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Tour De France could be held in Northern Ireland, says Team Sky ace Porte

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 24/06/2015

Members of the Titanic Cycling Club prepared for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Titanic Cycling Club prepared for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Telegraph man Colin O'Carroll at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gran Fondo winners celebrate. Pic: Kevin Scott / Presseye
Lakeside Wheelers from Mullingar. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Brian Flynn from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Sarah, Adele and Matthew Davidson from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Duncan Campbell of the Titanic Cycling Club. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick Murphy from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo winners on the podium. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Misia Rookigues and Gerard Magill. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Stuart Millar from Newtownards and Lydia Murphy from Saintfield. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Hand and hand in the rain across the line. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Rev John Dickinson from Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Ryan Kane (6). Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Three generations of the Kane Cycles family celebrate Marke Kanes win at the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon. Winner Mark Kane on right with his father Dave nephew Ryan and brother Paul ,(left) who finished second behind his brother.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane explains how he was injured with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collision with a police motorbike escort near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collission with a police escort motor cycle near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Mark Kane wins the Mournes Run of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan Stephen Roche at the start line. The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Paul Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the race leader of the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
First three finishers in the Strangford Route Keith Murphy (2nd), Chris McKeown (Winner) and Paul Mikugis (3rd). Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Chris McKeown winner of the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keith Murphy, who suffers from leukaemia, finished second in the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gordon McKay at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Alex McGreevy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Cathir Doyle (13) from Magherafelt, winner of the NI Tourist Board race in the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Belfast Telegraph's Riona O'Kane and Lee Taylor at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Trudy Brown from Belfast saddles up for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Teresa Ramdi from Italy and Isabella Romoli from Dublin with the Giro DItalia trophy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Charlie Stewart (5) from Ballynure at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Taveling in tamdem at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
At the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Read for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Thumbs up for the Mourne Route start at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea take a breather after the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mary McCreesh and Grainne King from Co Fermannagh with their medals from the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Ryan Kane (6) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) who worked as a welder at Harland and Wolff at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Hand and hand in the rain across the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) and his brother Milton McKeag (88) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Riders taking a corner during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Omagh Wheelers at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keeping in touch during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gale Sergeant and Boris from Newtownabbey enjoying the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Starting off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Off the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gearing up for the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Richie Port and Stephen Roche at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Stephen Roche moves to the start beside Richie Port at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Whiterock Wheelers checking the brakes ahead of the off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Miaread McGurk and Samantha Convery of Carn Cycle Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
David Maguire came all the way from Sydney, Australia for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Denise Todd from Banbridge at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Dave Kane Cycle Club ahead of the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Checking the figures at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Orla Wright, Elaine O'Boyle and Rosemary O'Kane fro the Glenns Cycling Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia gets underway at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia begins at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.

Cycling superstar Richie Porte has backed Northern Ireland as the perfect destination to stage the Tour de France's Grand Depart, the country-hopping start to the world's most famous cycle race.

Team Sky ace Porte was the biggest name among thousands of cyclists who competed in the Giro d'Italia spin-off, the Gran Fondo, last weekend and was hugely impressed by what he saw.

And after the success of the Fondo, following on from last year's spectacular Giro Big Start here, Porte declared: "The Tour de France is the biggest one, obviously, but if you can get the Giro here then why not the Tour?"

The Australian added: "Northern Ireland has got everything you would want for the first week of a Grand Tour.

"The riding is hard which is what you need and the scenery you're riding through is unbelievable, even if the rain and wind wasn't great.

"I wasn't here for the Giro but, I think the weather was pretty decent, so weather-dependent I'd love to start a race here."

The earliest Northern Ireland could host a Tour start would be 2019 which could also see The Open golf championship return to Portrush, making for potentially the biggest summer of sport this country has ever seen.

And despite pressure on Stormont budgets, a concerted effort would be made by Ministers to land the Tour for the tourism bonanza it would help generate.

Porte is currently in training for the 2015 Tour, which will begin on July 4 in Utrecht, while the 2016 Grand Depart is already slated for the north of France.

Germany seems set to play host to the opening in 2017, while Belgium, Kazakhstan and Scotland are also all expected to launch bids to secure the iconic race before the turn of the decade, but with the infrastructure in place and a proven track record following last year’s Giro, 2019 could still be a realistic target for Northern Ireland.

From left to right (front): Scott and Nuala McGregor (from Glasgow), Bronagh McQuillan and Eimear McGregor (child)
Left to right (behind): Peter Geoghegan and PJ McQuillan
Location: Beside the Curfew Tower, Cushendall, Co Antrim
From left to right (front): Scott and Nuala McGregor (from Glasgow), Bronagh McQuillan and Eimear McGregor (child) Left to right (behind): Peter Geoghegan and PJ McQuillan Location: Beside the Curfew Tower, Cushendall, Co Antrim
Giro d'Italia 2014. Picture submitted by Norm Burns.
People wait on the Antrim Road for the peloton to go through the official as Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia gets started. The 219km stage starts in Belfast and travel out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Stacey Burns
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Stacey Burns
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Stacey Burns
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Mike Wilkinson
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Cows in Richhill. Pic Pier Shilliday
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Richhill. Pic Matthew Nethercote
On route home after an absolutely fantastic weekend of cycling. Pic Jackie Nicholl
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Newtownards Road, Belfast. Pic David Scott
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Conor Lawell
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. The race makes it way through the city past the Church of Ireland Cathedral on its way to the starting line.
The Giro d'Italia - Armagh to Dublin. Pic Jonathan Porter
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 - Stage 3 of the Giro dÄôItaliaÄôs Grande Partenza as the worldÄôs cycling elite set-off from Armagh. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh Mall as Stage 3 of the 97th Giro dÕItalia gets started travelling to Dublin. Apollo Cycling Team who cycled up from Lurgan
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh as Stage 3 of the 97th Giro dÕItalia gets started travelling to Dublin.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh Mall as Stage 3 of the 97th Giro dÕItalia gets started travelling to Dublin.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh City.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh City.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh City.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Darren Kidd /Presseye.com Day 3 Giro dÕItalia: Armagh City.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city as the trophy is brought in before the riders sign on and begin the race.
Northern Ireland- 11th May 2014 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Giro dÕItalia day three - Armagh to Dublin. Thousands of cycling fans lined the streets of Armagh to cheer off 200 of the world's top cyclists ahead of their gruelling race to Dublin. The Cathedral City marked the last stage of the biggest cycling race ever to be hosted in Northern Ireland. Crowds gather in the Shambles Market area of the city to see the riders sign on before the beginning of the race.
People wait on the Antrim Road for the peloton to go through the official as Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia gets started. The 219km stage starts in Belfast and travel out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
People wait in Antrim for the peloton to go through as Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia gets started. The 219km stage starts in Belfast and travel out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
The peloton to goes through Ballintoy during Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia. The 219km stage started in Belfast and travelled out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
Fans line the route to watch the peloton make it's way through Ballintoy during Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia. The 219km stage started in Belfast and travelled out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
Relaxing in Ballintoy
Stevie Kinkaid at the Giro at Dunseverick Primary school
People wait in Antrim for the peloton to go through as Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia gets started. The 219km stage starts in Belfast and travel out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Queen's University. Pic Thomas Dowling
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Queen's University. Pic Thomas Dowling
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Queen's University. Pic Thomas Dowling
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast Pic Stephen Thompson
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast Pic Stephen Thompson
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast Pic Stephen Thompson
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Glengormley. Pic Stephen Kelly
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast. Pic Scott Morrison
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast. Pic Scott Morrison
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Belfast. Pic Scott Morrison
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Richhill. Pic Pier Shilliday
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Richhill. Pic Pier Shilliday
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Maurice Clarke
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Whitehead. Pic Keith Black
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Larne lifeboat crew. Pic Fiona Kirkpatrick
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Pink sheep. Pic Evelyn McCullough
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Portrush. Pic Evelyn McCullough
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Markethill. Pic David Scott
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Glengormley. Pic Damien Toolan
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland - Ballyhackamore. Pic Avril Cree
The Giro d'Italia comes to Northern Ireland. Pic Avril Cree
Fans line the route to watch the peloton make it's way through Ballintoy during Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia. The 219km stage started in Belfast and travelled out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
Ballymena Mayor Audrey Wales with members of Ballymena Road club wait for the Giro to hit Ballymena.
Local supporters Sophie, Alanna, Leanna and visitor Tara from Canada rooting for race leader Svein Tuft.
Gerald Gray at the country Market in Ballycastle during the Giro
Having a good time in Bushmills
Ballycastle
Enya Mcshane in Ballintoy
Tracey Andrew and Courtney enjoy the pink sheep at the Giants Causeway
Eilish McCaw and Bernie McAfee in Ballintoy
Ballyvoy
Linda Steele and friends in Bushmills
Teresa Patton and Geraldine O Cleary
Local cycling fans await the peloton in Glenarm village during stage two of the 2014 Giro D'Italia in Co Antrim.
The Peloton travels along the North Antrim Coast during stage two of the 2014 Giro D'Italia, in Belfast.
Locan cycling fans welcome the riders to Glenarm village during stage two of the 2014 Giro D'Italia in Co Antrim.
Cyclists pass threw Drains Bay near Larne in Co Antrim, during the second stage of the Giro d'italia on the coast roads in Northern Ireland
Fans line the route to watch the peloton make it's way through Ballintoy during Stage 2 of the 97th Giro d'Italia. The 219km stage started in Belfast and travelled out the North Coast before finishing at the City Hall, Belfast.
Marcel Kittel of team Giant Shimano wins the second stage of the Giro d'Italia outside Belfast City Hall this afternoon. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
The lpeleton crosses Glendun viaduct in the Glens of Antrim as the Giro d'Italia second stage takes place today in Northern Ireland. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Day 2 Giro dItalia: The Peloton leaves the Titanic Quarter, Belfast for the race start on the Antrim Road.
Giro d'Italia day two. The Giro d'Italia is visiting one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes on the cycling race's second stage. About 200 cyclists set off from Belfast to travel along the north coast before returning to the city. Riders pictured traveling past Dunluce Castle.
Giro d'Italia day two. The Giro d'Italia is visiting one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes on the cycling race's second stage. About 200 cyclists set off from Belfast to travel along the north coast before returning to the city. Philip Jackson from Dromore heads out on his stag do.
Giro d'Italia day two. The Giro d'Italia is visiting one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes on the cycling race's second stage. About 200 cyclists set off from Belfast to travel along the north coast before returning to the city. Riders pictured traveling past Dunluce Castle.
Giro d'Italia day two. The Giro d'Italia is visiting one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes on the cycling race's second stage. About 200 cyclists set off from Belfast to travel along the north coast before returning to the city. Riders pictured traveling past Dunluce Castle.
Giro d'Italia day two. The Giro d'Italia is visiting one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes on the cycling race's second stage. About 200 cyclists set off from Belfast to travel along the north coast before returning to the city. Riders pictured traveling past Dunluce Castle.
Giro d'Italia: Michael Matthews Maglia Rosa Astoria shower. Belfast City Hall, Saturday May 10, 2014. Photograph by Bill Corr
Giro d'Italia cyclists sprint for the line at the end of stage two in Belfast. Photograph by Bill Corr
Ready for the Giro d'Italia in Belfast. Photograph by Hazel Reid
Enjoying the Giro d'Italia in Belfast. Photograph by Rachel Kennedy
Giro d'Italia cyclists pictured in Belfast. Photograph by Rachel Kennedy
Enjoying the Giro d'Italia in Belfast. Photograph by Rachel Kennedy
Photograph by Steve Lowry: 'A microscopic bicycle which is less than 2mm in length and is constructed from diatoms, microscopic aquatic plants, arranged under the microscope. I have reproduced the image in 'Giro' colours'
Giro d'Italia cyclists pass the Ballymoney roundabout. Photograph by Steve Lowry
Sheep painted in the colours of the Italian flag to welcome the Giro d'Italia to Northern Ireland. Photograph by Alan Courtney
The Giro d'Italia reaches Whitehead. Photograph by Sharon Mossman
The Giro d'Italia reaches Whitehead. Photograph by Sharon Mossman
The Giro d'Italia reaches Whitehead. Photograph by Sharon Mossman
The Giro d'Italia reaches Whitehead. Photograph by Sharon Mossman
Imogen (6) gets ready for the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Clare Shute
Giro d'Italia cyclists at Whiteabbey. Photograph by Philip Gourley
Giro d'Italia cyclists in Ballymena. Photograph by Paul O'Hara
The Giro d'Italia Cannondale team pass Queen's University, Belfast. Photograph by Megan McLaughlin
Giro d'Italia cyclists on the A26 outside Ballymena. Photograph by John Parkinson
Giro d'Italia cyclists on the A26 outside Ballymena. Photograph by John Parkinson
Giro d'Italia time trial in Belfast. Photograph by Ellen Thompson
Giro d'Italia time trial in Belfast. Photograph by Ellen Thompson
Giro d'Italia. Photograph by David Dawson
Beth and James Steen from Antrim show their support for the Giro d'Italia cyclists in Belfast. Photograph by Colin Steen
Giro d'Italia: on the home straight in Belfast. Photograph by Colin Steen
Ballymena welcomes the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Bo Davidson
Ballymena welcomes the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Bo Davidson
Ballymena welcomes the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Bo Davidson
Ballymena welcomes the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Bo Davidson
Giro d'Italia cyclists pass the Sandyknowes Roundabout. Photograph by Bob Hall
Giro d'Italia cyclists. Photograph by Adam McVeigh
Mr Blobby joins in the Giro d'Italia fun. Photograph submitted by the Marine Hotel, Ballycastle
Giro d'Italia fan Katy Harrison on her way to creche this morning. Photograph by Claire Harrison
Mylo Crossey (2) applauds competitors as he watches practice sessions for the Giro d'Italia in Stranmillis, Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014
Supporting the Giro d'Italia in Belfast. Photograph via Twitter by @mikute777
Supporting the Giro d'Italia as it heads for the coast. Photograph via Twitter by Groggan Primary School, Randalstown
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
Giro d'Italia in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by John Mackle
The Giro d'Italia goes through Glengormley, Saturday May 10, 2014. Photograph by Jimmy Roberts
The Giro d'Italia goes through Glengormley, Saturday May 10, 2014. Photograph by Jimmy Roberts
The Giro d'Italia goes through Glengormley, Saturday May 10, 2014. Photograph by Jimmy Roberts
The Giro d'Italia goes through Glengormley, Saturday May 10, 2014. Photograph by Gavin Fenton
Giro d'Italia in Belfast. Photograph by Daniel McKissick
Team Sky turn onto the Ormeau Road during the Giro d'Italia time trials in Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by Alan Kelly
The Movistar team in action during the Giro d'Italia time trials in Belfast. Photograph by Alan Kelly
Pink tictacs at the Giro d'Italia
Cycling fans get ready for the Giro d'Italia competitors at Stormont. Photograph by Joanne Sweeney
Giro d'Italia practice in Stranmillis, Belfast on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by Tina Crossey
Photo by Johnny Stewart via Twitter: "Shout out to all the Giro stewards!"
Giro d'Italia competitors practice on the Ormeau Road ahead of the time trials on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by Geraldine Finn
Giro d'Italia competitors practice on the Ormeau Road ahead of the time trials on Friday May 9, 2014. Photograph by Geraldine Finn
Team Sky practice on the Newtownards Road, Belfast ahead of the start of the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Matt McCloskey
Queen's University, Belfast gears up for the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Martyn Boyd
Queen's University, Belfast gears up for the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Claire O'Callaghan
Queen's University Belfast holds a spinathon ahead of the start of the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Claire O'Callaghan
Queen's University, Belfast gears up for the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Claire O'Callaghan
Giro d'Italia practice session in Belfast, Friday, May 9, 2014. Competitors in action at Stormont. Photograph by Alex Davidson
Giro d'Italia practice session in Belfast, Friday, May 9, 2014. Competitors in action at Stormont. Photograph by Alex Davidson
Giro d'Italia practice session in Belfast, Friday, May 9, 2014. Competitors in action at Stormont. Photograph by Alex Davidson
Giro d'Italia practice session in Belfast, Friday, May 9, 2014. Competitors in action at Stormont. Photograph by Alex Davidson
Giro d'Italia launch at Belfast City Hall. Photograph by Kathleen McNeilly
Cushnedall gears up for the Giro d'Italia. Photograph by Kathleen McNeilly

Last year’s Grand Depart was held in Yorkshire and is thought to have provided a boost of £100million to the local economy.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last month, Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin confidently stated: “Let’s go for it and see what happens.

“We should always aim high in trying to attract big sporting events here.

“Why not aim for the Tour de France? It’s been to Yorkshire, so why not here?

“When talks first came up about bringing the Giro d’Italia here there were people saying it could not be done.”

Meanwhile, Shadetree Sports, the company who alongside Giro owners RCS Sport brought the Grande Partenza here last year, are also targeting a return for cycling’s second biggest race.

The company’s co-founder Darach McQuaid said: “They’re announcing on Friday that the Giro will be starting in Holland this year. It started in Holland in 2010 as well.

“I’d like to repeat that or beat it by a year, so we’d be aiming for 2019 or 2020.

“We only scratched the surface with Northern Ireland last year and there’s so many other places we can go.

“Last year we had one of the best Grande Partenzas ever so I think there’d be an appetite from both sides for the Giro to come back.”

McQuaid was thrilled by the response to Sunday’s Gran Fondo after 3,200 cyclists took part and, with returns planned for 2016 and 2017, he believes the momentum garnered by the amateur event will aid the bid for a Grand Tour return.

“From our perspective, the Gran Fondo really keeps the Giro story going,” he said.

“When there are people lining the route and cheering the riders across the line, it just shows how the people here commit to an event.

“It’s not a difficult sell, Italian wine, Italian food, ‘La Dolce Vita’, but the way people have gotten into it has been magical.

“This is really going to play a big part in convincing the Giro to come back and start in Northern Ireland again.”

 

Belfast Telegraph

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