Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport have confirmed that next year’s race will start in Belfast on Friday 9 and not Saturday 10 May, to allow a third rest day to be accommodated within the race when it leaves Ireland to return to Italy.
The request for an extra rest day, which will be on Monday 12 May – the day after Stage 3 of the race finishes in Dublin – was authorised by the UCI and has also been ratified by the professional teams association, the AIGCP.
The opening two stages of the 2014 Giro will both start and finish in Belfast, followed by a stage that begins in Armagh, also in Northern Ireland, crossing the border to head towards the Republic of Ireland’s capital.
The race will resume in Italy on Tuesday 13 May, with the full route due to be unveiled in Milan on Monday 7 October.
Northern Ireland’s tourism minister, Arlene Foster, commented: “I have been advised of the earlier start date for the Giro d’Italia in Belfast, which moves forward by one day to the 9th May, and am confident that this will not cause any difficulties.
“My department and I, along with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, are working in partnership with the race organisers to ensure a smooth roll out of the operation on the ground in Northern Ireland.
“Everyone in Northern Ireland is looking forward to welcoming this hugely exciting competition to our shores next year and to embracing the passion, colour and atmosphere that comes with the Grande Partenza.”
The visit of the Giro d’Italia to Ireland – the first time it will have started outside continental Europe – is being organised by Dublin-based Shadetree Sports, co-founded by Darach McQuaid, the younger brother of UCI president, Pat McQuaid, who seeks re-election on Friday.
He acknowledged that while bringing he first stage forward by a day might cause some issues, the extra rest day would be beneficial, saying: "As the local organisers for the 2014 Big Start, Shadetree Sports welcomes the announcement of the new dates for the 2014 Giro d'Italia, which shows the sport, and its stakeholders, are taking the riders and teams welfare into account, especially when organising a project such as a foreign start of a Grand Tour.
“On the front end it will pose some new logistical challenges for the opening stage in Belfast on the Friday and on the back end, it will make the evacuation to Italy on Monday 12th May, a much calmer operation. In terms of the riders and their well being, it is especially welcome."
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.