One of cycling’s biggest races will begin outside of Europe for the first time, it has been announced.
The 2018 Giro d’Italia’s first three stages will take place in Israel, making the May race next year the biggest sporting event the country has hosted.
“The start from Jerusalem is a metaphorical bridge between our two lands, made up of history, culture and traditions,” said Italian Sports Minister Luca Lotti, who was in Jerusalem to make the announcement.
The first day of the Corsa Rosa will be a 10-kilometer time trial in Jerusalem that starts and ends near the historic Old City.
The second day will be a 167km ride from Haifa in northern Israel to Tel Aviv, while the final day will be a 226km race from Beer Sheva through the Negev desert to the resort city of Eilat in the south of the country.
“This bike race across the Holy Land will be a fascinating journey through time covering thousands of years. I’m sure it will be a thrilling experience for everyone,” said Israeli Sports Minster Miri Regev.
It’s the most Israel has spent on a sporting event, Regev said, but she wouldn’t reveal how much.
This will mark the 13th time the Giro d’Italia, one of cycling’s three Grand Tours (the other two are the Tour de France and Spain’s Vuelta a Espaa), has started somewhere other than Italy — but none have started outside of Europe.
The announcement is a marketing coup for Israel, which will use the Giro d’Italia as a major tourism opportunity for the Holy Land.