Countdown to Giro's Big Start

Published Thursday, 20 March 2014
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Northern Ireland is counting down to the Giro d'Italia's Big Start.

Countdown to Giro's Big Start
Minister Arlene Foster, ex-winner Stephen Roche and cyclist Massimo Manganaro. (© DETI)

There are only 50 days to go before over 200 riders from more than 30 countries line up in Belfast for the race.

When the 'Grande Partenza' takes place from 9 - 11 May, it will be the first time in its history that it's held outside mainland Europe.

The official Opening Ceremony, or the Team Presentation, will be held in the grounds of Belfast City Hall on the evening of Thursday 8 May. Although free to attend, the event will be ticket only.

Participants racing for the maglia rosa - or the pink jersey - cycle across Belfast, the Glens of Antrim, the Causeway Coast, and down to Armagh before finishing in Dublin. Then, travel across to Italy to complete the 21-stage race.

The arrival of the Giro to these shores is not only expected to give the hospitality sector a welcome boost, it will also showcase the island of Ireland to a worldwide audience of 800m people.

Tourism minister Arlene Foster said: "The clock is now ticking as we prepare to host one of the world's greatest sporting events. We have fantastic plans in place to welcome over 200 top professional cyclists from across the globe and it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for many local people to witness sporting stars in competition on their doorsteps.

"The Giro d'Italia is not just a sporting competition that is restricted to cyclists passing in a matter of minutes, but instead it is a true spectacle, as the drama begins each day before the peloton arrives."

Proceeding each day's racing the multi-coloured Giro d'Italia caravan procession will travel along the route and the festivities in towns and villages will last all day.

Tourism minister Arlene Foster

The Minister continued: "Not only will there be three days of unmissable cycling action, but there will also be a range of events and activities before and during the races."

Describing the opening ceremony, she said: "On Thursday evening, 8 May, there will be an opportunity to catch a first glimpse and interact with some of the world's best cyclists at the Opening Ceremony in the grounds of Belfast City Hall. Nine riders from each of the 22 teams will participate in the ceremony and there will also be a range of entertainment to celebrate the Big Start in Belfast.

"There are lots of ways to get involved and over the last few weeks I've heard how local people along the route are planning to welcome the Giro d'Italia by thinking pink. From pasta to flowers, cappuccinos to fish and chips, many things are turning pink in honour of the coveted pink jersey worn by the race leader."

Ms Foster said that the event allows Northern Ireland to once again showcase our striking landscapes and stunning scenery to "the biggest global outreach we will have ever achieved."

The DUP minister concluded: "The Giro d'Italia sits alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, as one of the most prestigious races in the professional road cycling world circuit. The Big Start is not only an amazing opportunity for everyone to see some of the superstars of cycling racing competitively on our local roads, but it is an opportunity to reach out and inspire people to visit Northern Ireland."
© UTV News
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