Cycling fever will grip Ireland next month when the Giro d'Italia arrives. Preparations are in full swing to ensure excitement for fans, on and off the road
The cut and thrust of the world's biggest cycle race – the Giro d'Italia – is always something to behold. And this May (10-11), Irish cycling fans can get up close and personal with the action as the 97th Giro d'Italia wheels into town.
Thousands of fans will line the streets of Ireland as the race moves along the east coast and finishes up in the heart of Dublin city.
The start of the 104-year-old Giro has traditionally taken place in Italy, but in recent times has been awarded to an outside country every two years. So with the eyes of the cycling world trained on Dublin – a global TV audience of 775 million, for starters – there's no better time to catch a glimpse of 200 of the world's top cycling elite in motion.
Those in the know are already aware that the cyclist to emerge triumphant from the pack will don an iconic pink jersey. And in celebration of Giro Fever, locals across the east coast are also being urged to wear pink to give these two-wheel titans a proper Irish welcome and turn this high-speed road-show into a colourful spectacle.
Along the route, a number of shops, businesses and residents will be pulling out the stops to ensure that the Giro is suitably rose-tinted. Up in Belfast, there will also be three days of carnivalesque celebrations as the Giro entourage arrives in town.
The Giro Big Start Opening Ceremony kicks off on Thursday, May 8, with a rousing live show at Belfast City Hall (see girostart2014.com for the lowdown).
Given the sense of grand occasion, those who want to catch the action at close quarters had better start their preparation in earnest. Some of the best spots to see the action and soak up the atmosphere include Dundalk, Drogheda, Malahide, and Dublin city, where the victor will be crowned.
To make life easier for spectators, Dublin Bus, Luas and Irish Rail will be rolling out special services to make getting around the east coast a breeze.
Cycling fans who make it to the first viewing point along the Giro d'Italia route in Dundalk will also get to enjoy the Hot Spot Sprint: an exciting part of the Giro stage where all the top sprinters compete in a time trial.
Locals will also be making a play for a place in the 'Guinness Book of World Records' as they attempt to break the record for the largest gathering of cyclists wearing a pink jersey in the one spot.
The Spirit Store bar has already gotten into the spirit of things, painting its exterior an eye-catching pink in preparation for the race.
Drogheda will also no doubt be buzzing with life as the race rolls into town.
Further down south, view the race from a sumptuous vantage point like Ardgillan Castle at Balbriggan (ardgillancastle.ie), the gorgeous country house that overlooks Barnageera Beach and the Irish Sea.
Down in the postcard-pretty village of Malahide, cycling fans can take to the streets and witness the fitness on one of the village's specially erected giant screens.
To make a day of it, repair to the nearby Malahide Castle & Gardens (malahidecastleandgardens.ie, 01 816 9538) for pre-race R&R.
Sweeping over 20 acres, the gardens play host to more than 5,000 different species and varieties of plants.
There's also much to like at the Avoca food hall and cafe within the castle's gorgeous courtyard.
In Dublin's city centre, Giro Fever will be at an all-time high.
The main hub of the action will be the Giro Fan Park in Merrion Square.
There, fans can enjoy the popular Irish Cycling Show (May 10-11, see irishcyclingshow.com for more information).
Not only will there be a huge exhibition on display for cycling zealots, Italo-philes can also stock up on foodie treats and a taste of the Med with a host of themed activities.
Pick your viewing point in the capital from a host of buzzy spots: the Giro will weave its way into Dublin entering the city at Baldoyle and travelling through Clontarf, Alfie Byrne Road, East Wall Road, North Wall Quay and Custom House Quay before crossing the Liffey at Talbot Memorial Bridge, City Quay, Lombard Street, Westland Row and Lincoln Place, before heading for the finish line at Merrion Square at approximately 4.30pm.
The cyclists will have cycled over 187km by the time they hit the finish line but the smart money says this is when the Giro festivities will truly kick off for elite athlete and fan alike. For more information on the Giro d'Italia, see discoverireland.ie