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The first ever Tour d’Israel is due to set off on Sunday, covering 747 kilometers from the beaches of Nahariya to the shore of the Red Sea.
A major last-minute snag, however, is threatening to shut down the entire five-day bike race before it even gets moving.
The tour’s administration has been in talks with the police for weeks over payments for traffic control.
On Wednesday it was hit with an ultimatum: unless the Tour d’Israel pays a sum of NIS 214,000 to the police two days before the race begins, the authorities will not grant the cyclists the necessary permission to proceed.
“We’re waiting to see what’s going to happen,” said Yaron Michaeli, a spokesman for the tour. “We don’t have a final answer; we’re waiting to see if the police will agree to less money, because they are asking for too much.”
According to Michaeli, there are three potential outcomes to the negotiations that are currently running in an attempt to break through the impasse. There is a chance that the tour could go ahead as planned, it may be cancelled entirely or a day could be cut off the original itinerary.
The tour currently has 124 registered participants, 44 of whom live outside of Israel. The challenge begins in Nahariya and calls for overnights in Achziv, Metula, Nazareth, Ein Bokek, and Mitzpe Ramon before finishing in Eilat.
Participants will ride in teams of two with daily segments recorded
based on the slower rider’s time. With nine separate racing categories
based on age and gender, the tour aims to draw from a diverse pool of
local and international cyclists.
For now, though, the first Tour d’Israel is in jeopardy. The picture
should clear up by Friday morning, but as of now nothing is certain.
“We’ll see,” Michaeli said. “I’m not optimistic.”