Friday 31 July 2015

Downpours fail to rain on country's parade as fans tickled pink by Giro

Published 12/05/2014 | 02:30

With faces flecked with mud and scratches, simultaneously elated and exhausted, it was clear this had been an endurance test.

There had been crashes along the way; Michael Matthews practically lost the seat of his pants; Nicolas Roche got an ill-timed puncture; and, some had been so cold as they winded their way down the north- east coast, that they had been reduced to the desperate measures of pouring warm water on themselves to ease their cramping muscles.

At the end of it all, a triumphant Marcel Kittel collapsed off his bike at the finish line, completely spent.

Not that the spectators weren't suffering, too. There was no way of dressing for that weather with torrential rain turning to baking sunshine as we waited patiently for the peloton to come our way.

And just as we squeezed through the crowds to secure an optimum spot, it turned out that the cyclists whizzed through far too quickly for us to get a good look at them. It was all over in seconds, really.

But still, it was worth it.

Marcel Kittel of the Giant Shimano team (left) on his way to winning stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014 into Dublin. Inset: Finnstown House where the bomb was discovered
Marcel Kittel of the Giant Shimano team (left) on his way to winning stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014 into Dublin. Inset: Finnstown House where the bomb was discovered
Stage winner Marcel Kittel, Giant Shimano, left, pictured at Goverment Buildings
The peloton crosses the Matt Talbot Bridge, with Customs House in the background, during the closing stages of yesterday's Stage 3 of the Giro D'Italia in Dublin
11 May 2014; The breakaway group cycle trough the village of Camlough during stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014. Armagh to Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
11 May 2014; The peloton arrive into the village of Camlough during stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014. Armagh to Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
During the Giro d'Italia's final stage in Ireland, Paddy Power offered cyclists the chance to cross the line with confidence thanks to their Clean Urine Swap stand. Located well out of the watchful eye of race officials, cyclists had the chance to whiz by and grab a little helping hand for those tense moments after the finish line.
11 May 2014; The peloton in the village of Camlough during stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014. Armagh to Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Riders pass the sprint finish in the Giro d'Italia 2014 on stage 3 of the 2014 Giro pictures Emma Clarke GMC Photography 087 8537228
Marcel Kittel of the Giant Shimano team on his way to winning stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia 2014 into Dublin.
Marcek Kittel, right, won stage three of the Giro d'Italia as Michael Matthews retained the lead (AP)
The Giro d'Italia travelling through Clanbrassil street in Dundalk on its way to Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Yvonne Keane and Amy Shiels from Howth at the finish line to the Irish leg of the Giro D'Italia which began in Belfast on Friday and finished in Merrion Square in Dublin. Picture: El Keegan
Spectators cheer on the streets of Dublin

Even the build-up had been exciting, with an exotic Italianate atmosphere afoot in the capital as preparations got under way at the finish line.

With the Italians in charge, there were certain differences. There was more glamour (obviously). And there seemed to be less of the health and safety police.

Nobody really checked the media passes and there seemed to be a general feeling that if you wanted to do something stupid like standing in front of a speeding herd of cyclists, that was your own look-out, idiota. An entirely sensible attitude, in fact.

But the Italians – and the cyclists – were equally impressed with us. They hadn't been expecting such a welcome, it seemed. "Just getting used to this Irish style of Giro d'Italia . . . the people are much friendlier than the conditions," Aussie cyclist Cadel Evans managed to tweet – though presumably not from his bike.

As the peloton made its way through Dundalk, Dunleer, Drogheda and Balbriggan, thousands lined the route.

In the capital, the crowds slowly gathered throughout the city streets, all along Westland Row and into Merrion Square as the atmosphere began to build.

Most election candidates had obeyed commands to take down their posters – though People Before Profit's Brid Smith and Fine Gael's Nadine Meisonnave still smiled mischievously down at prospective voters. Labour had left a poster up, too.

A Giro D'Italia Fan Park set up in Merrion Square kept children entertained with face painting, balloons and games such as the diabolo.

Glen Hale from Sheffield had cycled the Giro route down from Belfast with a group of friends. "It was wet," he grinned. But he had been on a great holiday. They were on a roll this summer, he explained, with the Tour de France start kicking off in Yorkshire later in the summer. "We'll be doing it all over again," he said.

Darach McQuaid, who brought the Giro to Ireland, later said the support the event had received showed the future was bright for cycling here.

"To have Irish riders of the calibre of Nicolas Roche, Dan Martin and Philip Deignan race in the Giro for top teams is a great sign," he said.

The daddy of Irish cycling, Stephen Roche – who won the Giro in 1987 – strolled through Merrion Square with family members, delighted with the atmosphere. "It's great for Ireland," he said.

Shortly after, came the hooting of horns, the publicity 'Caravan' was the first to arrive, with a fleet of pink London taxis. Sometime after, with a drumbeat of urgent music, everybody rushed into position – the Giro was coming. And it came – with a blinding aerodynamic whirr and a flash of 'blink and you'd miss it proportions' as the riders crossed the finishing line.

Irish Independent

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