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The UK is poised for arguably its biggest ever summer of cycling. Next month the Giro d'Italia will start with a team time trial in Belfast. In July, the biggest free sporting spectacle in the world – the Tour de France – will descend on Leeds and later that month the 20th Commonwealth Games – featuring a raft of spectacular track, road and mountain biking competitions, kicks off in Glasgow.
Anticipation for all three events is reaching fever pitch. And that's not just because of the magnitude of these events, which will bring millions out to support the athletes, it's because we've also discovered just how much we love cycling. Thanks to the Beijing and London Olympics and Tour de France, and stars such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome, we've been inspired to get out there and experience the thrills and freedom two-wheeled pedal power can give us. And we're hooked.
Check out the video:
BikeRadar launched a grand tour of our own and the first stage was Belfast
Call it the Wiggo Effect, Olympic legacy or whatever, the fact is the UK is a bona fide cycling nation now. We've got the cycling superstars, the teams and this year we've got the races to prove it.
To check out how the host cities and the regions around them were preparing for their respective events, BikeRadar teamed up with the all-new Mazda3 for a grand tour challenge of our very own: to visit all three cities and meet as many people connected with the events as possible. The catch? We only had three days in which to do it. It was a time cut almost as tough as that faced by the sprinters on a grand tour mountain stage.
Being the first Mazda to offer MZD Connect – an advanced information, entertainment and connectivity system, the all-new Mazda3 gives access to a range of online music and social media, allowing it to be the perfect vehicle to support such a challenge. The all-new Mazda3 also offers a full range of advanced SKYACTIV Technology and delivers a no compromise combination of exhilarating driving experience and handling while still achieving leading fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures.
On the challenge, there were loads of people we wanted to meet: athletes, fans, bike shop owners and the organisers who had campaigned, fretted and fought to bring these events to their home cities.
Our grand tour took us first to Liverpool for an overnight ferry to Belfast. There, we explored the magnificent Titanic Quarter which plays host to the Giro d'Italia Grande Partenza on 9 May with a team time trial. If ever a city was primed and ready for a sporting spectacle of epic proportions it was Belfast. We heard how one local bike shop was going to paint the road outside maglia rosa pink and had somehow managed to lay its hands on one of the bikes ridden by Italian legend, Marco Pantani.
After 12 hours in Belfast we were back on the ferry and preparing for a visit to God's own country, which is going to be decked in yellow, polka dot and green to mark the arrival of the 101st Tour de France.
But that – and our onward journey to Glasgow – is for another time. For now sit back and let the Belfasters' anticipation for the Giro's impending start fire you up for what promises to be a fanstastic corsa rosa.