Whether you’re a cycling fan or not, the advice being given out ahead of the Giro d’Italia’s arrival in the town next month is ‘be prepared’.
Northern Ireland will host ‘The Big Start’ of the race, welcoming 200 of the world’s top cyclists, from May 9-11 and they will pass through Ballymena on their journey around the North Coast and back to Belfast on Day Two (May 10).
Attracting over 140,000 visitors with 42,000 expected to be out of state, it is a huge event capable of generating a minimum £10m media coverage which will be viewed by an estimated 800million people worldwide.
Speaking at a media briefing in Ballymena last Tuesday, Eddie Rowan of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which made the successful bid to bring Giro to the province, said he believed it to be “the biggest event that has ever happened to this country, bar none”.
The estimated time of arrival in Ballymena for the Giro Caravan, which goes ahead of the race, on May 10 is 10.20am, with the cyclists ETA 11.50am.
They will come into the town from the Seven Towers roundabout, down Antrim Road to Queen Street, cross Harryville Bridge on to North Road and then Ballymoney Road to the A26 and head towards Ballymoney.
Given the scale of the race and its entourage, the number of spectators it will attract, plus the need to keep people safe, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd confirmed “there will be disruption”.
He said that some roads will have to be closed, up to a maximum of four hours, to facilitate the event.
Locally, the A26 toFerniskey Rd to Craigstown Rd will close from 9am-12.30pm as will Ballee Road West to Ballee Road East and the A26 to Queen St to North Rd to the A26 towards Glarryford. There will, however, be controlled crossing points to faciliate access across the local route.
“My advice to people is - if you are a cycling fan make your plans early, get up early and get a good place. If you’re not, have a lie in, make plans for somewhere else that day. - If you don’t want to be part of it, give it a wide berth,” said ACC Todd.