£20,000 for Council kitty to celebrate ‘Giro’

Up to £20,000 is to be spent by Ballymena Council to mark the passing of the Giro d’Italia through the borough on Saturday, May 10.

A Council committee, which met in The Braid last Tuesday night, agreed the amount, some of which will be spent dressing the local route in the official race colour of pink to coincide with the other 11 Council areas involved.

This, councillors were told by Economic and Tourism Development Manager Sean Trainor, will provide uniformity and enhance visual impact along the route.

Ballymena will figure in a 218km second stage starting from Belfast and heading to the Causeway Coast before returning to Belfast.

It will see the cyclists 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.

Those who line the route to welcome the cyclists will witness some of the world’s top competitors race through the town in the prestigious Giro d’Italia, the second biggest and most competitive race only to the Tour de France.

Mr Trainor said that a special sub-group has been set up comprised of councillors, Council officers, community representatives, businesspeople, tourism sector representatives and the PSNI to discuss the local route and potential events. These are:

* A discount weekend by Ballymena retailers prior to the event, complemented by a window dressing competition on the theme ‘Think Bike, Think Pink’.

* A spin-a-thon organised by town centre businesses to be held at the Bandstand on May 8.

* The co-ordination of Italian themed menus and evenings by local restaurants and pubs.

* A Pink Tea Party hosted in The Braid by the Mayor, Cllr Audrey Wales.

Also prior to the ‘Giro weekend’, over 1,000 cyclists will pass through Ballymena on May 4 as part of the ‘Big Italian Bike Ride, organised by Chain Reaction Cycles and the Pioneer Group, stopping off at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre.

Mr Trainor added that community groups will be involved in dressing the route with banners, bunting and flags, and that this will start the week commencing, April 28.