Belfast start for 2014 Giro d’Italia? – “Discussions are ongoing”

It could be some time before we get an answer to that question – official confirmation that cycling’s 2013 Giro would start in Naples only came in June last year.  But there’s been a flurry of activity following a L’Equipe report last night that sources were confirming that Belfast would host the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

As the Guardian reported

There are strong indications that in 2014 the United Kingdom will host the Giro d’Italia as well as the Tour de France, which will start in Leeds. The French newspaper L’Equipe reported that according to sources in Italy, Belfast is set to be the start city for the 2014 Giro, which will then head south into the Republic of Ireland, with a stage to Dublin. The Giro d’Italia organisers, RCS Sport, were not available for comment as of Friday afternoon.

The joint Irish bid was leaked in late October to the Belfast Telegraph. Costs for the bid have been estimated at just under £4m, with an estimated income for the local economy of about £10m. The bid was put together by the Northern Irish Tourist Board and Failte Ireland with input from both Stormont and the Irish government. Belfast city council is also understood to be putting in £400,000.

It is expected that the Giro’s start, known as the Grande Partenza, would take place over the bank holiday weekend of 2-4 May. The event normally encompasses six days, with a three-day festival being followed by the first three stages of the race proper.

As well as the noted Belfast Telegraph report in October, a Sticky Bottle ‘exclusive’ in September revealed further background details to the bid.

The proposal has been put forward by Darach McQuaid, operating as Shadetree Sports. McQuaid is a former Irish international, is the brother of UCI president Pat McQuaid and also ran the now defunct Tour of Ireland professional bike race.

He also acted as a consultant when Richmond in the US last year successfully bid to stage the World Road Race Championships in 2015.

Sources in Dublin City Council have confirmed to stickybottle that Darach McQuaid approached the council last year with proposals to start the Giro in the city in 2014. Political sources in Dublin have also confirmed that the Irish Government was approached around the same time, but some have said they believe the start date is “moveable”.

Documents obtained by stickybottle reveal the idea has been discussed at Belfast City Council. Those discussions, which appear to have been brief, took place in February.

Exact details of the plans are unclear at this stage, but sources in Dublin have indicated while the city council was approached with the plan last year there has been no work done to date within the council to progress the matter.

As for where the bid currently stands…  Cycling Weekly notes

Cycling Weekly asked Giro Director Michele Acquarone about the [L’Equip] report. He replied with a laugh, “I don’t even know where we are starting in 2013 at this point!”

The Giro d’Italia this year starts in Naples on May 4 with a sprint stage that should suit Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Reigning Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins will lead team Sky.

Giro organiser, RCS Sport only announced Naples as the starting city in June last year. Acquarone explained that he first needs to concentrate on the start of the 2013 season before giving full concentration to the 2014 Giro.

RCS Sport’s first race of the season is the one-day classic, Strade Bianche in Siena on March 3.

“It’s complicated in this moment, we are navigating in the dark right now, one step at a time,” Acquarone added. “We have a lot of irons in the fire, and until the season gets going I won’t rest easy.

“Strade Bianche. Let us concentrate on that first, 2014 is still a long way off.”

And the Belfast Telegraph has some additional notable comments from other interested parties

A spokeswoman for Stormont Tourism Minister Arlene Foster’s department said: “The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and Belfast City Council are jointly exploring the possibility of bringing the Giro d’Italia to Northern Ireland. Discussions are ongoing.

If it does happen it would mean that, as the Guardian report mentioned, La Vuelta would be the only one of cycling’s three Grand Tours not to start in the UK in 2014.

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