Q&A: Giro d'Italia in Northern Ireland
- 9 May 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is hosting the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia international cycle race between Friday and Sunday.
Here is a guide to the key talking points, route details, travel information and the top cyclists taking part.
Firstly, why is the Giro d'Italia in Northern Ireland?
While it may seem unusual that such a thoroughly Italian race is beginning in Northern Ireland, it is actually the 11th time it has started abroad.
Belfast beat a strong domestic bid from Venice and one other unnamed European city to bring the Grande Partenza outside mainland Europe for the first time.
Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise say the total cost of hosting the race would be £4.2m, with £3m of this coming from the department and the European Union.
It is one of cycling's most famous events, and organisers estimate that it will attract about 140,000 spectators.
Why is everything turning pink?
Pink is the traditional colour of the event, as it is the colour of the jersey worn by the overall leader of the race each day.
Race organisers urged schools, businesses, pubs and restaurants to get into the spirit of things, and many came up with weird and wonderful responses.
What route will the racers follow?
There are road closures for stage one on Friday between 16:00 and 20:30 BST.
The route starts at the Titanic Quarter and goes along Upper Newtownards Road, Stormont, Newtownards Road, Queen's Bridge, Oxford Street, Ormeau Road, Stranmillis Embankment, University Road, Bradbury Place and Wellington Place, ending at Belfast City Hall.
Stage two on Saturday is when the riders will first get to tackle some hills. Road closures begin at 08:00 BST. The race begins at Belfast's Titanic Quarter, and cyclists will pass through Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Bushmills, Ballycastle, Cushendall, Waterfoot, Carnlough, Glenarm, Ballygally, Larne, Whitehead, Carrickfergus, ending 218km later at Belfast City Hall.
Road closures for stage three on Sunday begin at 07:00 BST. The 187km route begins in Armagh, passing through Loughgall, Richhill, Markethill, Keady, Newtownhamilton and Forkhill in County Armagh, before crossing the Irish border and on to Dublin via Dundalk, Castlebellingham, Ballbriggan and Swords.
Will there be much disruption?
One of the largest traffic management schemes ever seen in Northern Ireland has been put in place.
More than 200 miles of roads will close at various times over the three days.
About 1,700 pink and black information signs were put up along the route to let people know what to expect.
In Belfast, more than 2,000 extra parking spaces for bikes are being made available during the race.
Public transport company Translink is putting on extra services. Because of the road closures, some timetables have changed, and it has advised people to leave extra time for journeys.
Who are the main contenders?
The bookmakers' favourite for overall victory is Movistar's Nairo Quintana.
At his Tour de France debut last year, the 24-year-old Colombian finished second, winning both the white jersey for best young rider and the polka dot jersey for best climber.
Other contenders include Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, who won a second Volta a Catalunya in March, and Australian Cadel Evans, who was Tour de France champion in 2011 and Giro winner in 2010.
Garmin's Irish rider Dan Martin could also do well. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali is not racing.
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step rider Mark Cavendish, who won the red jersey in the Giro's points classification competition last year, has also withdrawn in order to focus on his preparations for the Tour.
What is it worth to the economy?
It is costing about £4.2m to stage the races in Northern Ireland, but organisers said it will pay dividends in the long term.
The world's second-largest cycle race is expected to generate about £2.5m from visitors who come to watch the opening stages.
It means the event will initially cost more money than it brings to Northern Ireland.
However, tourism bosses have said it will generate publicity worth at least £10m in the long term.