Giro d'Italia 2014: Three days in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland start tough race
The route for next year's Giro d'Italia, which starts in Ireland, has been revealed.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 12/11/13 11:22am
RCS Sport unveiled a challenging, 3,450km route containing nine summit finishes, three time trials and three rest days at a presentation ceremony in Milan.
Belfast will host the first two days on May 9-10, with a 21.7km team time trial on stage one being followed by a flat, 218km second stage starting and ending in the city and also visiting Giant's Causeway.
The following day will then see the peloton travel 187km from Armagh to Dublin, before an early rest day allows the race to relocate back to Italy.
The winner will be crowned at the end of a flat, final stage into Trieste on June 1.
Andrea Monti, the presentation host and editor of Gazzetta dello Sport, the newspaper that founded the Giro, said: "This is a humane Giro. Yes, it is the hardest race in the world's most beautiful place, but it doesn't ask too much. The Giro and cycling don't need a superhero. They need men who win in a credible way."
The destination of the maglia rosa appears set to be decided on the 19th and 20th stages of the 21-stage race, when the riders will tackle a 26.8km mountain time trial on Monte Grappa and then battle their way up to a summit finish on the Zoncolan the next day.
The 10.1km ascent, which returns after a year's absence, is one of the most feared climbs in the world, averaging a brutal 11.9 per cent gradient and reaching a maximum of 22 per cent.
The route announcement was made despite RCS Sport currently being mired in a scandal surrounding a missing £11m from the company's finances.
It has led to the suspensions of Giro race director Michele Aquarone and chief executive officer Giacomo Catano, and the resignation of RCS Sport chairman Flavio Biondi.
The Giro has been held outside of Italy on 10 occasions, but 2014 will be the first time it has visited the United Kingdom.
It will be the first of two Grand Tours to visit the UK in 2014, with the Tour de France following two months later by holding its Grand Depart in Yorkshire.
As well as its heavy Irish influence, the 97th edition of the Giro also pays homage to Italian cycling greats Marco Pantani and Gino Bartali.
The 2014 race commemorates 100 years since Bartali's birth, while Pantani will be remembered 10 years on from his death with stage finishes at Oropa (stage 14) and Plan di Montecampione (stage 15), scenes of two of his eight Giro stage wins.
The race will also crest the Passo dello Stelvio and Passo Gavia on the way to a summit finish on at Val Martello on stage 16. The stage had been scheduled for the 2013 edition but had to be cancelled due to heavy snow.
2013 Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali said: "The winner will be someone capable on all terrains. You will need to be complete. The final week will be the key."
RCS Sport asked the International Cycling Union for permission to add a third rest day in order to facilitate the transfer from Ireland to Italy.
2014 Giro d'Italia
Stage 1: Friday, May 9 - Belfast to Belfast, 21.7km team time trial
Stage 2: Saturday, May 10 - Belfast to Belfast, 218km (flat)
Stage 3: Sunday, May 11 - Armagh to Dublin, 187km (flat)
Monday, May 12 - transfer / rest day
Stage 4: Tuesday, May 13 - Giovinazzo to Bari, 121km (flat)
Stage 5: Wednesday, May 14 - Taranto to Viggiano, 200km (medium mountain, summit finish)
Stage 6: Thursday, May 15 - Sassano to Montecassino, 247km (medium mountain, summit finish)
Stage 7: Friday, May 16 - Frosinone to Foligno, 214km (medium mountain)
Stage 8: Saturday, May 17 - Foligno to Montecopiolo, 174km (medium mountain, summit finish)
Stage 9: Sunday, May 18 - Lugo to Sestola, 174km (medium mountain, summit finish)
Monday, May 19 - rest day
Stage 10: Tuesday, May 20 - Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme, 184km (flat)
Stage 11: Wednesday, May 21 - Collecchio to Savona, 249km (medium mountain)
Stage 12: Thursday, May 22 - Barbaresco to Barolo, 46.4km individual time trial
Stage 13: Friday, May 23 - Fossano to Rivarolo Canavese, 158km (flat)
Stage 14: Saturday, May 24 - Agliè to Oropa, 162km (high mountain, summit finish)
Stage 15: Sunday, May 25 - Valdengo to Plan di Montecampione, 217km (high mountain, summit finish)
Monday, May 26 - rest day
Stage 16: Tuesday, May 27 - Ponte di Legno to Val Martello, 139km (high mountain, summit finish)
Stage 17: Wednesday, May 28 - Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto, 204km (flat)
Stage 18: Thursday, May 29 - Belluno to Rifugio Panarotta, 171km (high mountain, summit finish)
Stage 19: Friday, May 30 - Bassano del Grappa to Monte Grappa, 26.8km individual time trial
Stage 20: Saturday, May 31 - Maniago to Monte Zoncolan, 167km (high mountain, summit finish)
Stage 21: Sunday, June 1 - Gemona del Friuli to Trieste, 169km (flat)