Elite cyclists gear up for the Tour of Ulster
Crowds will be out in force at Stormont on Friday to welcome 150 cyclists who are gearing up for a tough 260 mile race to take ownership of the much coveted pink jersey in the biggest race in the annual cycling calendar.
The AmberGreen Energy Tour of Ulster, in partnership with SDS Group and Saltmarine Cars, is putting our region on the international map yet again as a destination which attracts cyclists from around the world.
Teams from Australia, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will meet at Belfast's Stormont Hotel today to officially register for the four stages.
But the excitement begins around 6.30pm when they take to their saddles for a time trial race from the gates of Stormont, past Carson's monument and race to the top of the hill before descending the avenue to the finish.
Speaking at the launch of the jerseys at Malone Playing Fields last night, Neil O'Brien, of AmberGreen Energy, said: "Tomorrow (SAT) morning, here at this very spot, we will warmly welcome 150 elite cyclists from as far away as Australia to compete in Ireland's longest established road race as they chase wheels to win the pink jersey.
"It's an honour to have these athletes with us to take part in this gruelling challenge which will take them on a tour from Belfast to Newry via the Mourne mountains and Spelga Dam. On Sunday the race leaves Newry and onto Armagh before finishing in Cookstown, where it spends two days and takes in the Sperrin Mountains for dramatic racing.
"Monday is a special circuit race where there will be an activity fun day for all of the family in the centre of Cookstown and a great opportunity to see the cyclists in action. We will be with them, every step of the way and we wish them a safe race and hope they enjoy the views while they are here."
Organiser Garry Nugent, of BGN Management, said: "We are hoping that people will come out and cheer on these cyclists as they take part in this amazing race which first started out in 1957. We are launching the jerseys and have taken ownership of the AmberGreen Energy Tour of Ulster Trophy so may the best cyclist win."
Live action from the race will be published on Twitter @AGE TourofUlster and on Facebook during the course of the four stages.