Tourism chiefs in Northern Ireland have revealed plans for an annual two-week cycling festival that they hope will build on the success of the Big Start of this year’s Giro d’Italia.
The Italian race began with a team time trial in Belfast, followed by a road stage starting and finishing in the city via the County Antrim Coast and another that began in Armagh and headed across the border towards Dublin.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, the planned festival, which has the backing of the Stormont government, is aimed at growing the £100 million that active tourism, including cycling, brings to the province’s economy.
The newspaper says the festival, with a date yet to be set, will aim to bring new events to Northern Ireland to sit alongside existing ones as well as encouraging cyclists from elsewhere to choose the province as a holiday destination.
Susie McCullough of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) said: "Our aspiration, working with key partners, is to develop a two-week cycling festival for Northern Ireland.
"From conversations that we have had with the Department for Regional Development and other key stakeholders, we know that they are keen to look at that."
She went on:"Certainly, the infrastructure for downhill cycling is there. The tracks in Rostrevor are some of the best in the world, and we need to check whether we have the infrastructure for visitors and the entourage that comes with an event.”
The NITB is looking to stage the event in partnership with the organisation, Outside Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI).
The latter’s executive director, Carolynne Ferris, commented: "A two-week cycling festival would provide an excellent hook for the growing cycling product in Northern Ireland.
"The annual Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive in Ballycastle has already proved that cycling events can be a key economic driver."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.