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No West Belfast or Mourne Mountains in opening three days

Sinn Féin and SDLP politicians have criticised the routing of the opening stages of next year’s Giro d’Italia which starts in Belfast on Friday, May 9.

The Belfast stage of Italy’s national tour – which is leaving mainland Europe for the first time in its history for the start in Northern Ireland – will not include West Belfast, leading to nationalist calls for the route to be changed, according to Joanne Sweeney in the Belfast Telegraph

The opening stage will be a 22km team time trial starting at Titanic Belfast, then heading down Newtownards Road, Stormont, Queen's Bridge, the Ormeau Road and Stranmillis Road to finish in the centre of Belfast.

Paul Maskey,  Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast told the BBC he was disappointed.

"The image of cyclists going up and down the Falls Road would send out a massive positive signal right across the world," he said.

"This is about advertising the city. This is about promoting the city, and nowhere else can do it better than the Falls Road, and I think it's a shame that Deti have excluded west Belfast from this competition.

"What we will see is all other parts of the city being touched and being seen world-wide, except west Belfast, and it is just not good enough. We will campaign to meet whoever we have to meet, to ensure this race comes to this part of the city."

Saturday’s 218km second stage starts on Belfast's Antrim Road and goes to Antrim, Ballymena, Bushmills (where riders are not expected to stop for 1960s-style energy drink), the Giant's Causeway, the Coast Road from Cushendall to Larne on to Whitehead and Carrickfergus and back to Belfast.

Stage three on Sunday will see the riders cross the border into Eire on a 187km race from Armagh to Dublin via Richhill and Newtownhamilton. The race will cross the border at Forkhill en route to Dublin via Dundalk, Castlebellingham and Drogheda.

The omission of the Mourne Mountains has also attracted criticism, but Darach McQuaid of sports consultancy  ShadeTree Sports told the BBC it was impossible to please everyone.

"We can't bring the race past every front door in every household in Belfast," Mr McQuaid said.

"Or for that matter through Northern Ireland as a whole. There is always going to be somebody who'll say: 'Why is the race not coming past our front door, or through our area."

McQuaid, who is the youngest brother of recently deposed UCI president Pat McQuaid, said that a selling point in bringing the race to Northern Ireland was the spectator-friendliness of the opening stage.

"One of the big sells was how compact Belfast is," he said.

"You could have a stage start at the Titanic building and a finish at city hall and in real terms, people could walk from one to the other. So we did not feel anyone would feel excluded from being able to enjoy the Giro d'Italia from the roadside."

McQuaid said the organisers were responsible for the route.

"They know what they are doing: they know how to find the best race courses. They listen to local opinions, but ultimately it is their say," he said.

The Giro d’Italia route will be officially announced on Monday in Milan. It is understood that Northern Ireland Assembly Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster will attend.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

19 comments

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s_lim [180 posts] 3 years ago
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MPs in Northern Ireland would start a fight in an empty room. It cracks me up, a Grand Tour on our doorstep and they can only criticise.

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congokid [286 posts] 3 years ago
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At least it's just the route they're arguing over.

If the moaning in the Daily Telegraph recently is anything to go by, Surrey residents would probably prefer such events to stay in London (together with the massive cash boost they bring to the area).

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MartyMcCann [246 posts] 3 years ago
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Embarrassing- the North manages to land the start of the Giro and the MLAs decide to use it for petty point scoring. Yeah I was surprised the Mournes and the Sperrins aren't included (and no offence to anyone from Larne but it is hardly the most picturesque of towns but does offer a route onto the Antrim Coast road) but due to the small size of the six counties no one will be more than an hour away from the route- and West Belfast is hardly a three day camel trek away from the East! People coming to watch the Giro are as likely to stay there as over in the east of the city.

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giff77 [1258 posts] 3 years ago
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This is unusual for the Sinn Féin. Usually they want everything rerouted from them rather than to them. Only in Norn Iron. Me. Well the race will pass my parents house not once but twice for Stage 2 so that's me sorted.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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Teams confirmed for next year so far:

Lotto-Billysol

Lambeg-Merida

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MartyMcCann [246 posts] 3 years ago
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farrell wrote:

Teams confirmed for next year so far:

Lotto-Billysol

Lambeg-Merida

Also Omagh-Farmer Quickstep (down the road)

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kitkat [395 posts] 3 years ago
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Otis Bragg wrote:

Also Omagh-Farmer Quickstep (down the road)

Omagh-Farmer Quickstoor surley?

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SteppenHerring [330 posts] 3 years ago
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I was going to say something about Euskatel going through the republican areas, but of course they wont be Euskatel. And they won't have bowler hats.

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pwake [395 posts] 3 years ago
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s_lim wrote:

MPs in Northern Ireland would start a fight in an empty room. It cracks me up, a Grand Tour on our doorstep and they can only criticise.

Agree. Shows the small-mindedness of the man to even think that anyone outside the British Isles would even know the significance of the Falls Road. Don't think the organizers will be rushing back for more of that attitude.

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Lungsofa74yearold [288 posts] 3 years ago
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My recollection of the Falls Road from news reports in years gone by was that it looked like what it was - the front line of a war zone. Unless its changed beyond all recognition, no race organizer in his right mind would want to go there. As others have said, how naive and small minded. The other irksome thing about this story is the overwhelming sense of whiney self entitlement that pervades their comments - really childish. +1 re pwakes comment that's not an attitude that will have them coming back anytime soon.

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edster99 [336 posts] 3 years ago
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Craziness. Who will really register that they are looking at the East or the West of Belfast? does he think people would come over on the strength of seeing the Giro, then deliberately 'boycott' the areas they hadnt seen? FFS! I suspect he doesn't leave his ghetto too much and understand quite how these things work. Anyway, my step-daughter is on the route up near the Giants Causeway so I'll be going there, and that dickhead can stuff his moany 'poor West Belfast' attitude where it'll do the most good.

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Colin Peyresourde [1773 posts] 3 years ago
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It is ridiculous. But given air to this is pretty stupid too.

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giff77 [1258 posts] 3 years ago
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All Maskey has proven is how little he knows about pro cycling. A few of us were mulling over the possible routes round the city and this as close to what we were thinking. That side of town didn't even factor from a cycling perspective. It also looks like a few of my segments on stage 2 are going to get busted as well  2 20

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Al__S [1081 posts] 3 years ago
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Can I pipe up and suggest that they maybe have a point? When dealing with a city as, erm, "emotionally fraught" as Belfast some senstivity for the divided (and otherwise) communities is probably in order, if just to try to make sure it's not you the whining aresholes are whining about

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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Al__S wrote:

Can I pipe up

If that was deliberate, it was very well played.

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 3 years ago
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Al__S wrote:

Can I pipe up and suggest that they maybe have a point? When dealing with a city as, erm, "emotionally fraught" as Belfast some senstivity for the divided (and otherwise) communities is probably in order, if just to try to make sure it's not you the whining aresholes are whining about

The SDLP's position is that the Giro should pass through West Belfast, not just the Falls Road. I suspect the people who want to "sell" Belfast to foreign investors are just as anxious that TV cameras do not show the Unionist murals on the Shankill as the Republican ones on the Falls. Instead they choose to concentrate on Belfast's less recent history, i.e making an ocean liner that was structurally defective.

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giff77 [1258 posts] 3 years ago
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The Rumpo Kid wrote:
Al__S wrote:

Can I pipe up and suggest that they maybe have a point? When dealing with a city as, erm, "emotionally fraught" as Belfast some senstivity for the divided (and otherwise) communities is probably in order, if just to try to make sure it's not you the whining aresholes are whining about

The SDLP's position is that the Giro should pass through West Belfast, not just the Falls Road. I suspect the people who want to "sell" Belfast to foreign investors are just as anxious that TV cameras do not show the Unionist murals on the Shankill as the Republican ones on the Falls. Instead they choose to concentrate on Belfast's less recent history, i.e making an ocean liner that was structurally defective.

Both Belfast stages will be cutting through some pretty sensitive areas both loyalist and republican. Odds are pretty high that the tv cameras will not pick up background murals on these occasions. I would probably go as far to say that flags and bunting will be removed for the weekend in those same areas.

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James Warrener [1083 posts] 3 years ago
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Politics in sport... never ceases to annoy me.

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mustard [73 posts] 3 years ago
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Otis Bragg wrote:

no offence to anyone from Larne but it is hardly the most picturesque of towns but does offer a route onto the Antrim Coast road

None taken  3 - I'd assume the race will be in Larne for all of 5mins; off the coast road (which will make a spectacular backdrop, although I'm sure there will be a few hairy moments as it's not the widest roads and at points there is only a foot or two of wall between you and a drop to the rocks - or waves smashing over the road if its a stormy day!) and up bank rd to Carrick. I never would have believed you if you'd told me a grand tour would pass the roads i used to play on as a kid, I'll definitely be back at mum and dads in May!

Oh and to be a pedant; Euskatel would be welcomed with open arms in west Belfast!