Giro d'Italia: Howzat! Cricketers catch pink fever as cycle race hooks us in
Published 23/04/2014 | 02:30
Pink fever has well and truly gripped Northern Ireland with fishermen, bakers and even farmers getting in on the action.
Our latest pink watch yesterday uncovered not only pink soda bread, but a pink fisherman and even an obelisk on the Shore Road which was repainted pink.
In case the reason for this explosion of pink has somehow passed you by – it's all part of the build-up to the arrival of one of the world's top cycling races to Northern Ireland for the first time.
The Giro d'Italia will hit Belfast on Thursday, May 8 with a live outdoor show at City Hall.
Stage one will take place around Belfast on May 9, stage two will take in Antrim and the north coast on May 10, while stage three will depart from Armagh and finish in Dublin on May 11.
While the Tour de France is known for its yellow leader's jersies, the leader of the Giro wears a pink jersey, sparking the current pink excitement across Northern Ireland.
Cities and towns on the route are hoping to out-pink each other.
Armagh will be centre of the excitement on Sunday, May 11, and even the two cathedrals in the city have moved their service times to avoid a clash with the race.
The third day of the event is due to start at 11am, the same time as Sunday worship at the city's Protestant and Catholic cathedrals. Mass has been cancelled, but an extra service has been arranged during the weekend – in Italian. The Protestant cathedral will hold a service at 9pm the night before and at 7am on the Sunday.
Armagh's pink action even extends to its cricketers, who will break with convention on May 10 by playing their match against Saintfield on the Mall wearing pink.
Norman Graham, president of Armagh Cricket Club, said they got special permission to become "pinkies" for the day. "The Northern Cricket Union doesn't normally allow different colours to be worn, but we got permission and we organised it," he said.
"We're now being called the 'pinkies', but only just for the day. After May 10, we'll go back to normal again."
The north Antrim village Ballintoy is also determined to make a splash in pink. Yesterday it was hard to miss with benches, bicycles, model tractors and statues all painted pink.
Elsewhere on Twitter one farmer – possibly inspired by the pink sheep on the Giant's Causeway – was seeking advice on pink pigs.
Meanwhile, concerns over the surface of part of the route along the Antrim Road have been addressed.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development confirmed that the Roads Service said the quality of surfaces on the Antrim Road is set to be examined again before the race arrives.
"Race organisers have examined our roads and have said they are in a good condition," she said.
"They are due back in the next few days to do a last run over the course to identify any remedial work that may be necessary.
"DRD staff will have a look at the Antrim Road again then."
Some of the world's top cyclists will shortly be arriving for Northern Ireland's first ever Giro d'Italia,
The race – one of the world's most prestigious cycling competitions – will take place on our shores from May 8-11.
The route will take in parts of Belfast, the north coast and Armagh before finishing in Dublin.