Council officers go behind the scenes at Giro d’Italia race

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The Coast Road is being advertised as the perfect location for a special stage of the prestigious Giro d’Italia cycle race next year.

The NI Tourist Board has made a successful bid to host the opening stage of the event - known as the Grand Partenza (Big Start) - in May 2014.

The event is expected to draw thousands of visitors and provide a major boost for the local economy.

The opening two stages will start in Belfast, with one stage including a route along the Antrim coast towards the Giant’s Causeway.

A third stage will start in Armagh and cross into the Republic of Ireland, finishing in Dublin, before transferring back to Italy.

Giro d’Italia officials have already made a site visit to NI to assess potential stage routes, including within the Larne Borough.

They will return this month to decide on the exact routes to be used, and the local authority is going all out to encourage the organisers to bring the event to the Larne borough.

The officials have been offered a guided tour by the council to highlight all that the borough has to offer for this event.

In a bid to get a feel for the event and to observe the logistics involved with hosting a stage, two council officers travelled to Italy to experience this year’s race.

Officers watched the event from the public spectator perspective, and were given the chance to go behind the scenes for the Vicenza stage.

They also attended an official Tourism Ireland press launch event, along with Giro officials, Big Start organisers Shadtree Sports and the NI Tourist Board.

The council said the trip provided first-hand experience that “could not have been achieved from watching the stage on television”.

Cycling is hugely popular in the Vicenza area of Italy, with young people encouraged to take up the sport from a very early age.