The 2013 Giro d'Italia has only just ended, but race organiser RCS Sport has revealed that the 2014 route is virtually decided with only some final details needed to finalised the three-week course.
The full route will be unveiled at the end of the season, but rumours about possible stage locations and key climbs are already circulating.
RCS Sport has already announced that the 2014 Giro d'Italia, edition number 98, will start in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. The city will host two stages, with another from Armagh to Dublin, before the whole race transfer by air back to Italy after
With UCI rules no longer permitting a rest day so early in a Grand Tour, the riders and the whole Giro d'Italia caravan will return to Italy by plane.
According to the Tuttosport newspaper, the historic rival of Gazzetta dello Sport, that owns the Giro d'Italia, the 2014 Giro will restart in the very south of the country, in Bari, probably with a team time trial to allow the riders to recover from the three-hour flight.
The race route will then head north via Tuscany, with a stage expected in Gino Bartali's home town of Ponte a Ema near Florence, to celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the legendary rider's birth.
Tuttosport claims that an individual time trial will be held between the wine towns of Barolo and Barbaresco near Turin, while the Jafferau and the steep Zoncolan climb could return to route in 2014.
No Sicily, Milan finish unlikely
Despite Vincenzo Nibali becoming the first Sicilian to ever win the Giro d'Italia, the 2014 race is unlikely to visit the island next year. The ferry trip to Ischia on stage two this year for the team time trial caused a lot of headaches for the teams and race organisers. RCS Sport is looking to limit transfer and post-stage travel after the flight back from Ireland and so the total of transfer will be lower than this year's 2800km.
"We took a bit of risk this year with Ischia but it went okay. However, I think it'd be difficult to include another island next year," race director Mauro Vegni said.
The Giro d'Italia traditionally finishes in Milan, the home of Gazzetta dello Sport, but the Milan city council has snubbed the race in recent years and this year's finish was a success, allowing RCS Sport to bring in some extra funding from the rival Lombardy city.
"Fortunately we've got other cities asking for the Grande Arrivo," RCS Sport managing director Michele Acquarone said sending a clear message to the mayor of Milan.
"Milan is in pole position because it’s the city of the Giro but so far, despite the talks and rumours, we haven't had an official request. If it doesn't arrive soon, the Giro will arrive where in cycling cities where it's loved."