Could this legendary bike race be coming our way?
£3.8m bid to host glamour event that Wiggo wants to win
It's the race Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins said he really wants to win — and it could be pedalling its way to Northern Ireland.
The Giro d’Italia is seen by many cycling purists as the best race in the world, with pedal-power anoraks glued to the event for days.
It’s a big bucks, big business festival with a typically Italian flair and brings millions into the economy wherever it goes.
Belfast and Dublin have now teamed up in a bid to win the race to stage part of the world's second biggest cycling event and the sideburned wonderboy Wiggins has already said he will drop the Tour de France to concentrate on a challenge for the Giro.
Also known as the Corsa Rosa, the Giro started in Denmark last year before heading back to Italy for the rest of the event.
A cross-border submission to host the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia in 2014 has been put together by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and Failte Ireland in conjunction with Stormont and the Irish government.
Like the Tour de France, the Giro has a ‘Grande Partenza’ (big start) which can take place in other countries.
Ireland does have form in putting on a big cycling event, with the Tour de France coming to the island back in 1998 — but it didn’t come north.
Dublin rider Stephen Roche is a past winner of the Giro, taking the triple crown of the Italian race along with the Tour de France and world championship titles in 1987.
If the bid to bring the massive event here is successful, it would mean a six-day cycling extravaganza featuring up to 200 of the world's most high-profile riders.
Total costs for the submission have been estimated at £3.8m.
However, it is predicted that the race could generate up to £10m for the local economy.
The majority of the funding will be provided by the NITB, but Belfast City Council has also been asked to commit £400,000 plus use of its Waterfront Hall.
A confidential report suggests plans are at an advanced stage and confirms that an agent has been appointed to submit the speculative bid.
A spokesperson for the Dublin-based cycling company Shade Tree Sports — which helped facilitate the Tour of Ireland — said: “It is an ongoing project.”
The spokesman claimed more details could emerge within the next week to 10 days.
It has been proposed that this event would take place over the bank holiday weekend of May 2 to 4, 2014.
The Grande Partenza is traditionally formatted over a six-day period, with the first three taken up with festival-type events in preparation.
The remaining three days would see actual racing with individual or team time trials.
The joint Belfast/Dublin bid will be up against a number of Italian cities.
It is hoped the race would bring around 20,000 spectators to Belfast and Dublin as well as generating global publicity worth tens of millions of pounds.
It could also pave the way for other prestigious sporting events to come to Ireland.
The Giro d'Italia was established in 1909. In 2011 it began in Amsterdam where an additional £10.8m was generated and about 24,000 tourists stayed at least one night to watch the race and take part in the festivities.
A further 6,000 hotel rooms were block-booked in Amsterdam by the event organisers.
The Giro has also travelled to Greece, France and Belgium in previous years.
Around 200 of the world’s best cyclists compete for the award of the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia, with local riders dominating the winners list since the event’s inception in 1909.
The prize money is in the region of €100,000, but the winner becomes an international hero and will make much more in sponsorship and advertising deals — and will never have to pay for a meal in Italy ever again.
While thousands of fans turn out to watch every stage of the event, millions more tune in on televisions around the world.
A competition bike for the race runs to tens of thousands of pounds, with space age technology employed to construct the machines to give the riders every possible edge. Riders reach very high speeds at times and several have been killed.