Saddle up as Giro fever rides in and leaves Dublin in pink
DUBLIN is in cycling mode this weekend as the Giro d'Italia races into the capital, bringing with it millions of euro in revenue.
Some 55,000 people are expected to line the route on Sunday between Clontarf and Merrion Square in the final kilometres of stage three.
They will be among 300,000 spectators to watch the cyclists race 187km from Armagh city to Dublin city centre this weekend.
The competitors will pass through Balbriggan, Skerries, Malahide, Sutton and Clontarf on their way to the finish line.
Ross Campbell-Grogan, a member of Lucan Cycling Road Club, said “dozens of his club mates” are travelling up to Belfast today and will be following the race every inch of the way on the Irish stages.
His club mates have been planning for the Giro for the last eight months and everyone has been “really looking forward to it”.
The cycling enthusiast believes that the event will have a massive impact on the already booming cycling craze in Ireland turning “commuters and leisure cyclists into racers and mountain bikers”.
Cycling clubs will also see a surge in membership, says Mr Campbell-Grogan.
“The bigger clubs are already quite full, they won’t be turning anyone away but the smaller clubs will definitely take in a lot of members after this,” he said.
But the cyclists will not be the only ones trying to break records for the event.
Cycle SuperStore in Tallaght has seen record sales ahead of today’s kick-off, said manager Gary Byrne.
“A lot of our customers are going to it and while they already have their bikes, it’s the sundry items like energy bars and clothing for the event that are flying off the shelves,” Mr Byrne said.
This is going to be the “third big boom”, for cycling in Ireland, believes the manager, after Stephen Roche’s successes in the 1980s and then when the Tour de France came through Ireland.
Also breaking records is Fingal County Council which is attempting to enter the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest ever graphic.
It is planning to display the image in the grounds of Ardgillan Castle, close to Balbriggan, to coincide with the race.
Won by Dubliner Stephen Roche (right), in 1987, the Giro is in the top ten of the world's biggest sporting events.
Mr Peppard believes it provides “huge opportunity to showcase Fingal”.
“The word we're hearing is that hotel bookings from Italy and Germany are up. That's an immediate spin-off. There is a whole legacy issue as well. This event goes out live on Eurosport,” he said.
Fingal has a long tradition of cycling. Balbriggan native Harry Reynolds was the first Irishman to win the track cycling world championship.
Nicknamed the Balbriggan Flyer, Reynolds accomplished the feat in Copenhagen in 1896.
While the Tour de France has the yellow jersey, the Giro's colour is pink.
“We're working closely with Fingal Tourism, Dublin Tourism and the local chamber of commerce to get all the businesses to go pink. Malahide has had a pink day,” Mr Peppard said.
As the cyclists approach Dublin city centre, they will travel along James Larkin Road, Clontarf Road, Alfie Byrne Road, East Wall Road, North Wall Quay and Custom House Quay.
They will cross the Liffey at Talbot Memorial Bridge onto City Quay, Lombard Street, Westland Row, Lincoln Place and finish at Merrion Square West around 4.30pm.
As well as the cyclists, 300 domestic and international media and 500 team and support staff will descend on the capital.
In addition, next Monday has been designated a rest day by race organiser RCS Sport so the entire entourage will stay overnight in Dublin and most of the following day.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce's Graeme McQueen said a lot of work has gone into deciding how best the city can be promoted.
“I think the figure is that it will bring 18,000 visitors into the city. The global TV audience is
775m. It's a massive opportunity for the city to show off its best side,” he told the Herald.
“The city can remain completely open. Shops, bars and restaurants can all trade as normal. It's a win-win,” Mr McQueen said.
“We would encourage businesses to take advantage of this opportunity. We're trying to get restaurants to have special menus. It's an opportunity to be embraced,” Mr McQueen said.
The route takes in scenic towns like Skerries and Malahide and travels into the city along the coast road from Sutton and through Clontarf.
“You're picking some of the best bits of Dublin. We get the finish and the finish is what everybody is interested in. After the Tour de France, it's the biggest thing in cycling,” Mr McQueen said.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche, son of cycling legend Stephen, Dan Martin and Philip Deignan will be among the competitors.
The Giro is considered second only in importance to the Tour de France and will be televised in 174 countries.
Several hundreds people have already volunteered to be marshals along the route.
“We already have a lot of cyclists who have volunteered to be marshals and we're still looking for marshals,” said Heather Boyle of Cycling Ireland. “They will be keeping the spectators and the riders safe. We have about 550 registered marshals and we're looking for 750 to 800.”