Stunning views of some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful coastline were beamed across the world on Saturday as the Giro d’Italia moved outside Belfast.
Rugged clifftops, waves lapping on the shore and of course the famous Giant’s Causeway all featured in the coverage as a peloton of 196 riders weaved its way along the Causeway Coast.
Setting off from Titanic Belfast, as they had done for Friday’s evening time trial, the riders confronted grey skies and mizzly rain but crowds gathered nonetheless to cheer on the top athletes.
With heavy rain, wind and some standing water along the road as the riders passed through part’s of Saturday’s route visibility decreased from good to moderate.
While the world, and the thousands of spectators gathered along the route, were treated to spectacular scenery, it is likely the riders missed some of the sights, getting up to speeds of 40 miles per hour.
But spectators were at times within touching distance of the cyclists who slowed down considerably for parts of the route through the mountains as they crept uphill and negotiated the narrow roadways.
The annual race, which has its Grand Partenza or Big Start outside of Italy every other year, is being broadcast in 171 countries across five continents, and it is hoped the publicity will draw more tourists to Northern Ireland in the coming years.
Some of the unusual sights screened yesterday included a group of horses encircling a pink horse in a field along the route, a giant image of a bicycle by County Antrim Young Farmers on the grass, and plenty of pink-clad supporters on the sidelines.
It is estimated around 600 million viewers tuned in to television coverage of the race.
Despite almost constant rain from the start point, right through the towns in country Antrim thousands of spectators wearing raincoats and holding umbrellas clapped and cheered as the bikes passed.
Ballycastle hotel general manager Michael Yates said he was expecting 700 to 800 people throughout the day.
He added: “This shows that Ballycastle is a seaside town that can compete with the best of them.”
A giant Mr Blobby outside gave out sweets and nearby the telephone box had been painted pink.
Yellow man, a sweet rock-like confectionary associated with the area and beloved by children, had gone pink for the occasion.
Ballycastle is at the beginning of a steep ascent up into the Glens of Antrim and back down onto the dramatic coastal route which brings the competitors back to Belfast.
As the race neared Belfast city centre crowds swamped the front of City Hall, with people clambering to get a glimpse of the cyclists as they approached.
One man climbed a tree, resting one foot on his bike and the other on a traffic cone as he attempted to get the best view.
Some were lucky enough to enjoy a balcony view at the top of Royal Avenue, while many watched the finish on two large screens in the grounds of City Hall.
Twitter was abuzz with comments praising how well Belfast had hosted the event.
Comedian Jake O’Kane said: “The crowd was six deep on Antrim Road for Giro. Great to see Belfast turn out in the rain,” while others said Northern Ireland looked “fantastic” on television despite the weather.