The city of Armagh was invaded by a bizarre carnival of people and unusual sights yesterday, the common thread between them being pink - the theme colour of the Giro D’Italia.
Giro marketing manager Giovanni Nipoti said: “We have been surprised - every person and animal was wearing pink, and every house. It is not normally so big except in Italy.
“The support has been better than we got in Denmark two years ago or Holland four years ago.”
A 20-foot tall inflatable pink cyclist graced The Mall along with a line of six pink Belfast taxis, while a two-man pink pantomime boar danced up the street.
Folk with long pink wigs hung from balconies as the athletes prepared below. Children nearby waved giant pink sponge hands.
Colum Doran, who lives near the start line, sported a pink top hat, his granddaughter Kaitlyn wearing a pink wig.
“I think it is a great thing to happen to Northern Ireland,” he said. “The place is buzzing”.
Keen amateur cyclist Richard Nicholl, from near Lurgan, said that it was “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for the island of Ireland.
“The magnitude of bringing such a prestigious event should not go unnoticed; it will not be back in a hundred years,” he said. “This is the cycling equivalent of the Olympic Games.
“I was at the Belfast leg and the crescendo of noise at the finish matched or bettered the Tour De France, which I have also attended.”
His friend Tony Wan said he had just come “to enjoy the spectacle”.
He added: “It is good to see both young and old enjoying the atmosphere. The dedication these athletes put into their training is incredible.”
• Bringing the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland has been hailed a huge success by the Italian media.
The sports newspaper La Gazzetta expressed surprise at the warmth of the welcome, saying “Giro Fever” would be an understatement.
“There is no road in the city of Northern Ireland, not even the building or park, which does not expose a flag, a festoon or anything pink to celebrate,” it said.
It also described the local media coverage as a welcome surprise.
The Il Messagero daily praised the north coast as “one of the most spectacular coastal routes on the planet”.
The Italian cycling websites have also been promoting the Province as an ideal cycling holiday destination due to the wide choice of flat road options.