Jerusalem - Alberto
Contador and Ivan Basso helped unveil plans on Monday for a challenging
start to the 2018 Giro d'Italia in Israel, the first time one of
cycling's three major races will begin outside Europe.
The two cycling stars attended a press conference in Jerusalem
detailing the start for the Italian race next year, with the first three
stages to be hosted by Israel from May 4-6.
It will begin with a time-trial in hilly Jerusalem, followed by two
other stages, one that will follow the Mediterranean coast from Haifa to
Tel Aviv and another that will begin in Beersheba in the Negev desert
and end in Eilat on the Red Sea.
The opening time-trial will be 10.1km, while the second stage is 167km and the third 226km.
The Jerusalem leg will pass by Israel's parliament and begin and end
near the walls of the ancient Old City, holy to Christians, Muslims and
"It's 10km up and down, lots of corners," Basso, a two-time Giro winner, said of the time-trial.
"The second stage and the third stage, when you ride on the coast, on
the desert, lots of wind maybe, can be already not an easy start for
the race," the Italian added.
The recently retired Contador, who also won the Giro twice, said riders will have to weigh how much to risk in the time-trial.
"In my case, if I'm here, for sure I don't take a big risk because
you can lose more than you can win," the Spaniard said. "It will be a
very hard three stages."
Besides Haifa and Tel Aviv, the second day will see the riders curve
around Acre as well as pass the ancient Roman-era port city of Caesarea
and Zichron Yaakov in the Carmel Mountains.
Day three also includes Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert, on the edge of the world's largest erosion crater.
Italian sport minister Luca Lotti and Israeli ministers described the
start as an opportunity to bring different cultures and countries
It is a major coup for Israel, allowing it to promote its tourism
industry in a year when it also celebrates 70 years since the country's
"The philosophy that the Giro d'Italia has always had is to say
something about history, places, culture, and I think there isn't
anything more important than the one of Jerusalem and all of Israel,"
said Giro director Mauro Vegni.
However, Israel also risks protests surrounding the event over its 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory.
Israeli Sport Minister Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin
said the Giro's choice of the country for the event was a blow against a
campaign to boycott it over the occupation.
Regev said those advocating a boycott should "get to know Israel, Israel that always reaches its hand out in peace."
The country however passed a law in March allowing it to ban entry to foreigners who support boycotting Israel.
Levin said: "I believe the answer is being given today at this event."
"The fact that the Giro management places its trust in Israel and is
enabling - for the first time outside of Europe - to have such a major
event here, of all places, is a very clear statement that no attempts
to harm it will succeed," he said of Israel.
The time-trial in disputed Jerusalem will not take place in the
eastern sector of the city, which the Palestinians want as the capital
of their future state.
Israel claims the entire city as its undivided capital.
It occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed
it in a move never recognised by the international community. It also
occupied the West Bank in 1967.