The 2014 Giro d’Italia will start in Northern Ireland and will have at least one stage finish in the Republic.
Following months of speculation, the details of the race — second only to the Tour de France in terms of prestige — look set to be unveiled in Belfast and Dublin this Thursday.
Titled ‘the Giro d’Italia lands in Ireland’ and billed as an ‘official presentation of a new collaboration between RCS Sport [race organisers] and the island of Ireland,’ the twin launches will come as a huge boost to the respective local economies.
It is believed the event is being brought to these shores after a collaborative effort between high ranking government officials north and south of the border as well as Tourism officials in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Fáilte Ireland and Giro directors.
The project is also being organised in conjunction with Shadetree Sports, a company which was previously involved in running the now defunct Tour of Ireland. UCI president Pat McQuaid’s brother Darach has a senior role in the company.
The start of a race, known as the Grand Partenza, traditionally sees three days of festival-type events followed by several days’ racing, including a prologue which is set to take place around the streets of Belfast.
It would be only the second time one of the sport’s big three — Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta d’Espana — started in Ireland, with the Tour de France having begun in the Republic back in 1998.
And Irish legend Sean Kelly, who spent four years as world No 1, said though he was surprised and delighted by the news.
“It’s massive news for the country, in these times especially. I don’t know how they managed it but it’s a great coup for the organisers. Of course, it’s not the first time the Giro has started outside Italy — it started in Holland before — but to come this far away from mainland Italy will pose a number of problems.
“Will there be a rest day after just three days’ racing to get the vehicles and the entourage back to Italy?
“Will they race through England?
“I don’t know. That’s one for the organisers. It’s very exciting and brilliant news though.”
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