A guard of honour could await Giro d’Italia cyclists when they arrive in Ballymena on May 10, according to the Mayor.
It’s just one of the ideas being considered to mark the world famous cycling event’s passage through the borough on its way from Belfast to the Causeway according to First Citizen, Cllr Audrey Wales.
Other possibilities include the hosting of a pink tea party in tribute to the Giro’s official race colour, inviting local cycle clubs to take part in special activities, getting local businesses to compete in a charity ‘spin-a-thon’ at the Broadway Bandstand and holding spin cycle sessions covering the length of the route at Ballymena Leisure Centre.
Speaking at a Giro d’Italia Roadshow in Larne last Wednesday, the Mayor said: “These are just a few ideas at present and we will work together to ensure Ballymena, along with the other towns on the route, benefit from this.
“Firstly we will be working alongside NI Tourist Board to dress the route to create a visual image and link with other towns along the route. We applaud NITB on their vision and effort attracting such a prestigious event and look forward to a great year,” said the Mayor.
She added: “We in Ballymena are very excited about this event and are encouraging everyone in the Borough to get involved. We envisage this event will leave a great legacy.
“Not only will we have a designated route cycled by the world’s top cyclists, but the route will now act as a new attraction inviting enthused cyclists to the area with an increase in tourist figures.
“We believe the event will attract many people to the sport of cycling, encouraging better health benefits,” said Cllr Wales.
When the Giro d’Italia passes through Ballymena on May 10, around 800 million people in 165 countries will be watching.
A total of 22 teams will compete in the three stages in Northern Ireland with most of the top 200 cyclists in the world expected to take part.
The three-week long Giro is hosted primarily in Italy but since 1996 the Grande Partenza (the Big Start) has been hosted outside the country, most recently in Denmark.
Tourism related businesses and representatives from Ballymena took part in last week’s ‘Get ready for the Giro’ Roadshow in Larne which outlined the size and scope of the world famous cycling spectacle and the impact it is set to have across NI.
They got a taste of what will be happening locally and how businesses, schools, clubs, communities and volunteers can engage and interact with the race.
Local councils and communities in towns and villages along the routes of the three stages of the race are being encouraged to ‘think pink’ and organise their own events to celebrate the Giro coming to the province and to promote their tourism potential to the influx of visitors.