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From long-time enthusiasts to youngsters who had only just discarded the stabilisers, cyclists stretched as far as the eye could see.

The centre of Southampton was transformed into a cycling haven for the fifth annual Sky Ride, which saw roads closed to traffic and a party atmosphere take over.

Everyone from toddlers to pensioners were among the 11,000 riders donning fluorescent jackets for the 7.8km route taking in some of Southampton’s key sites.

Some broke their journey for activities along the route, such as at Houndwell Park and Southampton Common. These included a cycling obstacle course and a sprint zone to take on other riders.

A “tricks and tunes” area gave a chance to practise bike stunts from a ramp jumping onto an airbag or watch stunts from the Voodoo Unicycles team. This year saw 1,000 more people out on the route than last year.

Helping kick off this year’s ride from Guildhall Square were Olympic gold medallist Jason Queally, Southampton fundraising superman Gus McKechnie and Team Sky professional cyclist, Australian Nathan Earle, who lined up in front of thousands.

Gus, who has raised more than £2m for charity by cycling 50,000 miles aboard Red Funnel ferries, said he was “honoured” to be there.

He added: “Southampton’s got so much to offer and the more of these kind of things we can put on we can show the world and show the country what we’re capable of doing as a city.”

Jason said: “It’s a privilege to be here.”

Hundreds of families embraced the Sky Ride.

John Bailes, 67, was out with wife Brenda, 64, son-in-law Stefan Bleeck, 45, from Shirley, and grandchildren Lena, 4, and Amber, 1.

He said: “I’m really enjoying it – it’s a super atmosphere. It brings people together in a way that’s often difficult in a big city.”

Ian Futter, 39, from Shirley, was out on the course with wife Emma, 35, and children Genevieve, 8, George, 6, and Clara, 3.

He said: “It’s really good for the family and good to get the cars off the road – why don’t we do it permanently like this?

“The children are a bit tired but they’re loving it.”

Julie Cutts, 45, of Cygnus Gardens, Hythe, and partner Timothy Chivers, 41, had come with five-year-old son Joshua Chivers.

She said: “I think it’s fantastic to get more people into cycling.”

Sky Ride Southampton is one of 15 major events going on in cities across the country this summer.

Southampton City Council, in conjunction with British Cycling and Sky, will be running a series of organised 30 bike rides of different distances starting in Southampton from now until September.

Log on to goskyride.com/Southampton for details.