Giro d'Italia 2014, stage one description, map and profile: Friday, May 9
When Friday May 9
From Belfast, Northern Ireland
To Belfast, Northern Ireland
Category Team time trial
Those unfamiliar with cycling may find it perplexing that a race called the Tour of Italy is beginning in Northern Ireland, but foreign starts like this have become increasingly common in recent years, with seven having taken place since 1996.
Grand Tour fans will double-take too, when they read that this opening stage takes place on a Friday rather than the traditional Saturday. But the organisers have good reason: the earlier start allows for an extra rest day on Monday, to cater for a long transfer into Italy.
The route itself is a flat effort starting at the Titanic Quarter and ending at Donegall Square 21.7km later, and mostly consists of long, straight roads with the occasional sharp turn.
Team time trials are a common sight at the Giro, and occasionally occur on the opening day to determine who takes the first pink jersey. Mark Cavendish stands a good chance of doing so this year, as his World Championship winning Omega Pharma-QuickStep team are currently the best at the discipline, though they have underachieved in recent Giros, as many of their riders skip the race to recover from the Classics.
Did you know?
Most of the television series Game of Thrones is filmed in Belfast, including, tellingly, scenes in the gritty, cold northern landscapes. Winter may be well over by the time the Giro gets going in May, but an average temperature just of 11°C will feel cold compared with the baking sunshine that awaits the peloton in Italy.