By Tadhg Peavoy - RTÉ Sport
The second most prestigious cycling event in the world is coming to Ireland’s shores for the first time in history. So where is it taking place and how can you grab a slice of the iconic event for yourself?
The section of the multi-day stage race that takes place in Ireland will run from Friday 9 May to Sunday 11 May.
Team time trial
The opening stage is a 21.7km team time trial which will take place on Friday evening in Belfast, starting at the Titanic Quarter and finishing at Donegall Square North. Think of it as a football match under floodlights, only the pitch are the streets of Northern Ireland’s capital, and the floodlights are the streetlights. The teams will negotiate their way around the city one by one, with the quickest side claiming the stage and the leader’s pink jersey.
The Giro stays north of the border for the 218km-long first traditional style stage, with the event getting underway in Belfast on Saturday morning at the Titanic Quarter once more before heading north and up to Glengormley, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Bushmills and along the Causeway Coast route coast route before looping back down along the east coast past Ballycastle and Cushendall Road.
Larne, Knocknaguillagh and Carrickfergus are all also on the route before the peloton returns back to Belfast for the stage finish.
As a flat stage, the likelihood is that the stage will be a bunch sprint in the final kilometres at Donegall Square, Belfast, unless a breakaway takes place in the closing km of the race.
Stage two is a cross-border event with the 187km route kicking off in Armagh at Gaol Square, before passing through Richhill, Markethill Summit, Fews Forest, and Newtownhamilton.
The riders will then cross the border from north to south and enter Dundalk as they continue their journey down the east coast and through Drogheda, Balbriggan, Malahide and Clontarf before the stage finish at Merrion Street Upper around 1700.
Like the previous stage, this is a flat stage and in all likelihood will finish in a bunch gallop for the line in Dublin.
The event obviously passes through a number of specific locations between the towns and cities mentioned.
To get a vantage point you will need to be in situ in the town you hope to view the passing cyclists from well in advance to claim your spot and also to get there before traffic restrictions are put in place blocking the road.
The best way to time when the race will come through is with the official Giro schedule, which gives an estimated arrival time at each town along the route. Use this as your way of gauging when to be where if you plan to view from the roadside.
Big stars on the start line
The event is pretty much as big as it gets in cycling, and many of the world’s greatest cyclists will contest the competition.
Nairo Quintana is perhaps the best climber in the sport at the moment and although the stages in Ireland won’t suit him, fans will be able to clap eyes on the Colombian, who rides for Movistar.
Joaquim Rodriguez, second in the 2012 Giro by 16 seconds is also in the peloton. Rodriguez finished third in last year's Tour de France and is another huge star in the sport.
Both he and Quintana are tipped to come out on top come the conclusion of the Giro in Trieste on 21 May.
In addition, Ireland’s Dan Martin (ProTeam Garmin-Sharp) will also feature, and is touted as an outside candidate for the overall victory.
In addition to Martin, Nicolas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) will feature, as will Philip Deignan (Team Sky), completing a trio of Irish competitors in the event.
Expect all three to possibly figure in breakaways in the stages held in Ireland as they look to give the home crowd something to get behind.
Although, Roche was cautious to temper hopes of too much attacking in the Irish stages.
He said: “It's 21 days and we're not riding the Tour of Ireland. It's the Tour of Italy and I have to be focused for the actual race and not just the three days here.”
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), winner of the 2011 Tour de France is also on the start-line, and has an outside chance of taking the overall victory come the end of May.
Other big names competing are Michele Scarponi (Astana), Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
Possible winners of Friday's team time trial
The GreenEdge team have been touted as possible winners of the team time trial, with Brett Lancaster, Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and Svein Tuft the driving force.
Quintana's MoviStar could also take the stage, with Adriano Malori and Jonathan Castroviejo riders who will push the team along for the stage.
Last, but not least, roads are going to be shut at times to accommodate the Giro. Below are details of the road closures in order to help ease your travel planning.
Day 1 (Belfast time trial)
Queen's Road (Titanic Quarter), Sydenham Road, Middlepath Street, Newtownards Road, Upper Newtonards Road, Prince of Wales Avenue (Stormont gate), Stormont (Lord Carson Statue), Queen's Bridge, Oxford Street, East Bridge Street, Cromac Street, Ormeau Road, Stranmillis Embankment, Stranmillis Road (Roundabout), University Road, Bradbury Place, Great Victoria Street, Wellington Place, Donegall Square North
Armagh: Shambles Market, Goal Square, College Hill Road and Lonsdale Road, Loughgall Road, Richhill (At Stonebridge Roundabout)
Richhill (Main Street), Hamiltonsbawn (At Mullaghbrack Rd, Markethill, (Mullaghbrack Road Junction), Tandragee Road Junction, Coolmillish road, B3 tassagh Rd (At B31 Armagh Rd / N'townhamilton Rd), A29 Keady Town, Newtownhamilton Town (Northern side)
Newtownhamilton Town (Southern side), Newtownhamilton Town (At Cladymilltown Road Junction), Forkhill (At Hall road / Longfield Road Junction), Forkhill (At Newry Road / Old Bridge Road Junction), Forkhill towards Dundalk
Dublin city closures
Merrion Square South
Merrion Square East, Merrion Street Upper and Fitzwilliam Street Lower closed
Merrion Square West and Mount Street Upper
Howth Road (from Kilbarrack Road to James Larkin Road), James Larkin Road, Clontarf Road, Alfie Byrne Road, East Wall Road, North Wall Quay, Custom House Quay and Talbot Memorial Bridge
City Quay, Lombard Street, Westland Row, Lincoln Place, Merrion Street Lower, Clare Street, Leinster Street South, Merrion Square North closed
The times specified are the maximum times that roads will be closed.