive field.

The race started at the Titanic Quarter, and followed a circular route via Castlereagh, Comber, Strangford Lough shore, Ballygowan and back to Belfast. “Much was made of the heat,” said David. “But it clouded over a few times and it wasn’t too bad.” He clocked a commendable 2hrs 48mins.

David is a regular in marathon-type cycle events. His longest so far has been the round Lough Neagh (150k) route, three years ago, starting at Peatlands Park and going through Portadown, Lurgan, Aghalee, Antrim, Toome and back down the western side.

He has also “swum the English Channel”, or rather its 22 miles equivalent over a period of 10 weeks in Portadown Swimming Pool, all for charity.

His next challenge will be the ABC Borough Council’s three-towns challenge, known as Sportive, where cyclists are invited to cover a 60km or 100km course taking in the towns of Craigavon, Armagh and Banbridge and back to Craigavon Water Sports Centre.

There will also be a short cycle round Craigavon lakes for children. The date is Sunday, June 19, and full details are online.

“Andrea and I are really looking forward to the next one,” said David.