Note: Since the publication of our article, Belfast City Council has confirmed they will be supplying a plaque for Dunlop and Hume to be unveiled by the Lord Mayor along with local school children and cyclists at the site before the Giro passes on route.
The Giro d'Italia starts in Belfast this year and everyone is buzzing about the three days of pre-race celebrations in Belfast. The media is full of quotes about how the retailers, hotels, sponsors will make the most out of the event.
Speaking at the launch, minister Arlene Foster said: "Plans are already in motion to make the occasion a fabulous celebration worthy of Italian cycling traditions and the maglia rosa (the pink jersey) itself. There will be a whole range of events and activities staged before and during the races."
But with all of the attention on making Belfast “worthy” of the Giro, it did seem until this week that Northern Ireland had forgotten its undisputed place in the history of cycle racing. Before Ireland had Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly, Belfast had a claim to fame in the names of Dunlop and Hume.
John Boyd Dunlop, a Belfast based Scottish veterinary surgeon and developer of the first practical use of the pneumatic tyre, sold the first set to local competitive cyclist Willie Hume. Far from favourite, Hume fitted the tyres to his safety cycle and won each of the four races he entered. It is no exaggeration to say the ramifications of Hume’s victory are of world significance.
200 of the world’s top professional cyclists will pass within yards of where Hume won those first races, which could rightly be claimed as one of the birthplaces of modern cycling - yet, astoundingly, no announcement of celebrating this auspicious occasion was mentioned by either the Giro organisers or the powers that be in the city itself until just a week ago.
Since the publication of our original article, Belfast City Council has confirmed they will be supplying a plaque for Dunlop and Hume to be unveiled by the Lord Mayor along with local school children and cyclists at the site before the Giro passes on route.
Local cycling campaigner Roy White, who has researched these events, had this to say:
“To celebrate Hume and Dunlop is to celebrate technical innovation leading to social progress. Creating a faster bicycle is significant enough, particularly when the cream of the cycling world is descending on Belfast. But the real legacy of Dunlop and Hume was in helping to enable cycling for all, male and female, young and old, fast and slow.”
It would seem that the city did listen when local campaigners approached government bodies involved in the planning of the Giro about promoting Dunlop Hume in the autumn of 2013 and that Belfast’s contribution to the world of cycling will be given at least some of the glory it deserves.