Belfast parties in pink as Giro d'Italia gets underway

Thousands line streets to watch 22 teams take part in Grande Partenze

 

The Giro d’Italia is underway in Belfast amid large crowds and displays of the race’s emblematic pink everywhere.

Thousands turned out for the Grande Partenze or Big Start and the first stage as it rolled out from the Titanic Centre beside the twin cranes – Samson and Goliath - in the city’s docklands, up to Parliament Buildings at Stormont and back to City Hall via the leafy Stranmillis area and the University Quarter.

Buildings along the route are swathed in pink while the lamp posts near Stormont are also wrapped in the Giro’s colour.

Shops, businesses, houses and even an old people’s home near Stormont have joined the “pinkification” craze that has swept the city.

Some 22 teams with nine riders each rolled down the ramp at regular intervals for the start of the team time trial.

Colombia was the first team off with great roars ringing in the calm evening air. Large crowds watching on dozens of large TV screens along the course joined in the chorus – even though they were miles away.

The decibel level rose for Team Tinkoff Saxo and Ireland’s Nicholas Roche. There were shouts of “Niko, Niko”, as his team swept along the Newtownards Road. Many among the young crowd, too young to recall Niko’s father’s Giro triumph 27 years ago, roared as if they did.

Ulster’s own Philip Deignan, the pride of Letterkenny, also stoked up the crowds as his team battled an unexpected rain shower which scattered some of the thousands who lined the course.

That made conditions much trickier, and slower, for the teams in the middle order.

A sharp corner near Stranmillis college tricked some riders who ploughed into the spectators or had to bunny-hop the kerbstones. But no harm was done.

The later starters also enjoyed the benefit of dry conditions who targeted the early leaders Colombia and their 52km/h average speed.

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