So you’re in Ireland to experience the Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza. Expect three days of awesome physical prowess, emotional highs and a few surprises thrown in for good measure. There might even be some cycling…
Like any top athlete, you’ll want to prepare for the challenges ahead. So here’s our quick guide to getting the most out of your Giro experience.
Know your route
Pull away from the peleton by planning your own Giro route. Start in Belfast, and explore the city by Black Taxi Tour or try a Segway ride around the famous Titanic Quarter, where the star attraction is Titanic Belfast.
Once you get out on the open road, you’ll find yourself drawn towards the stunning Causeway Coastal Route. Highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway, the stunning, swaying Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Ireland’s oldest working distillery at Bushmills.
You might even recognise locations from the hit HBO show Games of Thrones. Don’t you think the eerie avenue of beech trees known as the Dark Hedges, near Armoy, looks a lot like the King’s Road?
Heading south, you’ll pass through the leafy splendour of Armagh city, famous for its two cathedrals (a double for St Patrick), its planetarium and the orchards that surround it. Not to mention its buzzing nightlife.
Onwards to Dublin along Ireland’s pretty eastern coastline. In Drogheda, County Louth, you can stare down the grisly shrivelled head of St Oliver Plunket in St Peter’s Church. From here, it’s a straight sprint to Dublin, with its riotous sense of fun and quaint old-world charm.
You’ll be pushing yourself to the limit on your Giro trip, so maybe start off gently with a bike ride around Belfast’s buzzing Cathedral Quarter, full of hip eateries and lively pubs, such as the Duke of York, the Barking Dog and the John Hewitt.
Then kick it up a gear by catching the waves in the surfer’s paradise of Portrush or coasteering along the rugged Antrim coast.
Time for some cross-training. How about bog snorkelling at Peatlands Park, near Armagh? Or you could try white water rafting down the River Liffey outside Dublin.
Maybe you just want to enjoy a relaxing walk along the beach: Dublin has plenty, from Loughshinny, with its sheltered bay, to the vast sandy Velvet Strand in Portmarnock, to the stony sweep of Killiney Beach, a stone’s throw from Bono’s house.
Every athlete knows the importance of diet. Keeping yourself topped up with quality grub and quirky local brews is essential for the dedicated Giro fan.
Luckily, in Ireland you can sample anything from fish and chips at Belfast’s The Chippie (it was good enough for Rihanna) to lunch with a spiritual twist at the Moody Boar (you’ll find it in the grounds of the Archbishop’s Palace in Armagh).
When you get to Dublin, there’s no shortage of tasty options. We recommend the Bison Bar, a casual Texan BBQ where the meat is slow cooked. Or you could try L'Gueuleton, a laid-back French bistro on Fade Street, in the heart of Dublin's social scene. No matter where you go, there'll be plenty of places within walking distance where you can dance the night away.
Get a good night’s sleep
You’re not going to perform at your peak if you’re not properly rested, though, are you? Along the Giro route you’ll find everything from five-star luxury to cosy B&Bs.
We like the Merchant Hotel in Belfast (and not just for its cocktail bar), Tepee Valley campsite in Markethill, County Armagh (your choice of yurt or log cabin), and Merrion Mews in Dublin (right in the heart of the Georgian quarter). But to make sure you never miss a minute of the Giro drama, why not hire a camper van and follow the riders at every stage?
So there you have it – an easy guide to preparing for your very own Giro d’Italia challenge. All you need now is to enjoy the ride.
Don't forget to follow the Giro d'Italia on Twitter as it makes its way from Belfast to Dublin: #girostart2014