The first professional cycling Grand Tour of the year starts tomorrow as the top riders in the world prepare to take to the starting line for the 2018 Giro d’Italia. But this year, the race is trying something a little different with the event starting not just on foreign soil, but a long way from it’s traditional stomping grounds. This year’s race will actually begin in Israel, making it one of the most significant sport events ever to be held in that country.
As usual, the race will consist of 21 states spread out over the course of the next three weeks. State 1 is an individual time trial being held on a unique route through Jerusalem that covers 9.7 km (6 miles). The course undulates some but isn’t especially difficult or technical, which should make for some fast opening times. From there, the peloton will move on to the second state, which runs from Haifa to Tel Avivi on Saturday and a third stage between Be’er Sheva and Eilat on Sunday, before returning to Italy for the rest of the race.
In speaking of the Giro coming to his country, Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin said “The Giro d’Italia is much more than a sporting event. It allows us to expose Israel to hundreds of millions of viewers all over the world, marking an additional step in the marketing revolution that the State of Israel has undergone over the last three years. We are marketing Israel as an attractive destination for leisure tourism, providing a unique combination of excellent weather, fine cuisine, beaches and nature reserves, and the most important historical and religious sites in the world.”
The race has some drama surrounding it before it even gets underway. Four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has also won the Vuelta Espana, and needs only a win in the Giro to become one of the few riders to win all of the Grand Tours. But, he also tested positive for an elevated amount of an asthma drug at the Vuelta last year, which could result in a suspension and the loss of that win. The court of sports arbitration is still waiting to hear the case, but it is creating doubts about his past wins and is causing some to say he shouldn’t be competing right now. If he does manage to win, it will certainly be under protest. There are also some indications that he might not be invited to the Tour in July if the matter is not resolved ahead of time.
Other riders to watch in the Giro include Fabio Are of Team Emirates, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, and last year’s winner Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has also proven to be able to win Grand Tour events and is riding exceptionally well so far this year, but he has elected to skip this race to concentrate on a return to the podium at the Tour de France.
You can follow the race online at the Giro’s official website.