THE local area is gearing up to the biggest cycling event in Ireland since 1998 with the Giro d’Italia’s Grande Partenza coming to town on Sunday.
Starting in Armagh earlier in the day, the route travels south down through Balbriggan and works its way through Skerries – the recent home of the Ras finish-line – Rush and Lusk before hitting Swords.
From there, it skates out towards Malahide and Portmarnock before setting a course for Dublin city centre.
It all comes as part of the Giro’s first ever start off mainland Europe and is set to attract massive international media coverage. Last year’s Giro was broadcast in 174 countries, reaching 125 million households and a global audience of about 775 million people.
Until 1960 the Grande Partenza (the Big Start) took place in Milan each year, but since then it has moved to other cities across Italy and since 1996 there has been a tradition for it to be hosted outside Italy.
This includes Athens, Nice, Amsterdam and Herning in Denmark in 2012.
The race features over 200 of the world’s best cyclists who hope to follow in the footsteps of Dubliner Stephen Roche to land the famous pink jersey at the end of a gruelling three weeks.
And his son Nicolas is among that list of hopefuls and cannot wait for the race to get under way.
“As soon as I heard the Giro was coming to Ireland, I told the team I wanted to ride it,” said 29-year-old Roche.
“I can’t wait for the team presentation on Thursday. From the amount of support I get at the Tour de France every year I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in Ireland.”
He is one of three Irish riders to hit the starting line with Roche’s cousin Dan Martin and Philip Deignan the other riders.
Roche warmed up for the event with a stint at the Tour de Romandie, using it to tighten his form ahead of the first of the three grand tours of 2014.
That finished with a tough time trial in Neuchatel last Sunday but, speaking afterwards, he did not expect it to take too much of an edge off his performance for when he hits the local streets later this week.
“I think the accumulation of the hard week’s racing and the previous three weeks at altitude caught up with me but while things didn’t go as well as they might have in Switzerland, hopefully a few days of relaxing and recovering before the Giro start on Friday night will see me line up, fresh and ready to go.”
He will be among some of the major attractions for the fans as the race hits the roads of Fingal.