Plenty of thrills assured as Giro rides into town

Team Sky rider Phillip Deignan from Ulster is welcomed at the opening ceremony at Belfast City Hall for this years Giro d'Italia
Team Sky rider Phillip Deignan from Ulster is welcomed at the opening ceremony at Belfast City Hall for this years Giro d'Italia

Expect some fireworks when the Giro d’Italia finally gets under way on Friday evening when the exciting Team Time Trial (TTT) rolls down from the iconic Titanic slipways for a quick 27.1 km trip around east and south Belfast.

And if it rains, as it is forecast, there could be a few spills and thrills as well.

Also expect some teams to go twice over the speed limit when they head down the Upper Newtownards Road after a little visit up and around Northern Ireland’s seat of power at Stormont.

Make no mistake, the TTT will be a spectacular occasion with all 22 teams of nine riders in all their colourful livery flashing around the roads of Belfast.

With their streamlined machinery, space helmets and gossamer-thin skin suits, the teams will be like a harlequinesque clothesline swishing by with their wheels making that noise as if a Roman chariot is rolling by.

The teams will get a run-out in the morning before Team Columbia lead off the Grande Partenza at 17.50 hours. But it will be the team second away that is likely to set the target time. Australian outfit Orica Greenedge are many people’s choice to produce the rider who will wear the Maglia Rosa at the end of the day with Peter Greening or Michael Matthews likely to be the chosen ones.

Team Sky have also a great style and power in the TTT category with Ben Swift and Chris Sutton in their ranks and they will be pushing hard to put Ulsterman Philip Deignan in pink at the end of the day. While Letterkenny-born Deignan is more suited to the mountain stages, Sky will be keen to help achieve him his dream on home tarmac.

Nicolas Roche’s Tinkoff-Saxo team will not challenge for honours in the opening stage, but will be keeping their powder until the big mountain stages in the third week and hope they will not lose too much time to the leaders.

His cousin Dan Martin’s Garmin-Sharp team, however, could spring a big surprise on their Cervelo steads which are the one of the few team bikes to have hydraulic brakes fitted on the back.

The all-carbon bikes have nothing that will stop a smooth run with all edges covered within the frame to cut out the drag, hence Garmin’s idea of a hydraulic brake at the back which can be hidden in frame while conventional back brakes are left to the elements.

When the team reaches the end, their time is based on the fifth rider to cross the line, while the winning team usually nominate a rider to lead home. In this case this evening, he will be wearing the Maglia Rosa into Stage two.

Team Time Trialling is all about a constant pace around the course with each member taking a turn at the front in order to give his team-mates a ‘rest’.

The course around Belfast is tricky and there are a few difficult corners to manouvre, particularly around the Stranmillis Embankment and Governor’s Bridge where those white-painted road markings can spell trouble for riders, particularly in the wet.

All riders will show exceptional bike handling skills, particularly when they will be hitting near the 60 mph mark when they go past North Road back into town.

One hopes that white van we all despise isn’t hiding somewhere near the Arches!