The 2014 Giro D'Italia will start in Ireland. The much rumoured news was made official by announcements in Belfast and Dublin today. Three stages will see the peleton race from Belfast, through Armagh, to Dublin before heading 'home' to Italy.
The Giro ranks behind only the Tour de France in prestige. Dubliner Stephen Roche won the Giro as part of his "triple crown" winning season in 1987 (Tour, Giro and World Championship). Other Irish cyclists to have won stages in the Giro include Shay Elliot (1960) and Martin Earley (1986). In recent years 3 Irishmen have raced in the Giro; Nicolas Roche (2007), Dan Martin (2010) and Philip Deignan (2008/09/11).
Ireland's greatest cyclist Sean Kelly never raced in the Giro (his teams sponsors prefering the Vuelta D'Espana - which he won in 1988). Speaking to Velonation he welcomed the Giro starting in Ireland.
In 1998, Ireland played host to the start of the Tour de France with stages in Cork and Dublin. Kudos to Irish cycling blog Sticky Bottle for breaking the news last September.
The 2014 Giro will be only the 11th edition of the race not to start on Italian soil; San Marino (1965), Monaco (1966), Belgium (1973, 2006), Vatican City (1974), Greece (1996), France (1998), Netherlands (2002, 2010) and Denmark (2012).