Northern Ireland

Giro d'Italia: First stage ends in Belfast

Giro d'Italia first stage
Svein Tuft claimed the overall lead after his team, Orica Greenedge, won the opening stage time-trial

The opening stage of the Giro d'Italia, the world's second-largest bike race, has come to an end in Belfast.

Tens of thousands of spectators watched competitors race along the 13 mile route from Titanic Quarter to City Hall.

Canadian rider Svein Tuft claimed the overall lead after his team, Orica Greenedge, won the time-trial.

However, Irish rider Dan Martin suffered a fall that has ruled him out of the rest of the race.

Northern Ireland is hosting the initial stages of the competition over the next three days, which will see about 200 cyclists race through the streets.

A total of 22 teams are competing for the prestigious title.

Giro d'Italia first stage
Teams set off from the Titanic Quarter for the opening stage of the race

Team Sky rider Philip Deignan, who is from County Donegal, said the atmosphere on the route was "amazing".

"It's incredible how people have taken to the race. The rain hasn't put people off.

"As I was travelling around it was like a wall of noise. I couldn't hear most of it but I heard a lot of 'Phillip's', so it was great support."

About 20 roads were closed from 16:00 BST to 20:30 BST for the time trial.

Disappointment

At about 17.45 BST, the team time-trial got under way with Team Colombia setting off from the Titanic Quarter.

Fans lined the route that saw competitors travel to Stormont via the Newtownards Road, and then make their way through south Belfast to the city centre.

There was disappointment for many when Irish rider Dan Martin, the nephew of former Giro d'Italia winner Stephen Roche, fell on the Lower Newtownards Road.

On Saturday, the race moves on to the north coast, travelling along one of Northern Ireland's most scenic routes.

The third and final stage begins in Armagh on Sunday, as the competitors race over the border for a sprint finish in Dublin.

The Giro d'Italia is the biggest sporting event ever staged in Northern Ireland, with competitors from more than 30 countries taking part.

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