The Giro d’Italia 2014 stole a march on the Tour de France by bringing the opening weekend to Northern Ireland this May. Two Grand Tours to start in the UK in one year is yet another sign of the sport booming in the country.
Massive crowds flocked to Belfast for the team presentation and then the team time trial on the Friday night where the riders rolled out from the site where the Titanic was built. The following two stages may have been run off in rain, but it failed to dampen the spirit of the Irish who turned the countryside pink in celebration of the races visit.
The race headed home to the south of Italy on its first, and very early, rest day (the reason for the Friday start) from where it returned to its traditional format. Mountains will again play a huge role in the race outcome as climbers like Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Carlos Betancur are likely to challenge the likes of Cadel Evans for the overall honours. For the first time in many years it is hard to see where the Italian challenge will come from as defending champion Vincenzo Nibali has decided to focus on the Tour de France this year.