Giro director Mauro Vegni announced the full details of the Israeli Grande Partenza at a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. Former Giro winners Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso were among those present at the formal announcement on Monday.
The opening time trial will start and finish close to the walls of Old Jerusalem, and the rolling, technical course will bring the riders past the Knesset before a gently climbing approach to the line, where the first maglia rosa of the race will be presented.
The two road stages that follow ought to suit the sprinters. Stage 2 starts from the northern port of Haifa and follows a predominantly flat 167-kilometre route to the finish in Tel Aviv. Stage 3 is some 226 kilometres in length, and sets out from Be’er Sheva and through the Negev Desert to the finish at the Red Sea port of Eilat.
The Giro has started on foreign roads every second year since 2010, with Amsterdam, Herning, Belfast and Utrecht all hosting the event, but the Israeli start will mark the first time in history that a Grand Tour has started outside of Europe.
The Tour de France organisation previously entertained the idea of starting from as far afield as Guadeloupe in 2000, while delegations from Washington DC and Japan have expressed interest in hosting the Giro start in recent years.
Israel’s location on the Mediterranean and its one-hour time difference from Italy means that the logistics of transporting the race caravan ought to be roughly comparable to those required for previous foreign starts in Europe, such as the 2014 transfer from Dublin to Bari.
As in 2014, 2016 and 2017, the Giro begins on a Friday in order to allow for an additional rest day after stage 3 as the race transfers to Italy. Although the details of stage 4 have yet to be confirmed, it is anticipated that the Giro will resume in Sicily, with the port of Catania the most likely landing spot for the race.
The precise breakdown of the cost of bringing the Giro to Israel is unclear, but the Israeli government has pledged to provide what has been described as the biggest security operation in the country’s history.
The Giro’s visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, and marks part of a sustained local effort to promote tourism and present an image of the country to the world that goes beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is rumoured that the 2018 Giro will finish in Rome, with AFP reporting that a finish at the Vatican is in prospect as part of the race’s theme of “co-existence and peace." The Giro route will be presented in its entirety at an undisclosed date in November.
Monday’s formal announcement means that the Pro Continental Israel Cycling Academy team seems guaranteed its place on the start line in Jerusalem next May. Team backer Sylvan Adams confirmed on Sunday night that the team has applied for a wildcard invitation to the corsa rosa but stressed that RCS Sport will not make a decision until January.
Israel Cycling Academy was founded ahead of the 2015 season and is managed by the former Saxo Bank professional Ran Margaliot. The squad has signalled its heightened ambition for 2018 by making a number of notable signings in recent weeks, including Ben Hermans, Ruben Plaza and Edwin Avila.