Ireland gears up for Giro bike race
Cycling's prestigious Giro d'Italia will begin in Ireland next year, organisers have confirmed.
The cross-border start to one of the sport's most famous races will be held over three stages from May 10-12 and will involve routes taking in Dublin, Belfast and Armagh.
Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise O Muiri said: "Dublin is the spiritual home of Stephen Roche, one of cycling's world greats and winner of the 1987 Giro d'Italia, and it is fitting that we will host the new generation of cyclists in the Giro in 2014."
Michele Acquarone, head of the Giro and managing director of Italian race organiser RCS Sport, said: "It is a great, huge dream that we had some years ago and today it has become a reality."
The start of the 104-year-old Giro - one of the sport's three Grand Tour races with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana - is normally hosted in Italy but in recent times has been awarded to an outside country every two years, most recently in Denmark last year.
More than 200 top cyclists from across the globe will take part. Precise routes for the three stages have yet to be confirmed. Britain's Sir Bradley Wiggins has pledged to focus on the Giro this year rather than defending his Tour de France title.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal won last year's Giro while previous victors include Ireland's Stephen Roche, who triumphed in 1987, a couple of months before his Tour de France victory.
Roche said his Giro success had left him "riding a wave" towards Paris. He said: "When you see all the people on the roadsides of Italy, the enthusiasm of poor and rich, they all come together for this event. 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 nation."
The event has started 10 times outside Italy, the first in 1965 in San Marino. Since then it has been staged in Belgium, Vatican City, Greece, Monaco, Netherlands and Denmark. This May it will start in Naples. The Giro team presentation will be on May 9 in Belfast next year, followed with two days' racing starting at the Titanic Quarter, where the famous liner was built, and ending at Belfast City Hall.
Day three will begin on the Mall in Ireland's ecclesiastical capital Armagh and end in Dublin city centre.