The Giro d’Italia cycling race will begin in Israel next year, marking the first time any leg of the sport’s three Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.
Organisers said on Thursday that details of the exact route of the three stages to be held in Israel will be announced next week, with Italian and Israeli ministers making the announcement in Jerusalem along with the recently retired Spanish cyclist and two-times Giro winner Alberto Contador.
More than 175 of the world’s best cyclists will travel to Israel for the start of the race, one of cycling’s top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta a España. The Giro has started outside Italy on 11 occasions, in locations including Monte Carlo, Athens and Belfast, and will now leave Europe for the first time in its 101-year history.
The event is set to be the biggest sporting event held in Israel and is expected to draw tens of thousands of tourists to the country.
“This is a hugely exciting moment for cycling and for Israel,” said Daniel Benaim, the chief executive and owner of Comtec Group, the Giro’s Israeli production company. “An event of this magnitude is something that the country will always remember.”
A delegation from the Giro d’Italia is in the country finalising locations for the opening stages. Contador and fellow double Giro winner Ivan Basso are due to attend the ceremonial announcement in Jerusalem. While no stages will be officially confirmed until 18 September, Cyclingnews.com has reported that the opening stage is likely to be a time trial in Old Jerusalem.
The website has also reported that the Israeli government will contribute towards running costs and will also be responsible for security, with the event expected to be the biggest security operation in Israel’s history.
The British road and time trial champion Steve Cummings has withdrawn from Great Britain’s team for the UCI road world championships in Bergen next week. The 36-year-old from the Wirral was only picked for one of Britain’s two slots in the individual time trial and not the nine-man road race team.
In a statement on the British Cycling website, Cummings explained that he was not given enough time to prepare after initially being told he would be a reserve for the time trial. “I was surprised to learn eight days before the worlds I had been selected for the time trial,” he said.
“I can’t prepare for the time trial event in eight days from what I’m coming off. So I don’t feel I can do myself justice and would prefer to concentrate on other goals for my team.
“Given that I won’t be able to give my best, it would be appropriate to give the opportunity to another rider. I’m a little surprised and disappointed with not making the road race team. But I have to respect the selection process, and wish all the lads well.”
Aside from his double victory at the national road championships on the Isle of Man in June, Cummings has endured a tough year with injuries and illness but his undisputed pedigree in long, tactical one-day races makes him a surprise omission from the road race team in Norway.
*This article was published in The Guardian on September 18, 2017.