Two road stages plus a time trial likely to form Giro opening ahead of transfer to Italy
The official announcement of the opening stages came on September 18 from organisers RCS Sport, at an event held at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem
The 2018 Giro big start will based around the holy city with a 10.1km time trial to kick off the race on May 5, before two sprint stages finish off the race’s time in Israel.
Stage two will see the riders move from the north of the country southwards with a 167km route from Haifa to Tel Aviv that looks destined to end in a sprint.
The sprinters will likely have their fun again on stage three with a longer 226km stage from Be’er Sheva to Eilat, with a long descent from Mitzpe Ramon to the finish. The race will then fly out of Eilat and back to Italy, with the rest of the stages to be revealed in November.
RCS has experience in the Middle East, having organised a Jerusalem sportive ride in 2013 with an estimated 1,500 riders. It has previously organised its big starts for the Giro as far afield as Belfast and Herning, Denmark, but never has the Italian tour or any Grand Tour gone outside of Europe for its start.
Israel is, however, classified as a European country by the UCI and features in the UCI Europe Tour rankings.
Even if the Giro restarts in the south of Italy after departing in the Middle East, the caravan would face a six-hour flight from Tel Aviv. As with recent editions of the Giro d’Italia, an extra travel rest day on the first Monday following the opening stage on Friday is expected to soften the journey.
RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni told Cycling Weekly during this year’s race that previous experience had laid the groundwork for such a trip.
“Now, we are able to duplicate it and it’s not as hard, so I’m not worried about 2018,” Vegni said. “I can confront anything, also far away from Italy’s borders.”
Money will come from Israel, which is pushing hard to grow its tourism sector. It would need an estimated £10 million (€12m) budget, with around €4 million going directly to the organiser for the hosting rights.
The Giro d’Italia celebrated its 100th edition in 2017 with a ‘Made in Italy’ route that travelled the two big islands, Sardinia and Sicily, and most of the boot of Italy before finishing in Milan. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) became the first Dutchman to win the Grand Tour following a dramatic last-day time trial.
RCS is planning an ending nearly as big as its Jerusalem beginning. Like the Tour often does with its end of race transfer, RCS wants to put the riders on the Freccia Rossa high-speed train from the Alps to finish in the capital city of Rome on May 27. The plan is to have the two religious capitals bookend the 2018 Giro.