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Giro d'Italia to start in Ireland

Organisers of cycling's prestigious Giro d'Italia event are expected to confirm on Thursday that next year's race will start in Ireland.

Plans to hold stages both sides of the Irish border are to be outlined during a launch event, it is understood.

Tourism officials and government representatives from the Republic and Northern Ireland are likely to attend Thursday's events at the Titanic Belfast visitor's centre and Dublin's civic offices.

It will be the first time the race has come to Ireland, meaning cycling's two Grand Tours will visit Britain and Ireland next year, with the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire.

The Republic of Ireland welcomed the Tour de France in 1998 when the first three days of the race took place in the country.

The news follows reports in the international media which had claimed that the race would start in Belfast over the May bank holiday weekend and would also take in Dublin before it moves to Italy.

Also known as the Corsa Rosa, the Giro started in Denmark last year before heading back to Italy for the rest of the event.

A cross-border submission to host the opening stages of the Giro d'Italia in 2014 was put together by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and Failte Ireland in conjunction with Stormont and the Irish government.

Like the Tour de France, the Giro has a 'Grande Partenza' (big start) which can take place in other countries.