The 2014 Giro d’Italia will start in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the opening three stages of the race to take place on both sides of the Irish border.
The race will start on May 10 2014 and will involve stages taking in Belfast, Armagh and, in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin.
It will mark the first time a Grand Tour has visited Ireland since the Tour de France in 1998, when Chris Boardman won the opening prologue in Dublin before crashing out on stage two while wearing the yellow jersey. Irishman Stephen Roche won the race in 1987 before going on to win the Tour de France and World Championships in the same year.
The announcement means two of cycling’s Grand Tours will start on British soil in 2014, with Yorkshire set to host the Tour de France Grand Depart in July.
While the Giro used to start in Italy on an annual basis, the race has in recent years looked to broaden its appeal with starts further afield.
Denmark hosted the Grande Partenza in 2012, with three days of racing followed by a rest day as the peloton transferred back to Italy, but new UCI regulations will require a quick turnaround once the race leaves Ireland in 2014.
“We are delighted to be taking the Grande Partenza of the 2014 Giro d’Italia to Ireland,” said Giro d’Italia race director Michele Acquarone. “This is an ambitious project for us for many reasons. Using sport, in particular, cycling, to unite the island, is an idea we find deeply attractive.
“We recognise that, to do so, logistical perfection will be required on all sides. It will be the first foreign start for any Grand Tour since the implementation of a new UCI regulation prohibiting rest days on three-week Tours until the completion of at least seven days of racing.”