GIRO D’ITALIA 2014 – BELFAST STAGE

After all the build-up, it was finally here, the Giro D’Italia had come to Belfast.

The opening stage was set over three days – Presentation, Time Trials and Race.

On the Thursday evening was the presentation of the teams at City Hall. Self explanatory, all the teams were introduced to the crowd.

The tickets were free but became available exactly two weeks before, on a first come first served basis online (with some tickets available at the Welcome Centre). Unfortunately, I was at work that day and didn’t think i’d get one, but I managed to apply for one at lunchtime and got one.

Each team walked out to loud rock music, they managed to make a basic act into an extravaganza.

On the Friday, were Time Trials and Practice. I’d planned on seeing some of the practice, but unfortunately, i’d slept in and was running late and didn’t see any of the practice.

I headed into City Centre to make the most of being in the City Centre in the week, visiting place I don’t usually get to. I’m usually in work and don’t venture into the City Centre on my days off.

I then headed over to Titanic Slipways where the teams set off from. The venue itself was packed as spectators had the opportunity to visit stalls from exhibitors of cycling gear and Italian holidays. Plenty to do and see when waiting for the team.

Most things for the event went well, unfortunately, the weather was temperamental. I managed to get myself into a good position for the teams taking off. After a couple of teams, I went further down the course to get alternative views, going further down the slipway towards Belfast Met, onto The Markets, Lower Ormeau, onto Great Victoria Street and finally, Shaftesbury Square.

Helpfully, each team was preceded by a PSNI motorbike blasting out it’s siren, giving fans plenty of notice that teams were not far away.

I enjoyed the time trials on Friday, but if I had the opportunity again, I would have chosen a different location, deciding to go out onto the public roads, rather than the Titanic area.

Saturday was the main race. Having been at Titanic on Friday, I wasn’t going there again. I went to Antrim Road on Saturday. To my disappointment, it emerged that it wasn’t part of the race route, they were cycling to get to their starting point from Titanic Slipway.

I got a position just before it meets the bottom of the Cliftonville Road.

From there, I headed into the City Centre and killed a bit of time before heading to the finishing point just after lunch.

The actual finishing line was long taken but I still got a good spot. If you know Belfast City Centre, with City Hall as the finishing line, I was opposite Centra on Wellington Place.

While the crowds were waiting there was music and live TV coverage of the race. Where I was, I was with my back to the screen. It’s a minor complaint, but it would have been nice if there was an extra (or even a couple) of TV screens for people to view the race.

When the riders came, it was blink and you’ll miss it. Up close, you really appreciate how fast they go.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the post race presentation at City Hall was free to attend. By the time I knew and was in the venue, I was too far back to see anything properly.

I’d considered going to Armagh or Dublin for today’s stages but it he end didn’t go.

So, Giro has been and gone and today’s Sunday Life is already suggesting that a bid be made for a future Tour De France. That would be nice. If it did happen, hopefully, we’ll get better weather for it.

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