One-hundred-seventy-six of the world’s top cyclists are heading to Israel next year to kick off the 2018 Giro d’Italia, an annual multiple-stage bicycle race that takes place primarily in Italy with a “Big Start” traveling event outside Italy.
Previous years have taken the Giro to Holland, Denmark, Northern Ireland, and Belgium. Starting on May 4, 2018, it’s Israel’s turn. This will be the first time a Grand Tour has taken place outside of Europe.
The cyclists will spend three days in the Holy Land. The first day, they’ll race around Jerusalem in a 10-kilometer time trial with the Old City in the background.
The second day, they will head to the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa before cycling to Tel Aviv by way of Acre and Caesarea – a total of 167 kilometers.
On the third and final day, the cyclists will head south to Beersheva, where they’ll tool through the desert, past the Ramon Crater, before ending up, 226 kilometers later, in Eilat at the Red Sea.
The Giro will finish three weeks later on May 22 in Italy.
The twinning of the locations carries with it a message of peace and “the ability of sport to build bridges between people, religions and nations,” according to a Giro d’Italia news release. The Giro is broadcasted live around the world.
“This amazing race will expose hundreds of millions of viewers in nearly two hundred countries around the world to Israel’s spectacular landscapes, our tourist sites and our perfect weather,” commented Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is no stranger to bringing sporting events to Israel’s capital (he was behind the launch of the Jerusalem Marathon and Formula 1 races in the city), said that having the Giro d’Italia kick off this year in Jerusalem sends a clear message that the city “is open to all.”
Tens of thousands of tourists and cycling enthusiasts are expected to arrive in Israel to experience the Giro d’Italia’s festive atmosphere. The race will also be a boost for cycling’s growing popularity in Israel – the country’s only professional team, the Israel Cycling Academy, was founded in 2014 and currently competes on the UCI Continental circuit.
Dignitaries attending a launch event for the Giro in September included Italy’s Sports Minister Luca Lotti; Israel’s Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev; Levin; Barkat; cycling legend Alberto Contador; and honorary president of the Giro’s “Big Start Israel” Sylvan Adams, cited as the driving force behind the development of Israeli cycling and bringing the Giro to Israel.