Thursday March 20 marks 50 days to go until Northern Ireland hosts the first three stages of the world’s second largest bike race, the Giro d’Italia, and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is urging people to ensure they are part of the action, to plan ahead and book their accommodation now before it is too late.
The Big Start, or Grande Partenza, from May 9 – 11, promises three days of excitement, drama and thrills from Belfast, through the magnificent Causeway Coastal Route and Glens and the historic city of Armagh.
NITB Director of Marketing, Naomi Waite believes people should not miss out on the chance of a lifetime to be part of one the world’s biggest sporting events.
“With only 50 days to go until Northern Ireland plays host to the ‘Grande Partenza’, NITB is encouraging people to ‘Be Part of the Start’ and plan ahead. With thousands of spectators lining the route, the atmosphere will be electrifying so this really is an historic event not to be missed.
“There will be plenty to get involved in over the three days with festivals and Giro-themed events all along the race route, particularly in the start venues of Belfast and Armagh. In addition, Northern Ireland is going pink as some of the best known landmarks, such as the Ulster Museum and City Hall in Belfast, are changing colour in celebration of the Giro d’Italia,” Naomi added.
Speaking ahead of the build-up, cycling legend Stephen Roche, one of only two cyclists to win the triple crown of victories in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia stage races, plus the World Road Race Championship, said: “It’s incredible to think that the sporting moment of 2014 is only fifty short days away. Northern Ireland businesses, cycle and sports fans as well as the public are in for a true sporting treat as almost 200 of the world’s elite cyclists try to win the various stages on their way to claiming the ultimate prize, the famous pink jersey.
“The towns and cities, famous landmarks and natural beauty of Northern Ireland will be seen by millions on TV over the three days of fierce competition but the warmth and hospitality of the people here will take centre stage as they welcome visitors from across the world and line the route in their thousands to cheer on the riders.”
Watch the colourful race convoy of creative caravans and branded cars that will tour the route before the race arrives, bringing with them a real wave of excitement to the towns and villages along the way.
The festivities will kick off on the evening of Thursday May 8 with the Team Presentation in the grounds of Belfast City Hall providing people with a great opportunity to see the teams and enjoy the party atmosphere. This event is a unique chance to see the cycling idols up close and personal. The nine riders from each of the 22 teams will be presented along with a range of entertainment to celebrate the Big Start in Belfast. This event is free to attend but will be ticketed access. To register your interest visit www.visit-belfast.com/giro*.
Day one of the action on Friday May 9 will be the Team Time Trial, starting from the slipways at the iconic Titanic Belfast. The 21.7km route will travel out to Parliament Buildings, Stormont then back towards the city centre via Queens Bridge, the Ormeau Road and Stranmillis, finishing at Belfast City Hall.
The following day will once again start from Titanic Belfast before heading north towards the Causeway Coastal Route and back. Famous attractions along the 218km route will include the Old Bushmills Distillery, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce and Carrickfergus Castles and the glorious Glens of Antrim.
The final day’s action on Sunday will start from the historic Cathedral City of Armagh. The 187km cross-border route will travel through County Armagh’s famous apple country south to Newtownhamilton, Forkhill and onwards to Dublin.
This event is supported by NITB and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
For further details on the Giro d’Italia ‘Grande Partenza’ contact the Northern Ireland Tourist Board by clicking on www.discovernorthernireland.com/giro2014 and by using hashtag #girostart2014.