What an amazing weekend. The large crowds of people who turned out, mostly in pink, to watch a cycle race that perhaps they hadn’t even heard of a month or so ago were quite incredible.
I was reminded of a poster I saw a few years ago when on holiday at the Calgary Stampede. Breast Cancer was the chosen charity that year and the poster read: “Are you tough enough to wear pink?”
It seems not only are we all tough enough but we’ve found not just an event, but a colour, that we can all identify with.
On Friday it was off to the Community Party at Stormont Presbyterian Church with my daughter to watch the time trial. The notice board at the church read “God loves all races”.
The Upper Newtownards Road was jam-packed with spectators and there was a real party atmosphere. Some 1,800 folk passed through the church grounds, including an Italian visitor who insisted on having a go on the bicycle-powered smoothie maker. What a memory for him to take home!
The time trial itself was simply spectacular. The tight formation of the cyclists, the speed, the team colours. However, for me the lasting memory was the sound of the bikes and as they passed.
Day Two was the long-distance stage around beautiful north and east coasts. I chose to watch the race from the comfort of my living room until they reached Glenarm. I jumped on my bike and headed from Dundonald to the finish line at the City Hall.
The atmosphere in the city centre was electric, with the sense of anticipation heightened by the background commentary and the view of the race on the big screens.
In a flash the leaders were past and my photograph of the moment just a blur of bikes and spectators.
Congratulations must go to the organisers, the PSNI, Roads Service and all the volunteers. To successfully run such a major, complex, international event without any previous, direct experience speaks volumes for all those involved.
Now that it’s all over, I wonder what the legacy will be? Hopefully a child from here watching the event will one day take part in or even win the race. I am sure we will have many more overseas visitors, creating significant economic benefits.
However, for me, the real legacy will be turning the undoubted political goodwill and enthusiasm for cycling into a long-term commitment to create a cycling culture, safe and accessible for all. Better infrastructure, on-road cycle training and policies that support this work. Active and healthy communities who choose walking and cycling as their primary means of travel for those short journeys we all make every day.
For me, it is back to enjoying my daily commute along the Comber Greenway ... perhaps joined by many newly-inspired cyclists.
What next – the Tour de France!
Gordon Clarke is the National Director of Sustans
Sustrans is a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport so that people can choose healthier, cleaner, cheaper and safer journeys. www.sustrans.org.uk