Giro d'Italia: Wheels turn to celebrate one of world's greatest cycle races
The eyes of the world will be on us when the Giro d'Italia international cycle race rolls into town.
"It's gonna be chocka" and very, very pink, according to Darach McQuaid from Shadetree Sports, the company working with event owners RCS to bring the second largest cycling event in the world to our shores.
This May 9-11, Belfast, Armagh, Dublin and beyond will be awash with all things pink as Giro fever grips us.
Pink is the event theme, as it is the colour of the jersey worn by the race leader.
With just three months to go until the Grande Partenza, (Big Start), the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, PSNI, Belfast City Council and local authorities across Northern Ireland are gearing up to host the opening stages of the three-week battle for the coveted pink jersey.
Mr McQuaid said Belfast was the "perfect place to officially start the Giro proceedings" and the whole team was keen to make the Causeway Coast a "must-do" location for cyclists around the world.
The PSNI's Alan Todd said policing a 200km route will be a "significant headache" for officers but he was confident the "blended policing of the event" will be a success.
More than 1,000 volunteers are needed to pull off the huge sporting event.
Meanwhile, Belfast City Council chiefs are busy preparing the line-up for the pink-themed Giro Festival that will run in the city from May 3-11 in tandem with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Festival of Fools and, of course, the annual Belfast City Marathon.
So, brace yourself for lots of pink clothing, merchandise, art, cocktails, coffee, food and more.
First staged in 1909, the Giro d'Italia will put Ireland and its beautiful landscapes, north and south, firmly in the spotlight.
Susie McCullough, NITB events director, said it is "like no event I have ever been too, it's just totally unique".
"It's a real opportunity to tell a new story of Northern Ireland," she added.
Following the 2014 Giro d'Italia Grande Partenza, an official Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia will be launched in Northern Ireland.
A Gran Fondo invites cyclists of all ages and levels to participate in a challenging ride, with an expo and Italian-themed pasta party adding to the festival atmosphere.
In terms of legacy, Northern Ireland will also bid for the Gran Fondo again, starting in 2015 for three years, meaning every year in June we would host a two-day Giro event.
Mr McQuaid added: "We are pushing hard for Northern Ireland to be one of the next Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia venues and I've seen the success over two years.
"They have gone from two or three to six over three years and I think there is going to be a lot of countries around the world bidding to have this.
"We are fairly well positioned, because of the experience they have had coming here for the last two years and seeing the way everybody is buying into the Giro here.
"Giro Gran Fondo is a major legacy."
May 6-May 8: Giro entourage arrivals
Thursday May 8: Gala team presentation event at Belfast City Hall
May 9: Day 1 of racing, starting at Titanic Quarter and finishing at Belfast City Hall
May 10: Day 2, Titanic start, North Coast and Glens, finish at Belfast City Hall
May 11: Day 3, starting at The Mall in Armagh and finishing in Dublin city centre
To volunteer for the Big Start contact Volunteer Now. For more information visit: www.girostart2014.com.