Giro d'Italia: Pink letter day for Belfast as cyclists ride in
They came in droves to witness the start of one of the greatest sporting spectacles on Earth.
Thousands of people from Belfast and beyond, plus a host of international visitors, donned their biggest smiles and their best candyfloss-coloured outfits to cheer on the Giro d'Italia cyclists as they began their epic battle for the coveted La Maglia Rosa (pink jersey).
The Grande Partenza – Big Start – in Belfast has been a huge success so far, with the only complaints coming from taxi drivers forced to negotiate road closures.
Cycling fans told the Belfast Telegraph they wouldn't have missed the start of the team time trial in the Titanic Quarter yesterday evening, kicked off by Team Colombia.
The weather was smashing until just after the first riders set off and then, of course, the rain began to fall.
But the party atmosphere continued unabated for locals, tourists, cycle fans and even those who don't know much about cycling but like to have a good time.
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Gail Taylor from Holywood and her 11-year-old daughter Abbie were among those enjoying the event.
"There is a brilliant atmosphere round here," Gail said.
"We are really glad we made the effort to come down. There has been so much effort put into staging this."
Rosemary and Lawrence O'Kane from Glengormley, members of the Glens of Antrim Cycling Club in Cushendall, were there to watch all the action before heading to the Dublin Road to check out more of the event. "We have had a great day," Rosemary said.
Geraldine McCabe from Belfast said: "We have had a brilliant time.
"We got some autographs and photographs today. There is a brilliant atmosphere for the family."
Ballymena Road Club member Tommy Dowds said: "It's a good job. It's been something to look forward to.
"We will also watch in Ballymena and then cycle down to the coast and see it coming back up from Carnlough or Larne."
Catriona Head from Surrey, who was sporting a gorgeous pink coat, is in Belfast on holiday for a week. "My brother-in-law is a big cycle fan so he is so thrilled," she said.
"Belfast is lovely. I wasn't expecting sunshine. We did the taxi tour this morning with a slightly biased opinion from the driver, but very interesting – and I wasn't expecting sunshine, good grief. We are having a great time."
Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O'Muilleoir – complete with pink hair, pink outfit and the gold chain of office – was also at the start line.
He said the buzz in Belfast was wonderful to experience.
"It's a pink letter day for Belfast," he said.
"When you look at what makes cities of the world great they all have one thing in common, and that is positive energy.
"You can't buy that. You can't manufacture that.
"There is a lot of positive energy in Belfast, a lot of confidence, a lot of ambition and aspirations.
"I am delighted to be in the Lord Mayor's seat at this time. What a great privilege for me."
Belfast City Council events manager Gerry Copeland told the Belfast Telegraph the entire team was thrilled with how the Giro d'Italia was being embraced.
"We are delighted with the success of the event so far, and especially the way in which everyone has entered into the spirit of the occasion," he said.
"The riders were overwhelmed by the extremely warm reception they received at the City Hall on Thursday night, and again on the streets last night."
Up to date information on public road closures can be found at trafficwatchni.com/giro.
RESULTS AFTER DAY ONE
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97th staging of the event
During its three days in Ireland, cyclists will travel 426.7km.
Over the three weeks, they will cycle almost 3,450km.
A potential audience of 775 million people is expected across 174 countries.
Expected to generate £2.5m for the economy, with some £10m-worth of international media coverage.