Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

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

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
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
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
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.

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