The Most Irish Of Starts
Did it really happen? If it wasn’t for the stickers still on the shop windows and the seats painted pink outside pubs, it would be hard to believe one of the biggest bike races in the world just rolled through Northern Ireland. I guess the risk with bringing a race like this to a place like Belfast is “Will they get it”? Well I am happy to say “they did”, and in a big way. The city basically treated the GIRO weekend like a big festival and lined the roads everywhere it went to cheer it along. Villages had obviously been preparing for weeks and I doubt very much if there is a kids bike left in the province that wasn’t commandeered and painted pink. To be expected the weather didn’t co-operate, but then again it wouldn’t have been a true Irish start without some rain, and lets face it when they reached Bari on Tuesday the weather was worse! The riders seemed surprised at the turnout and enthusiasm from the Irish crowds, which I am not. The Irish love sport and love athletes pitched against the odds. The weather certainly gave it that angle and turned the first two stages into a more difficult prospect that the road book showed. Some of the best in the world were on display and we all knew it. Apart from the Irish riders Cadel got a special reception and an extra cheer everywhere he went. He is a fighter and a personality, someone to follow and believe in. Then there was the tragedy of Dan Martin crashing out, Irelands hope for a podium left lying on the road in shreds with a look of complete shock. His dreams of riding a grand tour on the roads of the country he represents gone. How can one rider have so much bad luck, but we kept on cheering. As the teams left Dublin on Monday Belfast got back to business knowing they had gone a long way to setting the world straight on what the city and its people are all about, and happy to see the world talk about them and their home in a positive way.