97th GIRO D'ITALIA

The Giro d’Italia is a key event for any self-respecting sports person and cycling fan. But it is also an excellent opportunity to jet off and discover (or rediscover) many charming Italian and foreign cities!
Starting from the greenery of Ireland, with Belfast and Dublin, we head to Italy and touch Perugia, Treviso and Trieste: these are just a few of the stages of the 2014 Giro and destinations to visit at all costs. And then combine business with pleasure: get in the saddle and follow the Giro closely — on a tour of Europe.

RACING FROM BELFAST TO DUBLIN

The first stage of the 97th Giro d’Italia is in Belfast. Get set for May 9: it starts from the capital of Northern Ireland, better known as the port city where the Titanic was built (in 1912), with the riders competing in a team time trial covering around 21.7 km.
Dublin, the capital of Ireland, will be transformed on May 11 for the third stage of the Giro d’Italia 2014: 187 km for a race on the flat, with a finish made especially for sprinters.
While keeping an eye on the cyclists flying along this level stage — and, why not?, sipping a pint of Guinness, the island's most famous dark beer — don't miss the chance to visit the city's must-see monuments. The one not to miss? Dublin Castle, a former prison fortress, which is now the stage for the most important institutional events.

ITALY: PANTANI, THE CIPPO AND THE ZONCOLAN

The Giro moves to Italy for the fourth stage: after a rest day, on May 13 the riders will fly from Giovinazzo to Bari, a flat 112 km where speed is everything. Remember that it is a straight stage, perfect for sprints.

Meanwhile, the fifth stage is the exact opposite: an uphill finish — the first of this Giro d’Italia — from Taranto to Viggiano. A date for your diary: May 14. Taranto and Puglia definitely offer breathtaking scenery for the cyclists competing on the Giro, but also for tourists in search of history and charm. This is why the perfect tour stage at Taranto includes a sprint to Castello Aragonese, before moving to the city's National Archaeological Museum, with local gold artifacts and exhibits from Prehistory to the Middle Ages.

But the really difficult stage is the eighth, Foligno-Montecopiolo, with 179 km of major climbs and descents with an uphill finish. And what a finish it is: the maximum gradient over the last 6 km is 13%. Foligno-Montecopiolo is not just one of the most tiring stages of Giro d’Italia 2014, it is also one of the most heartfelt and emotional, because the Giro is dedicating it to Marco Pantani. With the Cippo di Carpegna stretch, the 97th Giro d’Italia will commemorate ten years since the death of the Pirate. Pantani used to always say how much he loved this stretch in particular for his training.

There is also a lot of Pantani in the 15th stage, Valdengo-Montecampione, on May 25. Here, at Plan di Montecampione, in 1998, the Pirate beat his Russian rival Pavel Tonkov, just 3 km from the finish. A battle between champions that is still legendary today.

QUEEN STAGE AND FINAL PUSH: TRIESTE

The queen stage, however, comes on May 27 with the 16th stage, which will see the riders race from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello, with the extremely difficult climbs of the Stelvio Pass and Val Martello. But nothing compares with the 19th stage, Bassano del Grappa to Cima Grappa, an individual time trial climb at a rapid pace.

Or the 20th, with the huge finish on Monte Zoncolan, which, with a maximum gradient of over 20%, will certainly put the cyclists to the test. Just what the climbers love on this Giro!
And the last stage of the Giro d’Italia 2014? It's the 21st, Gemona del Friuli to Trieste, on June 1. After the demanding climbs and great heights of the previous two stages, the last one is simple and above all, straight. In other words, the final sprint is beckoning. Now that you have got to this point, you should know that what you need to see and experience first and foremost in Trieste is the Piazza Unità d’Italia, the most important meeting place in the city and the largest European square overlooking the sea.

Speaking of the sea: to enjoy a breathtaking view over the Gulf of Trieste, there is nowhere better than Miramare Castle where Maximilian of Habsburg, the brother of the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph, lived. While you are waiting, make the most of the Giro d’Italia to race, or rather, fly with Alitalia and follow the stages and riders live!
 

Photo © Stuart Richards

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