2 October 2013

Giro d'Ireland: Giro d'Italia 2014 Grand Depart #GirodItalia #Giro2014

So yesterday the planned route for the Grand Depart of the 2014 Giro d'Italia from Belfast were announced. In all the race will spend three days in Ireland before heading to Italy for pastures more familiar than new.


Day 1
 The opening day is over roads I know very well. Some I have run along as part of 10ks or the Belfast Marathon and some I have taken my lunchtime walk along.

It is a 22km time trial which starts at the now iconic Titanic Experience before heading over the bridge to go up the Newtownards Road all the way to the Stormont Estate, they will head up the Prince of Wales Avenue giving the trailing camera bikes the iconic view of the white front of Parliament Building in front of the riders before they exit the estate to the east.

Then it is back in along the Newtownards Road over the Lagan and although near the finish the cyclists will take a loop out past the Waterfront Hall down the Ormeau Road along the Stranmillis Embankment and back in to the city centre past Queen's University to finish outside City Hall.

Now some have complained that the route doesn't include West Belfast, but it certainly ratchets up a whole host of landmarks and Belfast shorthand in a short 22km stage.

Day 2

After showing all the icons of Belfast off on the opening day, day two will cover some of the icons of Northern Ireland and the most beautiful road into the bargin.

The route will leave Belfast and head as directly as possible to the North Coast. Arriving past the oldest licensed distillery in the world at Bushmils. Then it will turn East along the Antrim Coast Road past the Giant's Causeway, then on the somewhat lumpy route through the Glens with some beautiful vistas across some valleys and through some rock arches.

The road will become relatively flat as it approaches Larne when it starts to hug the coast more, but there will be a few little hills such  as at Whitehead, when it returns to the shores of Belfast Lough, heads past Carrickfergus Castle and back into Belfast for what should be a sprinters finish. Is it too early for me to predict that Mark Cavendish's first win on British soil in a Grand Tour will come on this stage?

Day 3
 The final day in Ireland is a cross border affair as it crosses the UK's only land border with another EU member state.

It starts out in the city of two cathedrals, Armagh, the seat of the Angligan and Roman Catholic Archbishop Primates of All Ireland. The route will meander through south Armagh and south Down, sadly not taking in the Mournes, but then the roads there don't go over the high points.

It will cross the border near Newry and then head to Castlebellingham where the troops of William III camped on the eve of the Battle of the Boyne. James II had razed the building as the result of Bellingham acting as a guide to William. It will head on through Balbriggan which received notoriety in the war of independence when the Black and Tans sacked the town destroying 54 houses and the hosiery factory.

On a day that will give commentators plenty of Irish history to talk about the race will end in the other capital city on the island having finished in the other one of the last two days.

I'm looking forward to welcoming the Giro to Ireland and am thinking about where I'd like to watch it pass on each of the three days.

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