Carrickfergus Castle welcomes Giro’s knights of the road

Gillespie Family in Carrick for Giro d'Italia
Gillespie Family in Carrick for Giro d'Italia
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One of the largest crowds cheering on the Giro cyclists on Saturday was in Carrickfergus, with the Norman castle providing an impressive backdrop as the peloton passed by.

Thousands of people - both cycling fans and curious onlookers - created a carnival atmosphere ahead of the racers’ arrival.

The town embraced the Giro d’Italia spirit with a family fun day of various activities for all ages.

Speaking to the News Letter as the peloton disappeared towards Belfast, the spectators were unanimous that the experience had lived up to the hype. Paul Gillespie of Randalstown was following every stage of the Big Start in Northern Ireland with young sons Odhran and Cillian.

“The whole thing has been even better than I expected. I was on the Newtownards Road yesterday (Friday) and the welcome was fantastic too,” he said.

Carrick resident Bertie Jordan secured a prime viewing spot by the roadside.

He said it was “a wonderful occasion” for the whole country. His friend Mary Jenkins also approved, saying it was so much more “than just a bunch of fit men in lycra”.

The main Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport said that to describe the welcome as “Giro fever” would be an understatement.

Gavin Larmour from Carrickfergus said: “Everyone is getting behind the Giro. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for Northern Ireland.”

The party atmosphere was repeated all along Saturday’s 218km route - with plenty of fancy dress on display - and every town and village bedecked in Giro pink.

In Larne, the PSNI were on hand to make sure a stressed-out bride got to her wedding despite being caught up in the cycle race.

Rachel Parrett had planned to marry James Popple from Australia on Saturday afternoon, but when the couple made their arrangements some time ago they had no idea the Giro would throw a spanner in the works.

With roads closed to the public, a police escort from Carrick Castle whizzed the bride to the Clarion Hotel to the cheers of the crowds waiting for the cyclists to pass.