Cycling's first Grand Tour of the season gets underway in Belfast on Friday, as the Giro d'Italia starts its 97th edition with a 21.7-kilometre team time trial in the Northern Irish capital.
The opening weekend sees the riders put through their paces in Belfast and Dublin before the race returns home to Italy for the start of Stage 4 on Tuesday.
While defending champion Vincenzo Nibali will not be in the peloton, as he misses out to focus on the Tour de France, there are plenty of contenders in the running for the Maglia Rosa.
Movistar's Nairo Quintana is certainly one of the favourites, as the 2013 Tour de France runner-up looks for a first Grand Tour win.
The 24-year-old Colombian will face fierce competition from the likes of BMC Racing's Cadel Evans and fellow countryman Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, which came second in last year's Giro.
Read on for TV information and the dates of each stage as well as a closer look at the route map.
|Stage No.||Date||Route||Distance (km)|
|1||May 9||Belfast - Belfast TTT||21.7|
|2||May 10||Belfast - Belfast||219|
|3||May 11||Armagh - Dublin||187|
|4||May 13||Giovinazzo - Bari||112|
|5||May 14||Taranto - Viggiano||203|
|6||May 15||Sassano - Montecassino||247|
|7||May 16||Frosinone - Foligno||211|
|8||May 17||Foligno - Montecopiolo||179|
|9||May 18||Lugo - Sestola||172|
|10||May 20||Modena - Salsomaggiore Terme||173|
|11||May 21||Collecchio - Savona||249|
|12||May 22||Barbaresco - Barolo ITT||41.9|
|13||May 23||Fossano - Rivarolo Canavese||157|
|14||May 24||Agliè - Oropa||164|
|15||May 25||Valdengo - Plan di Montecampione||225|
|16||May 27||Ponte di Legno - Val Martello||139|
|17||May 28||Sarnonico - Vittorio Veneto||208|
|18||May 29||Belluno - Rif. Panarotta (Valsugana)||171|
|19||May 30||Bassano del Grappa - Cima Grappa ITT||26.8|
|20||May 31||Maniago - Monte Zoncolan||167|
|21||June 1||Gemona del Friuli - Trieste||172|
All stages will be shown live on British Eurosport.
2014 Giro d'Italia Route
There are three time-trial stages, eight flat stages and nine mountain stages before the Giro reaches Trieste for the finish of the Italian-stage race in June, per Colin Henrys of RoadCyclingUK.
After starting out in Ireland, Day 4 moves the peloton to South-east Italy before heading north-west and eventually finishing up in the North-east of the country on the Slovenian border.
The route map is helpfully provided here by ShimanoROAD:
After the Irish leg gets underway with a team time trial, Stages 2 and 3 take in the North-east Coast of Northern Ireland and then on to Dublin with sprint finishes expected after fairly flat going.
The first Italian stage is also flat with Stage 5 regarded as the first real climb as the 203km leg finishes on a fourth-category climb in Viggiano, per Lotto Belisol.
There is no easing up for Stage 6 to Montecassino, a 247km ride which finishes with an 8.5km ascent, per Henrys.
Stage 7 sees a return to sprinting, as the Giro moves into Foligno, after which comes another climb with another summit finish into Montecopiolo.
This stage includes a Category 1 ascent, and it is at this stage that the real climbers will likely have made major gains in the general classification.
A second rest day comes after Stage 9, which includes yet another summit finish into Sestola, and with the day off in mind, there should be good pace from the off, per cyclingnews.com.
Sprinters will likely grab their chance at a stage win when the rest day is over as Stage 10 goes from Modena to Salsomaggiore Terme over 173 kilometres of mainly flat terrain.
The mammoth 249km stage from Collecchio to Savona follows in Stage 11, the longest segment of the race which is classed as a medium-mountain leg and includes a quick descent to the finish.
Stage 12 sees the first of the individual time trials and will be an opportunity for some chasing a Giro win to make a significant impact.
The time trial is followed by Stage 13, which includes just one Category 4 climb, per Henrys, and looks set up for the sprinters over the 157 kilometres.
However, the climbs return in the next stage, which includes a summit finish on the Oropa as well as two first-category ascents.
Stage 15 will certainly be one for those aiming for the victory and could cause real problems with a flat track for 200 kilometres or so before culminating in a 20km ascent of Montecampione, per cyclingnews.com.
The final week kicks off after another rest day with the riders reaching an altitude of 2,758 metres on the Stelvio as part of the 139km Stage 16, per Henrys.
Next, it's on to Vittorio Veneto for the 208km 17th leg, as the race enters the closing stages; the number of realistic winners will only be a handful of riders.
Then on to another summit finish for Stage 18 and the final time trial, a climbing time trial, for Stage 19 which has some sections at 14 per cent gradient, per Henrys.
The penultimate stage sees a finish on the Monte Zoncolan, which could yet see a late change in classification before the final leg in Trieste likely to finish in a sprint.
According to Henrys, the 2014 Giro d'Italia will amount to almost 3,500 kilometres of racing, much of which will test the endurance of the riders as they negotiate a series of tough climbs.
It all kicks off in Ireland, but the significant moments will be in the mountains of Italy where the riders will likely have to contend with the snow as well as the gruelling course.