Giro leaves us all tickled pink
They came, they saw, they got soaked to the skin and then they went home again. Yes, the Giro d'Italia has been and gone, three days that we'll never forget with more pink knocking about than in an unseemly brawl between Mr Blobby and Bagpuss. So as we say arrivederci, here's a look back at three days of lashing rain live on the telly. Oh, and a wee bit of cycling too.
A is for Arrival: Just in case you hadn't heard about it, anyone who stood still for more than a second was painted pink. Nothing was safe – houses, gable walls, ponies, sheep, electricity pylons and thousands of spectators, although on closer inspection they hadn't been painted, it was just hypothermia setting in.
B is for BBCNI: Our hosts for the weekend, unless you were watching on Eurosport, and we were welcomed by Jill Douglas, in obligatory pink blouse, as she had clearly read the memo that you must wear that hue. Stephen Watson was nowhere to be seen, steadfastly refusing to conform and flouncing off saying he wasn't a sissy and was away to spend quality time with men in leather.
C is for Carlton: The legend that is Mr Kirby. The man with the microphone made the event come alive with some pearls of wisdom, some utter and complete nonsense and he even managed to commentate on the action once but I think he got away with it.
D is for Dan: All talk was of Irish star Martin being a contender for the race and he was – for about 20 minutes – as a pesky manhole cover on the Newtownards Road did for Dan. "It was desperate for Dan," said Jill's right-hand man, Michael Hutchinson, but I was too busy thinking of INXS to make a poor joke about slipping on some cow pie.
E is for Equestrian: The newfound love of cycling wasn't universally welcomed as it meant that coverage of the Badminton Horse Trials was exiled to the world of the red button. Or was it pink? I can reveal that they got off with a warning although there were still quite a lot of long faces around the stables.
F is for Frozen: Marcel Kittel, winner of stages two and three, and a sprinter with calves of such magnitude, should have stayed on for the Balmoral Show. "Kittel's calf muscles are quite exceptional," said Carlton. "Although I don't think he's at the smuggling frozen chickens stage of Andre Greipel but he's a big unit." I suspect fowl play but it certainly wasn't a poultry showing by the German. I'm boring myself now.
G is for Gianni: Or Signori Savio to you and me, the sporting director of an Italian team with far too many letters in it, who, according to Carlton: "It's hard to imagine what he looks like until you actually see him but imagine a 1960s game show host and you'll have got it." Thanks for that.
H is for Helmet: Shameless name-dropping as Carlton referred to the headgear once worn by the great Sean Kelly when he won wearing 'and I don't know how to say this, something that would slip under the bed'. Probably went potty afterwards.
I is for INXS: My mistake, it was Michael Hutchence in INXS, not Hutchinson. My apologies, although the former Belfast bike rider was clearly no stranger to debauchery in his younger days, commenting that cycling 'is more dynamic than stamp collecting.' Philately will get you nowhere.
J is for Jersey: Like Joseph, there are jerseys of many colours, apart from the pink, or the maglia rosa as people will bore the lycra shorts clean off you for the next six months with in the pub. The blue one for the King of the Mountains, as Carlton told us, was because the Italians say 'what do you see when you get to the top of a mountain?' Or, as he put it, 'right here it's a dirty great rain cloud.'
K is for Knocknagulliagh: The place name that finally did for Carlton and his commentating partner, Dan Lloyd. They coped with Carnlough and dealt with Drogheda, but this was one too far. "Could they not put it in Tinytown – easier to say," pleaded tongue-tied Carlton.
L is for Location: Now I'm not saying the decision to bring in Scottish lassie Jill to Belfast was a mistake but when Philip Deignan was described as having been brought up 'in Letterkenny, not too far from here' then you have to wonder. I suppose it is closer than Lecce or Leith.
M is for Mystic Michael: "The streets are slippy tonight and it's not impossible you could get a crash," said soothsayer Hutchinson moments before there were bodies strewn over the streets. I was impressed, although asked for his prediction on which of the local riders had the best chance his answer of 'it must be Dan Martin' wasn't just as impressive.
N is for Nearly: Sadly we didn't get to see Dan dicing with disaster as at that stage of the stage we were being shown a big pink screen with 'Temporary Fault' written on it and someone beating out a tune on a Bontempi organ. I wonder if they put a pink sling on his broken collar bone?
O is for Orla: Draperstown's finest, Orla Chennaoui, was our guide to the Giro on Sky's highlights show each evening because (a) she knows a lot about bikes and (b) she's from Northern Ireland. They had thought of using cherubic-faced football reporter Paul Gilmour but he still has stabilisers on his bike.
P is for Provisional: Eyebrows were raised as the riders struggled up the hill towards Stormont and a graphic for 'Provisional Standing' came up on the screen as Jim Allister got his red, white and blue cycling shorts in a twist and rang the Nolan Show to point out that he was right all along.
Q is for Queasy: Marvellous Marcel Kittel coming up like Molly Malone in a Maserati to win on the line in Stage Three in Dublin and then promptly collapsing in a heap. The organisers' decision to play 'Money for Nothing' by Dire Straits at that exact moment was inspired.
R is for Red Bay: Now officially known as Pink Bay, it provided minutes of amusement as riders were followed by a lifeboat and then a man water skiing before a random pink bike popped up on a deserted island. "Oh, I like that, I like that," said Carlton doing his best Graham Taylor impression. "It's a bit like the mermaid in Copenhagen, the one who had her arms sawn off." Okay Carlton, can we not knock it? Well done if you get that, by the way.
S is for Salmon: Carlton was a man clearly fishing for something to say about Glenarm. "If you had cared to look very closely you might have seen some of the famous salmon in that part of the world," he said. I know it was wet but they weren't swimming up the Coast Road.
T is for Tjallingii: And talking of fishy goings on, as Belgian rider Maarten Tjallingii, a man clearly afflicted with irritable vowel syndrome, struggled through the Glens, he was described as having his 'mouth agape like a basking shark.'
U is for Uran Uran: One of the many Colombians on show, Rigoberto to his pals, was only two D short of being a legend. At least his hopes didn't come undone in Ireland. There is no truth in the rumour than when asked what the weather was like, he replied, wait for it, 'it's wild, boys'.
V is for Velo: Now we've had the Giro by the time all the pink paint finally comes off the assorted wildlife and buildings, there could be a chance for the Tour de France to follow suit. As a gesture of goodwill, the Tour of the North will be held in Paris next year. That's the bike race, not the band parade, although the flags might come in handy on the reciprocal visit.
W is for Water: Great facts of our time brought to you courtesy of Mr Kirby. "There is a record for the number of water bottles inside a rain jumper but I don't remember what it is." Stay tuned for more invaluable insights into the world of cycling.
X is for X-rated: Mark Cavendish, one of the few cyclists you knew until a week ago, wasn't there as he was a tad under the weather, or as Carlton told us: "He had a tummy upset, he just couldn't take in any food. It was just coming straight back out – both ends in fact." Thanks for that.
Y is for Yanks: A bit of a diplomatic incident as Carlton put his foot in it when reading out a message from America, coming 'all the way from Calgary.' Thank goodness Canada's Svein Tuft won the time trial to spare his blushes. Not the first time Tufty has rescued people from danger on the roads.
Z is for Zuppo: For those of you not up in the old lingo, this is Italian for soaked, and I wonder how many of the riders thought that leaving Ireland's lush, if soggy, pastures, behind would mean much better times ahead, only to find it was even wetter in Bari. That's in Italy, by the way, not Portrush. I mean, the Giro d'Italia in Northern Ireland? On your bike ...