Stage 3: Be’er Sheva — Eilat, 225km
The race says ciao to Israel from the country’s southernmost point, the Red Sea port city of Eilat, after a long day in the desert.
What’s It About?
A long, lumpy slog across the Negev Desert from the center of the country to Eilat, where things could come together for a quick sprint before the Giro offloads to Italy. Definitely a transitional stage, where just about anything except a battle among the GC Bigs is possible.
The Giro is giving Israel the maximum showcase, with a stage through the heart of the southern Desert. At this point they will have covered everything but the Occupied Territories and Galilee. It’s not that big a country, really.
Be’er Sheva is named after either a special well or series of them, with only “be’er” (well) being known and the other particulars lost to tenth century BCE intentions. Unfortunately “be’er” and “beer” are not the same thing, but they’re both pretty important and cherished, which is cool. Anyway, Abraham — THE Abraham — lived here, so you can bet that the race passes through town on Highway 61.
From there the race passes through Sde Boker, a somewhat notable kibbutz, where the riders will be put to work for several hours and receive a watermelon at the end for their efforts. Kibbutzim are agricultural collectives, and Sde Boker is famous for David Ben Gurion moving there after stepping down from the Prime Minister’s role in the 1950s. He went back to being PM, but I don’t think that’s a big knock on Sde Boker.
Eventually they get to Eilat, where they could climb up an 800 meter mountain if they wanted to, but probably won’t. Eilat isn’t very historic, it only goes back to the 7th century BCE and was where the Hebrews went after crossing the Red Sea on the Exodus. It averages just over an inch of rain a year, which is why the locals still rely on manna from heaven for their diet.
Did You Know?
Be’er Sheba is locate a few km away from Tell Sheva or Tel Be’er Sheva, site of the original version of the town. Israel, Syria, Jordan and other parts of this region are full of “tells,” which are formerly occupied sites that were built upon again and again, then eventually abandoned and lost. I personally find it bizarre that a place can be occupied for hundreds or thousands of years and then “lost” but the local building material in times of antiquity was mud brick, which disintegrates, and the mobile sands eventually fill in the spaces.
Tells are being excavated fairly often these days and there are plenty in Israel, where teams start digging and find Ottoman ruins on top of Medieval ruins on top of Byzantine on top of Roman and so on. Tell Sheva isn’t quite as spectacular as ones where you can find Crusader castles on top of Roman ruins or something like that, but it did produce a horned altar, the type which is mentioned in the Bible a fair amount.
Whom Does the Stage Favor?
Sprinters, if the race comes back together. But you have all the makings of a breakaway event. First, you have the Maglia Rosa in the hands of a rider who won’t want to hang on to it forever. Next you have a “home team” who’d love to score a win, and will power the break all day. With a long slog through the desert and potential headwinds slowing things down further, the peloton will be unmoved to pursue whoever is up ahead if it’s too much work. Sometimes before these long transfers and rest days they do get moving but I would not expect that over such a long stage.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day
For the final Israeli stage, we have a big red: Domaine du Castel Petit Castel from Copake Wine Works.
From the producer: In 1988, almost by chance, Eli Ben Zaken planted the first modern-day vineyard to be found in the Judean Hills, in the backyard of his home in Ramat Raziel. The strains used to create this wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The wine is set to mature in French oak barrels for approximately 12 months, followed by approx. 4 months in concrete tanks, prior to bottling.The Petit Castel is a full-bodied wine, bearing a hint of tannin and a harmonic fruity-oak balance, with a deep royal purple color.
Pick to Win
Ben Hermans! Or Kristian Sbaragli. Not Guillaume Boivin.