Following the success of the 2014 Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza earlier this year, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board entered into negotiations with RCS Sport, organiser of the Giro, to secure a legacy sportive: the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia will be staged for at least the next three years. Shadetree Sports will be the local organiser of the event.
The first Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Northern Ireland will be held on June 21st 2015.
Two routes have been investigated and provisionally recommended by the organisers. Both routes, one 177 kilometres and the other 59 kilometres, commence and finish at Titanic Belfast – the iconic location where the 2014 Giro d’Italia started.
The event will include cycling activities on the day before the main event across Northern Ireland.
News about the event was revealed at a presentation by Arlene Foster, Minister of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister. Also present were Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports and Andrea Trabuio of RCS Sports.
Foster said: "The 2014 Giro d’Italia captured the imagination of the people of Northern Ireland and was hailed as a resounding success by the organisers who were bowled over by the warmth of our welcome and enthusiasm. People are now coming to ride the Giro stages and other routes across Northern Ireland and we want to capitalise on that interest.”
She added, “the Gran Fondo will establish a tangible legacy event to the Giro and increase awareness of Northern Ireland as a premium cycling and tourism destination. There is also the immediate economic impact with riders and their families filling local hotels and restaurants, with research showing that cycling is rivaling golf in terms of propensity to travel and expenditure in the destination.
"The event also has the capacity to generate significant media interest in the lead up and across the weekend of the Gran Fondo, and both NITB and Tourism Ireland will be working hard to engage with cycling media across our key markets close to home and overseas.”
McQuaid said: “The success of the Big Start last May was just the beginning and we are looking forward to working closely with local stakeholders to make this new event a big success over the next three years."
He added: "We aim to make Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Northern Ireland one of the best in the world and one which will attract riders from all around to globe to ride on Northern Ireland’s roads, and experience the warmth of the welcome here, along with the unique Giro theme on fully closed roads protected by the PSNI, who played such a key role in making the Giro a success last May. Being part of this growing global series will give us the ability to market Northern Ireland as a leading cycling destination and attract new visitors.”
Trabuio, Head of Mass Events at RCS Sport, said: “Following the great success of the 2014 Giro d’Italia Big Start from Belfast, we are very happy to announce a new three-year partnership that will see a series of Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia events hosted in this fantastic country. We are sure that this “Made in Italy” event will be a big success and will positively promote Northern Ireland.”