The 2014 Giro d’Italia will, as expected, start in Northern Ireland then cross the border into the Republic of Ireland, with Belfast, Armagh and Dublin all hosting stages. The news was confirmed at a press conference in Belfast today.
Stage 1 of the race on Saturday 10 May 2014 will start at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and finish at the Northern Irish capital’s City Hall. The same locations will provide the start and finish of Stage 2, while Stage 3 will begin in Armagh and head to a finish in Dublin City Centre. Full details will be released in due course.
Speaking at the launch in the Titanic Quarter this morning, race director Michele Acquarone said: "Belfast will provide spectacular backdrops for the 2014 Grand Partenza and will add something very special into the history of this great cycling event."
He added that the race’s visit to Ireland would also look to commemorate Italian links with the country’s two greatest ever cyclists, Stephen Roche, winner of the Giro in 1987, and Sean Kelly, twice victorious in Milan-Sanremo and a three-time winner of the Giro di Lombardia.
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland tourism minister, commented: “Plans are already in motion to make the occasion a fabulous celebration worthy of Italian cycling traditions and the maglia rosa itself.”
Back when Roche and Kelly were racing, security issues would have made it impossible for Northern Ireland to host an international event of the Giro’s magnitude, let alone one that crossed the border.
From that aspect the Italian race is also following a pattern set by the Vuelta, which two years ago returned to the Basque Country after an absence of nearly four decades, and the Tour de France, which this year starts in Corsica, its first ever visit to the island, with threats of terrorism the chief reason for both races' absence from those regions in the past.
The only previous visit of one of cycling’s Grand Tours to Ireland was the Tour de France in 1998, the year the race was overshadowed by the Festina Affair. Chris Boardman took the maillot jaune in the Dublin prologue, but lost it after crashing on Stage 2 to Cork.
Less than two months after the Giro's Grande Partenza in Ireland, the 2014 Tour de France will get under way in Yorkshire.