Earlier today the Giro d’Italia unveiled its three-day Israeli adventure in a press conference featuring Director Mauro Vegni with former winners Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso, where they gave out some details on the opening stages and answered questions. [The rest of the Giro will be presented in November, but is rumored to be finishing at the Vatican.] Here’s what we learned:
Stage 1: Jerusalem ITT
It’s a 10km romp around the streets of the old city, but not the Old City, which doesn’t really have streets that can be used for anything more than a mountain bike, and more like single track. The start is outside the Christian Quarter and finishes at the Damascus Gate, which is an excellent backdrop for the proceedings. Heli shots of holy sites will dominate the event. But for the riders, those bends in the road on the left of the map, by the Knesset, are probably a bit more interesting. Jerusalem is mildly hilly, so this won’t be a very prologue-like event.
Stage 2: Haifa - Tel Aviv, 167km
The race rolls out of Israel’s prettiest city, dominated by the Ba’hai gardens, because Israel needs to be home to yet another religion. Anyway, it’s an ancient port town and a good place to launch a Mediterranean stage. The maps are presently a disaster, so I’ll just tell you that the race starts in Haifa, heads up to Akko (a very cool ancient city I’ll dig into more later), then down the coast to Caesaria — Roman ruins — and eventually into downtown Tel Aviv. Racing-wise this is a sprint stage, like nearly every coastal romp.
Tel Aviv should be a lively place for the finish. It doesn’t have many big boulevards but you only need one. Ending by the beach, where everyone hangs out, should be good for business. Undoubtedly they have contacted Tel Aviv Ad Woman to see if she can help with the stage ceremony.
Stage 3: Be’er Sheva -- Eilat, 226km
Shocker! I had assumed that the final stage would finish close to Ben Gurion Airport between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but instead they end up at the furthest point in Israel from the urban core, down south in Eilat. This is a Negev Desert affair, with gently rolling terrain ending at the Red Sea port town sandwiched between Jordan and Egypt. Pretty cool town from what I hear, and we might get some heli shots of nearby Petra. Why they want to complicate the departure is beyond me, but either they figured out a way to airlift the race from there (Tabat International Airport lies just over the border in Egypt) or they’ll truck it all back up north, because Israel isn’t that large. Still, that’s a four-hour drive. My guess is they head into Egypt, which is kind of cool I guess. Less cool is the fact that Be’er is two syllables and doesn’t sound at all like something you might drink. Sorry.
Needless to say, there were questions about security, which the Giro officials shut down by saying they’ve been promised an unprecedented effort on behalf of Israel. We shall see, although in my opinion this is something they know how to do since it’s a part of everyday life in various parts of the country. The big winners are the hosts, of course, who are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the modern State of Israel, and the Israel Cycling Academy. But the Giro love to tell a story, and clearly this is chapter one of a pretty compelling story, of history and religion. What could possibly go wrong?