Published Friday, 09 May 2014
Thousands lined the streets of Belfast for the start of the Giro. (© Pacemaker)
After nearly a year of preparations and hype, the formalities were dispensed with as the racing action took off.
For most of Friday morning, the streets of Belfast were silent of the usual motorised hum replaced only with the sound of pedal power.
However, it was later on Friday evening many more thousands descended on the city to witness the intense cycling action first hand as the first stage proper got underway.
The elite competitors took to the streets of Belfast for the 21km time trial.
Winding their way through the city from the Titanic Building to Stormont and back to City Hall, they were cheered on by thousands of people.
The stage was won by Orica Greenedge and Svein Tuft who was awarded the Maglia Rosa at the stage's end at city hall.
He praised the Belfast support following his victory.
He said: "The entire course was lined four or five deep with people wearing pink and screaming. I never thought it would be like that."
The First and deputy First Minister also hailed the day's events a success.
DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "This is a real opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland.
"Literally hundreds of millions will see the bright sunshine, the impressive scenery and Belfast and all of that is good for tourism and good for investment."
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness added: "The numbers of people on the street has to be seen to be believed.
"We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people. A phenomenal success."
Tourists, some who had never been to Northern Ireland before and travelled over for the race, said they were amazed at how Belfast had gone pink and how the people had got into the spirit of the event.
Ulster rugby player Robbie Diack was one familiar face in the crowd watching the competitors on the Ormeau Road.
He said: "In our training, we do a lot of bike work and it is tough.
"To see what these guys put themselves through, in the time they put in and the kilometres they do each day, is really impressive to see."
On Saturday, the Giro takes in the Causeway coast in a mammoth 219km stage before travelling back to the city for the finish.
Finally, for stage three, the cyclists start in Armagh and head to Dublin for a gruelling 187km stage before flying to Italy to complete the race.
The event is one of cycling's most prestigious, with nearly 200 competitors from 174 countries taking part.
It is costing around £3m to host and it's hoped the event, with nearly 800 million people watching, will provide a massive boost to local business and encourage further investment.
© UTV News