Giro effect: Plans are wheeled out for a two-week cycling festival
Tourism chiefs are getting on their bikes to secure a two-week cycling festival to put Northern Ireland on the map for cycling holidays.
The strategy, supported by Stormont, plans to build on the success of the Giro D'Italia earlier this year and cash in on the huge tourist spend linked to two wheels.
Figures show visitors from outside Northern Ireland to the Kilbroney Park mountain bike trails in Rostrevor spend an average £100 a day. And overall activity tourism, including cycling and mountain biking, is estimated to be worth about £100m to the Northern Ireland economy.
The initiative is being pedalled after fact-finding sessions held by Stormont's regional development committee on the benefits of cycling to the economy.
Northern Ireland Tourist Board official Susie McCullough said: "Our aspiration, working with key partners, is to develop a two-week cycling festival for Northern Ireland.
"From conversations that we have had with the Department for Regional Development (DRD) and other key stakeholders, we know that they are keen to look at that."
With a total of 136 cycle routes and more than 18 specialist cycle providers in the province, the Tourist Board and an organisation called Outside Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI) hope nothing will put a spoke in the bid for a number of major cycling events at UK and European levels.
"Certainly, the infrastructure for downhill cycling is there. The tracks in Rostrevor are some of the best in the world, and we need to check whether we have the infrastructure for visitors and the entourage that comes with an event," Ms McCullough, the board's director of business support and events, added.
"We are fairly confident that we will put in a collective bid with ORNI to host that."
ORNI executive director Caro-lynne Ferris told the Belfast Telegraph: "A two-week cycling festival would provide an excellent hook for the growing cycling product in Northern Ireland.
"The annual Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive in Ballycastle has already proved that cycling events can be a key economic driver."
Kilbroney Park was among the locations cited in the Belfast Telegraph's series Tele Recommends.
ORNI's Chris Armstrong said it had quickly become a true mountain biker's haven.
Just this week the Belfast Telegraph published our readers' five favourite mountain bike trails as part of the Tele Recommends supplement on the best in Northern Ireland.
Biking expert Chris Armstrong, of Outdoor Recreation NI, was assisted by readers in picking the popular final five. They are:
- Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails
- Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails
- Barnett Demesne Trails and Jumps Park, Belfast
- Blessingbourne Trails, Co Tyrone
- Cavehill, Belfast