Video: East Belfast goes pink to welcome cycling’s elite

There was a distinct rosy tint to east Belfast as the race prepared to surge through that part of the city yesterday.

In addition to the Northern Ireland and Union flags which normally flap from the lamp-posts, there were shocks of pink along the route as businesses and residents bedecked the streets with Giro paraphernalia.

Cyclists in east Belfast on Friday

Cyclists in east Belfast on Friday

Cycling is not a sport which will quicken the pulse of all Belfast residents, but there was every sign that - whether enthusiasts or not - residents of the famously tight-knit communities off the Newtownards Road were willing to embrace the event, and the visitors from around the world.

By about 3pm, a barbecue and street party had sprung up near “Freedom Corner”, the great array of murals near Templemore Avenue.

Further up along the route, another road was closed off as residents brought tables out onto the street for their own little fete, and even the road’s loyalist flag shop was displaying images of Giro cyclists in its window.

Desi McHenry, a keen 67-year-old cyclist and Giro volunteer, was out on the street offering directions to foreign visitors at “Freedom Corner”.

“I think a lot of people maybe have a misconception of Belfast, and they’re quite pleased with what they see,” he said.

“It’s opened their eyes to how good the city can be.”

He said some outsiders may find the murals a little “strange”.

Despite the spirit of the day, no amount of festive bunting could detract from some of the darker sights along the road, such as the recently painted walls bearing images of gunmen.

Further up the road at Stormont Presbyterian Church, a pink bicycle, rose-coloured regalia and a humorous sign reading: “God loves all races” were on display.

Brian Millar, 58 and from east Belfast, was helping out at the church.

From 4pm to 8pm, he said they would be offering hot dogs, stew, a bouncy castle, and - in a left-field twist - the chance for the public to make their own fruit smoothie using a bicycle.

The church was going to hook up the bike’s wheels to a blender, and by pedalling on-the-spot cyclists could turn the blades and puree the fruit.

Mr Millar – himself a former bike shop worker – said: “I think it’s much more than a race. It’s like a community event. It’s great for tourism as well. This is just to open up the building and do things for people of the local area – and hopefully we’ll get some foreigners in too.

“It’ll be something good coming out of the country here for a change. We’ll be in the news for the right reasons.”

One of those preparing to take his family to the event was runner Stephen Ferguson, a 44-year-old IT worker from east Belfast.

He is no stranger to cycling, having undertaken triathlons in the past, and said: “I love Cadel Evans (a leading competitor from Australia) and watch the Tour de France.

“To see these guys racing in the flesh, you know - they are incredible.”