It is one if the world’s greatest cycling challenges. It is coming to Northern Ireland, and it’s live on BBC NI.
The 2014 Giro d’Italia, one of cycling’s three Grande Tours, starts in Belfast and BBC Northern Ireland will follow every high speed twist and turn as some of the world’s top cyclists negotiate three stages taking them to the north coast, through the Glens of Antrim, and from Armagh to Dublin.
Once the event leaves these shores viewers can follow their progress on BBC Northern Ireland with daily stage highlights on the BBC Sport NI website as the race for the famous pink jersey continues in its home country, Italy.
BBC Sport’s Jill Douglas, who has presented cycling at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, will front three live programmes on BBC Two Northern Ireland, with BBC Sport NI’s roving reporter Gavin Andrews capturing all the excitement, colour and atmosphere as the peloton criss-crosses Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The first programme on Friday, starting at 6.30pm, will have live coverage of the opening Team Time Trial as the Giro d’Italia starts from the Titanic Quarter, Belfast welcoming a host of international stars of the sport including Colombian Nairo Quintana, German Marcel Kittel and Australian Cadel Evans. Cycling fans will be able to cheer on their local favourites as Dublin rider Nicolas Roche, son of the great Stephen Roche, takes to the roads alongside his cousin Dan Martin and Donegal cyclist Philip Deignan.
On Saturday, from 2pm Giro d’Italia Live brings viewers the afternoon sessions of Stage Two, following the riders as they speed along the picturesque north coast and glens of Antrim to the sprint finish at Belfast City Hall.
On Sunday, from 2.30pm, the coverage follows the riders as the Giro d’Italia leaves Northern Ireland to head south and a sprint finish in Dublin.
As well as the live action, the programme will bring you all the colour from the peloton’s visit earlier in the day to County Armagh.
The weekend’s coverage will also include route previews and packages explaining all there is to know about the Giro d’Italia including the intricacies of Team Time Trailing and road racing.
Peter Johnston, Director BBCNI said: “There has been lots of interest in and build up to the Giro D’Italia in recent weeks and it is great news, with the help of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, to have secured the broadcast rights which will now make the event even more accessible through our live coverage across the three days on BBC Two NI.”
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “Anticipation is high as we prepare to host over 200 top professional cyclists from across the globe, who will push themselves to the limit as they battle to earn the right to wear the coveted pink jersey.
“The Giro d’Italia is a world class sporting event – but it is also so much more. It brings with it colour, passion and an atmosphere all of its own and it is great news that BBC Northern Ireland will be at the heart of the event to broadcast the action live.”
Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board said: “It’s all heating up for the Giro d’Italia this weekend and we are delighted that BBC Northern Ireland is on board to bring all the excitement of the Giro d’Italia to viewers across Northern Ireland and beyond.
“The three live programmes on BBC Two Northern Ireland will not only show coverage of this great sporting spectacle but also show off all that Northern Ireland has to offer.”
Shane Glynn, Editor BBC Sport NI says: “As someone who does a bit of cycling I appreciate just how big a buzz there’s been ahead of the Giro coming to Northern Ireland, and just how massive, in world terms, this event is.
“The colour, the speed, the sheer size of the peloton and the support crews is going to be spectacular and I’m absolutely delighted that BBC Northern Ireland is going to be bringing our audience live coverage of the Giro across all three days.”