East Antrim will be in a spin this weekend as the world famous Giro d’Italia powers through the Newtownabbey, Larne and Carrick areas.
Throngs of spectators are expected to line the route as some of the world’s top cyclists battle it out.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, 24, runner-up to Chris Froome in last year’s Tour de France, is favourite to win the la Cosa Rossa (the Pink Race) when it finishes in sunnier climes in the north-eastern Italian town of Trieste on June 1. Last year’s Giro champion Vicenzo Nibili isn’t competing; he’s concentrating on preparing for the Tour.
Also expected to be among the front-runners are 2013 Giro runner-up Rigoberto Uran (Colombia), Spanish rider Joaquim Rodriguez, and Australian Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour de France winner.
The cycling bonanza kicks off in Belfast on Friday (May 9) with 22 teams of nine taking part in the Time Trial before East Antrim gets in the pink with Saturday’s leg - a 218 km cycle in which sprinters are expected to be at the fore.
The route begins on Belfast’s Antrim Road, making it’s way through Newtownabbey, Ballymena and then on to the Giant’s Causeway. It will then take in the spectacular coastal scenery en route to Larne, Whitehead, Carrickfergus, and Whiteabbey before heading back to Belfast.
There will be a festival mood along the route with Larne Rugby Club hosting a Giro-themed music festival, and Carrick-based Madigan Cycling Club planning their own celebrations. There will also be family fun day at Jordanstown’s Loughshore Park.