Giro d’Italia 2014: preview

The course and pink jersey contenders for the first Grand Tour of the season

The start of the 97th Giro d’Italia is just one week away, with Belfast set to welcome a stellar cast for the start of the season’s first Grand Tour.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) may be absent this time out, with the Tour de France his target, but the battle for the maglia rosa is still set to be one of the most fierce yet.

Nairo Quintana was in stunning form at the Tour de France last year and starts the Giro as favourite (Pic: Sirotti)

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), second and third respectively at last year’s Tour de France, are both targeting a maiden Grand Tour victory, while Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) will be among the big-name riders looking to deny them, and home favourites Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Nico Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) will be hoping for success in Ireland before the peloton heads over to Italy.

A varied parcours awaits after the snow-hit epic of 2013, including summit finishes on the Monte Zoncalon and Monte Martello and an ascent of the Passo Gavia.

Read on for our in-depth preview of the course and the chief GC contenders, and stay tuned to RCUK next week for a closer look at the battles for the red, blue and white jerseys and an closer look at each team.