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Giro d'Italia

Giro to start in Jerusalem as grand tours look beyond Europe

The 2018 Giro d'Italia will start in Jerusalem, the first time a grand tour has started outside the traditional Western European countries.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — After trips far abroad in Europe, it was inevitable that one of cycling’s three historic grand tours would break ground beyond the old continent. The 2018 Giro d’Italia will be the first with its planned departure from Jerusalem next May 5.

VeloNews learned of the deal, which should be announced in Israel’s holy city in September, last month. Organizer RCS Sport had considered going to Poland to start its 101st edition, which would have seemed logical since it issued a wildcard invitation to team CCC in recent years.

Instead of a two-hour flight from the organization’s Milan headquarters to Warsaw, expect a three-hour, 40-minute flight and a one-hour time change to Tel Aviv.

The three-week races — the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España — covered greater distances before. Usually the Giro or Vuelta do so to reach countries willing and able to pay the host fee. Tour organizer ASO has greater options with more countries bordering France and those nearby, like England, eager for the famed event.

Spain’s grand tour traveled to Assen in the northeastern Netherlands in 2009. After four stages, including one to Liège in Belgium, the caravan flew 2.5 hours back to the motherland.

The Giro reached is organization arm overseas to Belfast in 2014. The two-hour, 35-minute flight from Milan was not so bad compared to the re-entry to Bari in Italy’s far south from Dublin. Riders and top staff boarded a chartered jet, the rest made their own way. One journalist told of a 38-hour car journey involving two ferries and much soda to arrive for the continuation of the race with stage 4.

As with the 2014 edition starting in Belfast, the Giro will include an extra rest day for travel after the first three stages. VeloNews’s research suggests that the race could kick off with a stage in and around Jerusalem. With an agreement, it could pass through Jericho in Palestine. Stage 2 might cover areas south or perhaps to the north to Nazareth. Stage 3 could end in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv.

Sources said that it will restart in Sicily. After a three-week journey with a mountainous final, the cyclists will take a high-speed Freccia Rossa train to finish in the capital city of Rome on May 27. Jerusalem and Rome would offer the holiest of bookends to the 101st Giro.

The trip outside of Europe offers RCS Sport yet another test event, a possible springboard, for longer journeys. Cycling director Mauro Vegni spoke of such transfers this May when the race began on the island of Sardinia.

“The first is always the hardest,” Vegni said. “We did the big one in Ireland. We needed the structure, the cars, the extra rest day for the transfer. That was a massive undertaking.”

“Now, we are able to duplicate it and it’s not as hard, so I’m not worried about 2018. It’s more complicated [starting in Sardinia], worse than a big start abroad. Now, I can confront anything, also far away from Italy’s borders.”

RCS has talked about a start in the United States for some time. Former director Angelo Zomegnan tried to put the pieces in place, but never made it happen. Vegni too has shown interest in the U.S. and according to some reports, Japan.

Israel is strongly promoting tourism and offers RCS Sport a chance grow its Giro d’Italia brand globally. Also, the country has pockets deeper than the Italian provinces and cities interested in hosting the Grande Partenza.

Israel will need a budget of around €12 million ($14.2m). About €4 million ($4.72m) of that goes to RCS Sport for the hosting rights. It is a big budget, but past host cities say the investment is worth welcoming one of cycling’s famous events.