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South Armagh gears up for Giro d’Italia

May 5, 2014

As the world’s top cyclists prepare for their whistle stop tour of Northern Ireland in next weekend’s Giro d’Italia, local communities in South Armagh are gearing up to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of welcoming the prestigious race as it whizzes through the villages of Newtonhamilton, Belleek, Lislea and Forkhill on day 3 of the opening stages, this Sunday 11th May.

Determined to showcase beautiful South Armagh and create a warm welcome for the international cyclists, community groups have bedecked their villages in pink and organised a whole host of events throughout the district to celebrate and complement the world renowned Giro d’Italia.

Newtownhamilton welcomes the Giro

Newtownhamilton residents have been working tirelessly to ensure their town creates a fitting welcome for the world famous cyclists as they exit the Armagh district and touch down in Newry and Mourne at full speed this Sunday. Dedicated cycle fans are set to congregate in the town from early morning to enjoy the spectacular views of the race as it makes its way around the Commons and on to Newry Street before making its way to the neighbouring village of Belleek.

Expectant crowds will enjoy a festival atmosphere as they await the Giro, with a barbeque and entertainment for all ages planned.

Community spirit has had a decidedly pink theme in recent weeks and the town is liberally decorated in all things pink, with lampposts, flowerpots and buildings all painted in the Giro colour, as well as bunting, pink flower baskets and a Giro-inspired mural.

Councillor Barra O’Muiri says the people of Newtownhamilton have fully embraced the spirit of the Giro, with all sections of the community working together to leave a lasting impression of the town.

“It has been great,” said the Sinn Fein Councillor, “the whole prospect of the Giro coming to town has given everyone a bit of a lift.  Everyone sees it as an opportunity to market the town and to get a bit of press and TV coverage for the town.

“There are going to be a lot of world famous cyclists through the town and although it will only take a few minutes to come through Newtownhamilton, there has to be a legacy.”  Mr O’Muiri added that he hoped the route would be remembered with a plaque somewhere in the town to mark where the Giro passed.

Belleek in the pink

The village of Belleek offers one of the many great vantage points for spectators to view the cavalcade of Giro cyclists as they speed down the steep hill and right through the village en route to Dublin and residents have celebrated this fact by virtually turning Belleek pink! From the pink sprayed bicycles, pink flower pots and mannequins dressed in pink on display throughout the village to the huge Giro-themed wall mural, welcome billboard and pink bunting and flower baskets, Giro fever has well and truly taken hold. Even the local primary school, St Laurence O’Toole’s, has got into the spirit of the event with the outside liberally decorated in pink and the inside adorned with children’s Giro related artwork and poetry.

Benefitting from the fact that the village can be accessed via several alternative routes that avoid closed roads and that there is designated parking on the day,  Belleek expects to attracts hundreds of eager spectators and cycling enthusiasts to enjoy the thrilling spectacle of watching the world’s best cyclists race through the village from a number of sightlines from any position on the main street.

A full programme of entertainment is lined up for everyone to enjoy the carnival atmosphere on Sunday, including music from local musicians, and bouncy castles and face painting for younger spectators.

Lislea family fun day for Giro d’Italia

Spectators watching the world class race from its official spectator point at Lislea Community Centre will be treated to a Family Fun Day on Sunday to mark the passing of the Giro through the village.

Beginning at 10.30am until 3pm, the event will feature children’s entertainment and Italian-themed refreshments, live music by Raglan and bar facilities will be available all day.

The Viewing Point at the community centre will ensure that crowds get to watch the race pass by in a festival atmosphere which will continue throughout the day.

Everyone attending is encouraged to wear pink.

Forkhill

The picturesque village of Forkhill will mark the last northern location along the Giro route before the race heads south to Dublin. The Giro d’Italia is an excellent opportunity to showcase the extraordinary beauty of South Armagh and Forkhill to a global audience and the village also boasts spectacular views of the race with a mile-long vantage point from the Carrickasticken Road to the Longfield Road.  The Giro can also be viewed each way from the bridge at Forkhill Village.

As well as designated and supervised parking, a minibus service will run from Dromintee to ferry spectators to the village for a day of festivities to celebrate the visit of the international race.

Lift The Roof will provide live music in the village from 11am on Sunday and spectators can browse a host of stalls catering for young and old. There will also be face painters and bouncy castles for the younger crowd and much more.

The Forge and Country Stores will host a range of festivities, music and entertainment on the day whilst their position on the border also offers the unique vantage point of watching the cyclists whizz down the hill into the south.

With everyone anticipating a festival atmosphere as South Armagh bids farewell to the Giro in Forkhill, the historic day promises to be truly unforgettable for all involved.

South Armagh Official Spectating areas will be at:

The Common’s, Newtownhamilton

The Village Green, Belleek

The Mountain House, Belleek

Lislea Community Centre

Forkhill Village

It is estimated that the cyclists will travel through Newtownhamilton at approximately 1pm.

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