Pro racing will return to Sicily this year, with the new Giro di Sicilia launching earlier than expected and taking an early April slot in the UCI calendar.
A new four-day race in Sicily had been widely reported in local media outlets since the turn of the year, but, given the time constraints, it was widely expected to be a project for the 2020 season.
On Friday, however, the Italian Professional Cycling League (LCP) confirmed that the UCI had approved the plans and that the race will indeed take place this year.
Run by Giro d'Italia organisers RCS Sport as a 2.1 event - the third tier in the UCI's categorisation - it will take place over four days and four stages from April 3-6.
"Good news for the Italian cycling calendar and the whole movement. The UCI has approved the registration of the Giro di Sicilia, starting this season," read a statement from the LCP. "Further details will be unveiled in the coming days, including the participating teams, the race route, and how the idea of introducing a new race in the Italian landscape was born."
The dates clash with the cobbled classics in Belgium, with Dwars door Vlaanderen taking place on April 3 and the Tour of Flanders on April 7. However, the race could attract Grand Tour riders, possibly with an eye on the Giro d'Italia in May, and maybe even Ardennes Classics contenders, with the race finishing two days before the start of the Itzulia Basque Country stage race.
RCS Sport will be hoping Vincenzo Nibali, who comes from Sicily, will be on the start line ahead of his tilt at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
The addition of the race marks a return to Sicily after a number of years. The island once hosted early-season races such as the Settimana Siciliana, the Trofeo Pantalica and the Giro dell'Etna to give riders some early racing. However, races such as the Tour Down Under in Australia and the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina now offer riders a chance to train and race in the warm weather of the southern hemisphere.
Sicily is also a candidate to host the start of the 2021 Giro d'Italia.