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The iconic Giro d'Italia came to Northern Ireland bringing hope and inspiration

By Paul Carson

Published 16/05/2014

Riders sweep round a tight left-hander on the Donaghadee Road, at Newtownards, during the Irish senior cycling road race championship. 5/7/1986
Riders sweep round a tight left-hander on the Donaghadee Road, at Newtownards, during the Irish senior cycling road race championship. 5/7/1986
Stephen McIlroy, No. 36, top Northern Ireland CF rider in the eight-day T1 Raleigh Tour of Ireland. He is pictured here leading the breaking group on a climb during the sixth stage with No. 26 Mick Nulty, Leinster. 25/8/1979
Dutch rider Arno Van Boeijen and John Sheenan among the pack of riders during the Milk Race stages. 25/3/1989
Two riders caught in the skyline taking part in the Northern Ireland Cyclo-Cross Association's league event at Valentine Playing Fields, bangor. 1/1/1991
The leading group in the Irish Senior road Race Championships pass through Six Roads Ends, and among the leaders were, John Sheenan of Ace CC, Dublin; Martin Quinn of Cyprus CC, Belfast and Aidan Harris of Emerald CC, Dublin. 5/7/1986
Frenchman Pascal Audoux, points winner of the Tour of Canada, puts his head down as he pushes to the front during the latter stages of the Dale Farm Cycling Classic. 15/6/1985
True Grit! It's certainly etched in the faces of these cyclists who took part in a race as part of the Rathcoole Festival Week programme. 12/8/1978
Nigel Simpson (Merseyside) wins final stage of the Belfast Charter Grand Prix at Carryduff. 24/9/1988
Waiting for the signal at the Ballymena Road Club Race from Ahoghill are from the left, Eddie McJinney, Joe hadden, Gerry Beggs and Dermot Hughes. 12/4/1979
Mr John O'Connor (right) starting the first competitor Thomas Alford, Foyle valley Cycling Club, in the Mothers Pride sponsored Autumn Grand Prix Cycle Trial in Derry. Also in the picture is Mr Richard Doherty, of Foyle Valley Club, who organised the event. 9/10/1979
The effort already showing on one competitor, during the Ulster Games international cycle race, grits his teeth as the 115-mile event got underway. 16/6/1984
Close dicing in the early stages of the Pernod All-Ireland Junior Massed Start Championship with No. 26 T. Murphy of Orwell Whellers leading the group and lying second to A. towell of Banbridge CC on the road. 1/7/1978
" They're Off," as Belfast's Lord Mayor, Cllr Alfred Ferguson, gets the Combat Cancer Bike Bonanza cyclists off to a mass start. 14/4/1984
Ms Anne Jackson, from Crossgar, stops to have a chat with Mr Jim Martin, from Saintfield, out for a ride on his penny farthing bicycle. 20/8/1991
Lined up at the traffic lights during the cycling proficiency tests at Skegoniel Primary School, are from left, Jonathan Breen, Mark Hanna, Susan Breen and Joanna Brennan, all pupils at Skegoniel; Francis McIldownet, Park Lodge and Paul Barnes, Holy Family. 15/4/1982
With his private collection of bicycles, some of the oldest in private ownership ni Northern Ireland, is Mr Matt Meharg, of Ballyboley. Matt's father started working with cycles in 1890, creating a family business. 6/8/1980
Riding around East Antrim in style is Matt Heharg, of Ballyboley, on his 1860 Penny Farthing cycle which was orginally built in Wexford. 19/8/1975
Anthony Knox, of Belfast, prectises on a penny farthing bicycle at Marlborough Park. Anthony planned to ride the machine at the Lord Mayor's Show along with other penny farthing enthusiasts. 21/5/1965
E. Paul, D. Hamilton, J. Logan and A. Paul, all employees of Andrews' car Sales, Smithfield, try their hand at a bicycle made for four. The bike owned bt Mr Fred Andrews, was built around 1895 and with a good "team" aboard, can reach speeds in excess of 60 m.p.h. 11/8/1965
Marian Hickland has found a way round the petrol problem by visiting her friends on a 'penny farthing.' Marian (21) is a secretary in her father's bicycle business at Ballinderry, co. Antrim. 3/1/1975
Patricia McKee, aged two, takes a back seat as Dad sets off on a test run on a three-wheeler made for two-and-a-half. Mr Frank Woodside, of Andrews bicycles, Belfast, provided the extra power and explained the finer points of the machine which cost £118. 1/2/1975

Bonjourno, I hope all our readers are enjoyed the 97th running of the Giro d'Italia.

As has become tradition, every other year the Giro d'Italia starts outside Italy. However, this is the first time that the Grande Partenza (Big Start) has taken place outside of mainland Europe.

The first-ever Giro d'Italia started on May 13, 1909. Newspaperman, Emilio Camillo Costamagna, editor of La Gazzetta dello Sport, saw how well L'Auto did after the success of the Tour de France and decided to start a new race, the Giro d'Italia.

The main purpose was to increase his newspaper's circulation.

Gazzetta dello Sport continues to organise and sponsor the Giro, and its link with the prestigious race is the reason for the association with the colour pink, as the newspaper is printed on pink paper.

The 1909 race featured eight stages, with an average distance of more than 300 kilometres, compared to the 183-kilometre average stage-length this year.

It has come a long way since 1909, as there are now 21 stages and three rest days. This year's Giro is seen as balanced, with three time trials, eight finishes for sprinters and nine hill, or mountain, stages.

With two relatives of Irish cycling great and Giro winner, Stephen Roche, riding in this year's race, there is keen Irish interest and a strong desire to impress on home turf.

Cycle racing has a long tradition in Ireland, having produced Roche and Sean Kelly, two of the finest riders in the world.

Roche conquered the cycling world back in 1987, winning both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. He deservedly placed himself in the history of the sport with a performance that was arguably the best ever by any Irish sportsman.

Cycling has come a long way since John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre at Gloucester Street in Belfast nearly 130 years ago.

Apart from the worldwide sporting interest, it is a great method of exercise enjoyed by millions, so let's get on our bikes and be inspired -- as one of the world's most iconic cycling events dazzles our shores -- by the heroics of Roche, the only Irishman to win it.

Online Editors

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