The second stage of this years GIRO rolls over the training grounds of a lot of Northern Ireland’s cyclists. The northern part of the country has some of the finest coastline in the world. The terrain itself will not prove too challenging for a pro peleton tuned and ready for the high mountains of Europe, but the one thing that could make a difference is weather. I don’t suspect we will get the snow of last years GIRO, but there is a good chance of high wind and rain, it is Northern Ireland after all. When I say wind, I mean coastal wind that can swirl around headlands and stop you in your tracks. The riders will sweep down off the Glens Of Antrim at Portrush where they turn right along the coast towards Belfast and the fast end of the stage. At one point they will hit the village of Cushendall, and a 24 mile stretch down to Larne that was the first Corniche road in the British Isles. If they are unlucky they will also turn right into a head-on “bluster“, pretty common along that stretch.
If any of the teams are thinking of stealing some precious GC time that they might need later in the Dolomites, this would be where that could happen. The wierd thing is even though every team knows this could be a tactic for the day, you can’t always defend against it. It just takes one rider to loose a wheel at the wrong time and the gap is there. A slight hesitation of 5 seconds can result in a 20 second loss at the end of the stage. Look what that meant at the recent Tour Of Turkey. We have seen this tactic work in the past at the Tour along the coast of Brittany, and in the classics of Belgium. Narrow roads, the peleton strung out and in the gutter, and somebody looses a wheel. After 3 weeks of racing it still amazes me that Grand Tours can be lost by a hand full of seconds. But now with a somewhat “leveled” peleton that is often all it takes. Riders need to be on it and focused every single day of the three weeks.
I would be surprised if some of the teams don’t try it, although, with a Giant Shimano team dedicated to delivering Kittel to the line that is one hell of a chasing train to have to fend off. If instead the riders get an unbelievable tailwind along that same road, there is maybe one small kicker of a climb that a small group could use to get away. After that it will be the red kite prayer and the hope that the sprinters mess it up. It should be a great first road stage into Belfast and of coarse all of the locals are hoping for a little “Belfast Mist” to complete the party (For Belfast Mist see: Sheets of sideways rain coming directly into your face – although I wouldn’t want to watch the race in it). But we do love a sprinter in Ireland and with the form that young Vivianni is in I would put a pint on a surprise and an Italian win.
Paintings From The Ulster Transport Authority Travel Posters.