One of the world’s top professional cycling races will put Northern Ireland’s north coast on the map, organisers said.
The three-day start of the Giro d’Italia in May will pass dramatic Atlantic breakers and the Unesco World Heritage site of the Giant’s Causeway and up to 140,000 spectators could attend.
Time trials will be held in Belfast, taking in the stately home of the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont, before a final leg from the ecclesiastical capital of Armagh to Dublin.
Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports, the inspiration behind the event, said: “We want to make the Causeway Coast one of the must-do cycling routes for any serious cyclist around the world.”
More than 200 of the world’s elite riders will take part.
Mark Cavendish, one of the most successful sprint time trial competitors in the Tour de France and BBC sports personality of the year in 2011, could be among star names.
Tourist authorities anticipate that the event will attract 42,000 visitors from outside Northern Ireland.
Day one involves a 21.7km time trial around Belfast from the Titanic Quarter where the famous liner was built to the City Hall. Day two is a 218km loop starting and ending in Belfast, including the Causeway coastal route. Day three is a 187km ride from Armagh – known as the Cathedral City because the Church of Ireland and Catholic Church in Ireland have headquarters there – to Dublin.