Belfast and Dublin were confirmed on Thursday as stages in the 2014 annual Giro d’Italia cycling race.

Tourism and government officials made the announcement at an event in Dublin City Council’s Wood Quay Venue hosted by Minister Michael Ring and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí. A Belfast launch event was also held at the Titanic Memorial in the North.

Belfast is set to host the ‘Grande Partenza’, the Big Start, for the first two days of racing on May 10th and 11th, while May 12th will see the tour head from Armagh to Dublin city centre. Exact race formats and routes have yet to be confirmed.

The staging of the Giro d’Italia is being supported by Fáilte Ireland and Dublin City Council in the Republic, and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Belfast City Council in Northern Ireland. Financial institutions Mediolanum International Funds Ltd. and Mediolanum International Life Ltd have also provided support.

At Thursday’s Dublin event, Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring said: “We are honored that this historic event is coming to Ireland.”

“The visit of the Giro to Ireland will showcase the whole country, north and south, to global television audiences. This Government is committed to developing event-based tourism, and the Giro d’Italia is an excellent example of how we are doing just that.”

The Giro d’Italia will arrive three days in advance of its official Saturday May 10th 2014 start, and a host of special events will take place in the run up to the arrival of over 200 of the world’s top professional cyclists. 

There is a strong Irish connection to the Giro with Stephen Roche winning the famous ‘Maglia Rosa’, the winners’ Pink Jersey, in 1987. Stephen’s victory will be celebrated in a number of ways in the lead up to and during the Giro’s Irish visit in 2014. 

Ireland’s Sean Kelly also experienced success in Italy winning the famous Milan-Sanremo twice and the Giro di Lombardia on three occasions.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí said: “It’s great to hear Dublin will host a stage of the 2014 Giro d’Italia road race.  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.”

“Dublin City Council is looking forward to hosting this great event and continuing the tradition of hosting major international events following on from the Europa League Final in 2011, Tall Ships Festival in 2012 and the Heineken Cup Final in May this year.”

The bid to bring the Grande Partenza to Ireland was led by Shadetree Sport’s Darach McQuaid, who said, “This is a huge achievement for Belfast and Dublin and the event will provide the island of Ireland with a fantastic opportunity to come out and witness one of the world’s most prestigious international sporting events first hand.”

Over its 109 year history, the Giro d’Italia has only begun outside of Italy ten times. In 2012, it began in Denmark; this year it is beginning in Naples, Italy on May 4.

The last time Ireland hosted a stage in a Grand Tour cycling race was in 1998 when the Tour de France began in Ireland for three days.

"It's not that there's more money abroad, but that there are more options," Giro director Michele Acquarone told Cycling Weekly. "In Italy we are limited to the 20 regions to host the start."

The Belfast Telegraph reported in October that hosting the start of the Giro d'Italia is financially worthwhile, noting that Belfast would have an estimated cost of $5.8m, but have a $15m economic return.

Giro d'Italia cycling race to come to Ireland in 2014Google Images