BELFAST, United Kingdom, Feb 21, 2013 (AFP) – Another of cycling’s biggest
races will start in Britain next year after organizers announced on Thursday
that the Giro d’Italia will be flagged off in Northern Ireland.
The 2014 edition of one of the sport’s three Grand Tour races will begin in
Belfast on May 10, kicking off three days of action that will also include a
stage finishing in Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland.
Michele Acquarone, head of the Giro and managing director of Italian race
organiser RCS Sport, said: “Belfast will provide spectacular backdrops for the
2014 Grand Partenza (Big Start) and will add something very special into the
history of this great cycling event.”
Northern Ireland tourism minister Arlene Foster added: “Plans are already
in motion to make the occasion a fabulous celebration worthy of Italian
cycling traditions and the maglia rosa (pink jersey) itself.”
The news comes after it was annonced in December that the first three
stages of the 2014 Tour de France will be in England, with two in the northern
county of Yorkshire and the third finishing in London.
Traditionally, Italy’s Giro — in common with the Tour de France — never
strayed beyond its own national borders.
But recently both races have opted for starts abroad, with the 104-year-old
Giro launched from outside Italy every two years, latterly in Denmark in 2012.
Cycling star Bradley Wiggins, who last year became the first British winner
of the Tour de France and also won Olympic time-trial gold, confirmed the
Giro’s prestige by declaring that he wants to win this year’s edition above
defending his Tour title.
Ireland cycling great Stephen Roche, who won the Giro back in 1987, was
present for Thursday’s announcement at the Titanic Belfast visitors’ centre.
“The Giro is maybe distinctive in that it is probably the second biggest
event for me, in my opinion (after the Tour de France),” he said.
“When you consider the passion these people have, the passion these people
have shown to us this morning, it is duplicated throughout the whole Italian
He recalled that in 1987 the crowds were warm and enthusiastic.
“When you see all the people on the roadsides of Italy, the enthusiasm of
poor and rich, they all come together for this event,” Roche said, adding that
the support he received during the Giro spurred him to success in the Tour de
“It gave me a lot of extra confidence for the Tour,” he said. “Then you are
surfing the wave and you become, I would not say unbeatable, but the fact that
you have one big win under your belt, it makes the rest much more possible.”