By Nigel Wynn
Next year's Giro d'Italia will start on a Friday, rather than its usually Saturday kick-off, to accommodate an extra rest day for the transfer between the depart in Ireland and the remainder of the race in Italy.
Belfast will host the race's Grande Partenza one day earlier than originally stated, on Friday, May 9, rather than Saturday, May 10. The change in start date was approved by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) this week.
Attempting to move the entire race - riders, media equipment, team vehicles, support trucks - overnight from Ireland to Italy without a transfer day would have been a logistical nightmare.
The first stages of the 2014 Giro d'Italia will now run as follows:
Friday, May 9 - Stage one - Belfast to Belfast
Saturday, May 10 - Stage two - Belfast to Belfast
Sunday, May 11 - Stage three - Armagh to Dublin
Monday, May 12 - Rest day (transfer)
Tuesday, May 13 - Stage four - Italy
"I have been advised of the earlier start date for the Giro d'Italia in Belfast, which moves forward by one day to the 9th May, and am confident that this will not cause any difficulties," said Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster.
"My department and I, along with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, are working in partnership with the race organisers to ensure a smooth roll out of the operation on the ground in Northern Ireland. Everyone in Northern Ireland is looking forward to welcoming this hugely exciting competition to our shores next year and to embracing the passion, colour and atmosphere that comes with the Grande Partenza."
Giro d'Italia director Michele Acquarone apologised to spectators forced to change travel and accommodation arrangements to visit the race: "I apologise with fans who already plan their trip to Ireland. We have to change our plans and we have troubles too," he said via Twitter.
The entire route of the 2014 Giro d'Italia will be officially presented on Monday, October 7, in Milan.
Giro d'Italia will climb Zoncolan and finish in Trieste for 2014
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Giro d'Italia 2014: Belfast start confirmed
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