It’s one of the biggest sporting events ever to hit these shores and is set to ignite interest in cycling around the country. Yes, the Giro D’Italia is to hold its Grande Partenza (Big Start) in Northern Ireland from May 9th to 12th.
The eleventh time the first three stages have been staged outside Italy is set to be one of the most exciting. Watching over 200 of the world’s finest cyclists hurtle along the spectacular Causeway Coast, rated as one of the world’s top five road trips, will be a highlight even for a race featuring the dramatic climbs and descents of the Alps and Apennines.
The Big Start will see cyclists battling it out over three stages – Belfast, the Causeway Coast and Glens and Armagh.
Following the legends
They’ll be following in the footsteps of the greats. The Giro, established in 1909, includes cycling legends Eddy Merckx and Felice Gimondi in its Hall of Fame, which has just inducted Stephen Roche, the first Irishman to win the race. Roche, whose son Nicolas will be heading the Tinkoff-Saxo team, believes that “to host an event of this kind is a real coup for Northern Ireland.”
“Northern Ireland is a very beautiful part of the world which will make for a very scenic and of course challenging race which I’m sure that all the cyclists will enjoy. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people in Northern Ireland to witness an event like this at such close quarters and with all the festivities being organised to mark the occasion, I would certainly echo the words of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and urge people to ‘Be Part of the Start’ in May.”
The Big Start
The excitement kicks off at Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic experience, on May 9th when the 21.7 km time trial powers off from the slipways where the famous ship was launched. The route takes the cyclists along the Newtownards Road to the Parliament Buildings at Stormont and back, via the Ormeau Road and Stranmillis, to the packed square around Belfast’s magnificent City Hall.
Next day, the cyclists again set off from Titanic Belfast, this time on a gruelling 219 km route to Ballymena and along the spectacular Causeway Coast back to Belfast. For those lining the route, and the hundreds of millions watching on television, it will be one of the great cycling spectacles as the riders race by dramatic cliffs, not far from world famous attractions like the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and through the sublimely beautiful Glens of Antrim.
Stage three leads out through the elegant Georgian streets of Armagh, the city of two cathedrals founded by St Patrick. The 187 km route heads through the roads of the orchard county with its apple blossom in full bloom to South Armagh, passing near the mystical mountain Slieve Gullion, heartland of Ireland’s powerful mythology.
Then it’s on to Italy, where the racing begins on May 13th in Giovinazzo on the Adriatic Coast, finishing in Trieste on June 1st.
One thing is for sure, cycling in Northern Ireland, where over 140,000 will be watching the race live, will never be the same again. The route, especially through Belfast and Armagh, will be awash with pink, as a feast of festivities and Giro themed events celebrate the most exciting sporting spectacle ever staged here.
While you’re here
Cyclists can enjoy a huge variety of special cycle trails from a few kilometres to epic adventures of over 200 kilometres. High quality roads, a diverse range of terrain that includes mountain hikes, flat country road and hilly forests, and some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery combine to create some of the most challenging and enjoyable cycling trails you can find. For detailed information visit www.cycleni.com.
Photo: Richard Watson
If you’d like to be in with a chance to see the team presentation at Belfast City Hall, be among the first to receive information about tickets by registering at:
The start of the race is a great chance to discover the enduring Titanic story in the city where she was designed, built and launched, not to mention the East Belfast roots of Narnia’s creator, CS Lewis, and the marbled splendour of City Hall.
Along the spectacular Causeway Coast, attractions include the brooding Dunluce Castle, perched on a towering cliff top above the Atlantic, the thrilling walk over Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the fabulous new interactive visitor centre at the world famous Giant’s Causeway. After exploring the two cathedrals of Armagh, visitors can discover Ireland’s ancient history at the Navan Centre, while Slieve Gullion, the mountain at the heart of South Armagh, is a cyclist’s dream.
The Giro route offers a beguiling mix of attractions for visitors, so why not stay a while and enjoy the fun?Visit www.discovernorthernireland.com/Giro2014/ for all the info you need and book your short break to the Giro d’Italia with these amazing offers: http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/offers/specialoffers.aspx?AttributeID=20983