Giro d'Italia cycles out of NI

Published Sunday, 11 May 2014
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Northern Ireland has said arrivederci to the Giro d'Italia as the third stage left Armagh on Sunday morning on its way to the 'Big Start' finishing line in Dublin.

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Three scintillating days of action saw thousands of people take to the streets as the region turned pink for one of the world's best cycling races.

While many fans donned pink t-shirts and hats, others have made an extra effort, with an array of pink animals spotted along the stage routes in what has been dubbed a resounding success which exceeded the greatest of expectations.

Stage three left Armagh city at 11.45am, heading out towards the Markethill Summit and Fews Forest.

The riders then progressed to Dundalk and Castlebellingham on their way along the east coast.

German Marcel Kittel won the final Irish stage in Dublin, crossing the line at about 4.20pm, after winning the Belfast leg the previous evening.

Ahead of Stage Three, race leader and holder of the pink jersey Michael Matthews paid tribute to the fans.

"You are all incredible," said the Australian cyclist. "I was so cold yesterday and you were five deep the whole course. I am truly honoured to be part of this whole event and you guys have done amazing."

Senior church figures from both sides of the region's traditional divide gave blessings to the riders before their Armagh departure with Cardinal Seán Brady, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, delivering his in Italian.

He was one of the few not clad in pink but, pointing to the red belt around his robe, he later stressed: "This was the nearest I had to pink."

The cleric added: "It's a great joy to welcome these superb athletes here and to wish them well. We are delighted that they have chosen Northern Ireland to begin the Giro."

I never realised it was gonna be such a turn-up and such a fantastic event. It’s been exceptional the support I had over the last few days.

Nicholas Roche

Stormont tourism minister Arlene Foster said the organisers had been taken aback at how Northern Ireland had embraced the race.

"They are blown away," she said. "They are saying it's the best start they have ever had to the Giro d'Italia and when you get that from people who have been all over the world, it's incredible."

Mrs Foster said the enthusiasm had been generated in part by the novelty value.

"I think because it's something completely different, people in Northern Ireland really haven't seen anything like this before," she explained.

"The whole country is pink - it's been marvellous."

Three days of trouble free racing were also hailed by PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

"Look at the colour, look at the atmosphere, it's a carnival and celebration - absolutely fabulous," he said, after posing for photographs with one Giro fan's baby.

"It's been a privilege with the PSNI to be part of it all.

"Obviously a lot of detail and meticulous planning went into this and from our perspective it's gone very, very well indeed.

"It's evidence that Northern Ireland is still one of the safest places in world.

"Apart from the fact we occasionally have events that worry us, the world is moving on and this is exactly where the future lies - it's in people coming together to celebrate together the great events we can have."

The three-week race, which was won by Ireland's own Stephen Roche in 1987, now heads back home to Italy.

© UTV News
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16 Comments
Barry in Belfast wrote (99 days ago):
"Love in Norn iron" - you are pathetic. This was not about Britishness (or Irishness for that matter). Must have killed you in your wee narrow mind that Nicholas Roche got the biggest and best reception at city hall and that all the riders talked of Ireland. The rest of us don't care one jot. Well done to the organisers, police, tourist board and especially the people of Belfast and beyond.
Mark in Belfast wrote (100 days ago):
Matt in Belfast, there is no 'Road tax' - there has been no such thing as 'Road tax' for almost 80 years. The vehicle excise duty you pay on your car is a tax on cars, not the roads or their use.
love in norn iron wrote (100 days ago):
Giro coming to belfast was a huge honour and made me so proud of being british!! Watching this bike race with my children and the buzz we felt was smashing #memorysmade our wee country done me proud yet again #giro2014 ??
Rosa D in Monaghan wrote (101 days ago):
Sad to see the few negative comments on here but there are always people who have to have a moan. It was great to see such a fantastic event going cross border and the decorations were brilliant. It brought people together and that's what we need!
Charlieann in Armagh wrote (101 days ago):
Absolutely fabulous - I wouldn't have cared if I wasn't able to get out of my house all day. Ringside seat, sun shining and neighbours all together - a memory not to forget. Well done to all the organisers and maybe one day we'll see something similar back again. Well done to NI Tourist Board for the video promotion of NI - it is great. One gripe - poor TV coverage - maybe BBC will put on a programme specifically covering the three days and all the towns and villages they went through.
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