Belfast Telegraph

Gran Fondo: Northern Ireland public put on display to warm the heart

By Colin O'Carroll

The eyes and ears of every cyclist were glued to the weather forecast as we all counted down to the start of the Giro d'Italia Gran Fondo.

Pink fever had started to take hold of Northern Ireland again and as I did my final training runs last week I saw pink bicycles and flags starting to appear.

This was the first big outing for Titanic Quarter Cycling Club as a club, as we only started last year.

This allows us to have a pink band on our riding gear as part of the Giro legacy and we were also the host club for the event.

It meant we got to lead off at the start along with Giro, Tour de France and World Champion legend Stephen Roche and current Aussie cycling sensation Richie Porte from Team Sky.

The Titanic slipways were awash with colour as bike nuts from everywhere descended for what for many of us was the pinnacle of our sporting participation.

As the countdown began, I inched right up to the timing ramp and was off like a shot to the first bend - I wanted to be able to say that I led the Gran Fondo in front of two cycling heroes, even if it was for just 100 metres.

Soon enough the pace picked up and I found myself dropping back in the peloton, but the real joy was having closed roads - no cars to look out for, and no traffic lights so you could settle in to your pace and enjoy the ride.

The public again put on a display to warm the heart.

It was a real boost when you were climbing a tough hill and someone shouted to you to "keep going, keep pushing, you're nearly there".

The descent back into Belfast down Bree Hill was fantastic. My speedometer recorded 41mph coming down and I think I coasted all the way to the Newtownards Road.

I had a big smile as I picked up my Giro medal which will make all my cycle buddies back home in Australia pink with jealousy.

Bring on next year.

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