Tour of Ulster now boosted by Italian connection
There's a real Italian feel to this year's Tour of Ulster, which takes place next weekend.
Ahead of the Giro d'Italia, which will begin in Belfast in May next year, the Donnelly Group will be infusing the Tour of Ulster with Italian flare in the form of Fiat sponsorship.
The Donnelly Group will supply a fleet of Fiat 500 cars as support vehicles for the race.
The Tour of Ulster is one of the premier stage races in the Irish cycling calendar, with a top field of riders competing next Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. Race Director Aidan Higgins said: "We have had fantastic interest in the race this year with a full entry of 100 riders from as far away as Cork and Kerry, to just down the road.
"It is set to be one of the toughest in recent years as the course will take in the Sperrin Mountains, with climbs and descents on roads which are rarely raced.
"The Tour of Ulster has a long history, with the first stage race 60 years ago, and it's amazing to see the event grow in popularity and size since then."
The race, which is organised by Maghera cycling club, Carn Wheelers, will be based in Maghera for two stages next Saturday.
Stage one will depart at noon with four categorised climbs, at Springwell, Cam Forest, Plantation Road and Birren Mountain.
Stage two – a short, flat Time Trial – will begin on the Swatragh Road and run straight to Maghera. The race will move on to Armagh on Sunday, May 5 through Lurgan, Keady Mountain, Newtownhamilton, Deadman's Hill, Markethill, Armagh city and back to Lurgan.
The race will return to Maghera for the final stage on Monday, May 6, taking in six laps of a tough circuit around Swatragh, Garvagh and Glenullin.
Michael McCulloch, Sales Manager of Donnelly Fiat, said: "We are delighted to be able to provide our popular Fiat 500s as support vehicles for this year's Tour of Ulster.
"The car has proved to be a big hit, bringing Italian chic and style to the streets of Northern Ireland.
"The Tour of Ulster is one of the top races in Ireland and excitement is really building.
"We anticipate huge support from local crowds to cheer on the cyclists each step of the way.
"The Donnelly Group is a long term supporter of sport in Northern Ireland and we look forward to bringing the Italian feel to the event."
For more information on the race, visit www.tourofulster.com
Live updates from the race weekend will be posted on Twitter @carnwheelers.
The 2014 Giro d'Italia's Belfast start promises to be one of the attractions of the year.