Giro d'Italia: Eyes of the world on Northern Ireland
Huge line-up of events with no admission charge to accompany Giro
Get ready to feast your eyes on an event of a colossal scale.
The Giro d'Italia is unparalleled as one of the world's most iconic cycling events.
Over the next few days, more than 140,000 visitors are expected to descend on Northern Ireland, with 42,000 of those coming from outside the country.
They will all be battling for the best spot to watch around 200 of the world's toughest cyclists from more than 30 countries – together with their technical teams and sponsors – storm in to Belfast. The race is set to attract massive international media coverage. According to the organisers, last year's Giro was broadcast in 174 countries, reaching 125 million households and a global audience of about 775 million people.
More than one billion unique users on websites across the world followed the 2013 Giro d'Italia 2013.
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And let's not forget the scores of media Press teams arriving in their droves to capture every second of the event. Going on last year's figures, there will be approximately 1,595 journalists, including 463 photographers from around the world. This year marks the 97th staging of the race, which started in May 1909. Since 1996, the country hosting the Big Start has changed every other year.
Up to date information on public road closures can be found at: http://trafficwatchni.com/giro
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Northern Ireland is joining an impressive hall of fame along with Austria, France, Belgium and Greece, who have all held the Big Start. The race lasts for three weeks and the winner of the gruelling event is determined by their total time over the three weeks, rather than the first past the post. During the three days in Ireland, cyclists will be travelling up to an exhausting 60km/hr along the 426.7km and will cycle a total distance of almost 3,450km.
The first Irishman to win the Giro d'Italia was Stephen Roche in 1987 – the same year he won the Tour de France and the World Championship. This is the 11th year the Big Start will be outside of Italy.
97th staging of the event
During its three days in Ireland, cyclists will travel 426.7km.
Over the three weeks, they will cycle almost 3,450km.
A potential audience of 775 million people is expected across 174 countries.
Expected to generate £2.5m for the economy, with some £10m-worth of international media coverage.
Giro d'Italia: The race, the route and everything else you need to know
A host of free events will take place across Northern Ireland to welcome one of the world's biggest cycling events to our shores for the first time.
The grand opening ceremony for the Giro d'Italia will take place at Belfast City Hall on Thursday May 8, before three days of action across Belfast, the Causeway Coast, Glens of Antrim, Armagh and finishing in Dublin.
There was huge demand for tickets for the opening event and now the race is on to find the best viewing spots.
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Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, has launched Go Stormont, a free Italian-themed festival at the Stormont Estate to coincide with competitors passing our seat of government.
The practice session will take place at Stormont from 10am on May 9, with the festival in full swing from 3pm for the time trial until the last team flies through just after 8pm.
"Thousands of spectators are expected to line the route of the time trial around the Stormont estate and watch live race action on huge TV screens located in the grounds," Mr Hamilton said.
"A fusion of local and Italian food and live entertainment will be on offer, as well as a wide range of activities across the estate guaranteed to give children, adults and cycling enthusiasts an amazing day out. The list of activities is endless with lots of free family fun."
Spectators can also bring a picnic to the estate and enjoy activities at the festival, which include arts and crafts, food outlets, Italian cars and a selection of artisan stalls. There will be a funfair, bouncy castles, circus performers, an adventure ropes course, archery, climbing wall, cycle challenges and zorbs.
The north coast is also gearing up for the extraganza with one local business owner particularly excited.
Events in Coleraine borough start on Wednesday May 7 with the Crit and Critter run taking place in Coleraine town centre from 6pm.
On the Thursday, Portrush and Portstewart Primary schools will take part in an early morning Pedal in Pink challenge, while on the Friday the council will host the Port to Port Sunset Cycle with participants in pink fancy dress departing from Harbour Hill, Portstewart, at 7pm towards West Bay, Portrush.
West Bay hosts an evening of entertainment from 7pm on Friday, May 9 including the Trialstar cycle stunt show, live music with Rightly On, face painting, a pedal-powered smoothie maker, a meet and greet with Mario and Luigi and free ice cream courtesy of sponsors Morelli's Ices.
The Giro will pass through the Coleraine Borough on Saturday May 10 from Ballybogey to the Royal Court Hotel and Dunluce Castle, with the first competitors expected from 11.30am.
For more information on events in the Borough of Coleraine, contact Coleraine Borough Council on 7034 7234 or log on to www.northcoastni.com.