Dublin in the pink as Giro d’Italia sweeps down from the North
Crowds line the streets as the race snakes from the Clontarf seafront towards its city-centre finale
As some of the best cyclists in the world were about to sprint up Merrion Row to the finish line of stage three of the Giro d’Italia, a young lad climbed a scaffold holding aloft a sign that perhaps only the wit of the Irish capital could produce. “I suppose a ride is out of the question?” it read in pink, the colour of the Giro and borrowing a phrase from Doyle’s novel The Snapper.
The closest he got to cycling was a cameo appearance for the Barrytown Wheelers, coached by Dessie Curley, in the aforementioned work. But his early novels documented northside Dublin at a time when two sporting figures, Stephen Roche and Jack Charlton, planted Ireland firmly on the world stage.
The fresh-faced smiling assassin Roche took the Giro, then Tour de France and World Championships in 1987 before Jack’s Army sent us into delirium against England in Stuttgart the following year.
And yesterday the race that first made the name of Dundrum’s Roche came sweeping into town some 16 years after the same streets played host to the drugfest that was the 1998 Tour de France.
A lot bigger, richer and faster than when Roche took the famous winner’s pink jersey, or Maglia Rosa, the irresistible Giro has lost none of its ability to seduce.
After 4½ hours and 187km in the saddle from Armagh to Dublin yesterday, it was new German prince Marcel Kittel, riding for Giant-Shimano, who proved quickest in the dash to the line.
The crowds swarmed the barriers five deep yesterday in the closing kilometres as the race snaked from the seafront in Clontarf towards its city-centre finale, with rain showers finally giving way to blue skies and sunshine.
On the finishing straight the jockeying for position in the crowds was surely as intense as among the sprinters leading the chariot race that is the peloton in full flight in the battle for victory.
Every vantage point was taken, every lamp post had a young lad hanging from it and the crowds even scaled the gates of Government Buildings to try to get a glimpse as the bunch sped past.
Dan Martin, previously Ireland’s biggest hope to win the race, was already out. Having crashed in the opening stage in Belfast on Friday, he spent the weekend in a Dublin hospital undergoing surgery on a fractured collar bone. He is expected to resume training in two weeks’ time.
But still in the pack are two Irish names: Nicolas Roche, son of the great champion; and Philip Deignan from Letterkenny. They enjoy a rest day today as they travel back to Italy to resume racing tomorrow.
Aged four and three years respectively when Roche snr won the Giro, they are waiting until the action hits the steep slopes in Italy next week and the week after. There they will hope to pounce and carve their names into the history of this great event.