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TdF + Bastille Day = Mont Ventoux

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Today is stage 12 of the Tour de France and it marks a special day for the French – Bastille Day, a national holiday and the hopes of a French winner on the famous mountain in a week where their footballers failed to deliver.

But it’s a special day for me too – it’s the first time the Tour has visited the Giant of Provence since my efforts in September 2013.  Whilst it’s not a national holiday where I live, I can assure you that I’ll be watching the stage somehow. More

Giro (the aftermath)

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So the Giro D’Italia came to Northern Ireland for a few days and disappeared in a flash of pink to its homeland yesterday. Did it live up to my expectations?
OH MY GOD DID IT EVER.
As a cycling fan, I knew it was big. What I didn’t quite appreciate was how much the people of NI would embrace it.
My guests from Ayr Roads Cycling Club arrived on the Thursday morning and we parked up at Cushendall before hitting the Glens of Antrim for a reccy of the Stage 2 route on the Antrim Coast. There was pink everywhere, bunting over the streets, pink bikes at random corners, pink bus stops, pink fishermen on tiny islands. Various police cars driving up and down checking the route and acknowledging us with waves and smiles.
After only 11 miles we decided to stop at Carnlough’s Harbour Lights Cafe for breakfast. They had covered the place in pink and as we left we asked them if they were looking forward to the Giro coming through their neck of the woods. The response was very endearing – they had no idea what to expect. They weren’t even sure if anyone would turn up. We promised them that everything would be OK.

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After our ride we hit Belfast for the opening ceremony which brought out thousands just to welcome the riders. It was fast becoming a festival of cycling.
Friday morning saw us riding to Stormont to watch the TTT practice and we enjoyed good old fashioned craic with the other fans.

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It was all starting to really buzz. The highlight of my morning?

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Yes, I have a thing for AG2R. I think that a team who wears brown shorts is just that little bit more special than the others.
Friday evening’s TTT starting at the Titanic slipway in Belfast allowed the people to get up close and personal with the teams and thousands flocked to see what it was all about. And as my father-in-law commenced his two hour quest to see a team warm up on their rollers, I went to the start line to satisfy my fetish for all things brown.

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The only downside of the evening was being a couple of hundred metres from Dan Martin’s crash which ended his Giro only 15 minutes after it started.
Saturday was our rest day and we hit Belfast early to experience the whole event. We camped out at the finish line more than two hours before the riders were due and were asked by this guy called Stephen Roche if he could get a picture with these three Ayrshire cycling legends. Sometimes it can be frustrating to not get through a day without the public recognising you but I understand that I’m in the entertainment business so we put on our forced smiles and made the lad’s day.

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We saw Marcel Kittel do his thing and win the sprint which he replicated in Dublin yesterday and will continue to dominate unless Viviani or Swift step up.
And that was that.
But I can’t blog without acknowledging a few establishments who made our weekend a little bit special.
Coppi Belfast
Il Pirata Belfast
The Crown Bar
Dirty Onion
The Duke of York
Sweet Tree Cafe
Katch27
Salty Dog

And what about the Harbour Lights Cafe in Carnlough?
Well……………..you decide how it went for them the day the Giro D’Italia came to town.

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Brown rocks.
The Giant.