GIRO D’ITALIA cyclists at the entrance to Yad Vashem..
(photo credit: COURTESY YAD VASHEM)
The Israeli public and race organizers welcomed the success of the opening two days of the Giro d’Italia’s “Big Start” in Israel. The first day, Friday, saw a 9.7-km. individual time trial in Jerusalem, while on the second day, the 176 competitors covered 167 km. from Haifa to Tel Aviv.
The third stage, on Sunday, will see riders go from Beersheba to Eilat (226 km.). The riders will then enjoy a rest day before resuming the 21-stage three-week race in southern Italy.
Since 2006, the Giro has commenced every other year with a high-profile “Big Start” outside of Italy. This year’s Big Start in Israel is the first time the Giro, the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España has been held outside Europe.
Honorary president of Big Start Israel Sylvan Adams said it went “flawlessly,” adding, “I was filled with pride as I saw my countrymen, women and children line the streets to cheer for the racers, especially those from the home team, Israel Cycling Academy. The TV images of magnificent Israel were breathtaking. The Italian organizers, RCS, were simply in awe of how well it went, including the enormously positive media coverage around the world.”
In Friday’s first stage, many thousands of Israelis lined the ancient streets of Jerusalem as the riders set off
individually near the iconic Jaffa Gate, passing landmarks including the Knesset and Supreme Court. The biggest cheers were reserved for local riders Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv, who made history as the first Israelis to compete in a Grand Tour, on behalf of Israel Cycling Academy.
“I felt the ground tremble when I started,” said Sagiv. “It was an experience I’ve never had before. I started and all the crowd was cheering for me along the whole course.”
Niv added, “Any time I had pain or fatigue in my legs, I just looked to the sides and felt the crowd pushing for me and cheering for me and suddenly I could push harder. It was an amazing experience.”
The crowd was treated to an exciting spectacle, with last year’s Giro winner, Dutch star Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb, taking the first stage with the final ride of the day. His time of 12:02 was two seconds faster than Rohan Dennis of BMC Racing.
Dumoulin was awarded the first Maglia Rosa of the 101st Giro d’Italia, the pink jersey worn by the overall leader. “Jerusalem helped me, I loved these streets,” said Dumoulin. “This is an exciting city with a special culture. The crowds were amazing for a country that isn’t so aware of the sport.”
The second day of the race, Saturday, got underway in Haifa. The riders were again welcomed enthusiastically by tens of thousands of Israelis lining the streets. For much of the race, Israel Cycling Academy’s Canadian rider Guillaume Boivin was in the lead, to the joy of the home crowd. However, Boivin was eventually caught by the Peloton, leading to a bunch sprint finish along the Tel Aviv sea-front promenade. Italian Elia Viviani of Quick- Step Floors came out on top, winning the stage. Israel Cycling Academy’s Guy Sagiv eventually finished an impressive 35th in the stage.
“The thing that surprised me the most were the people in Israel,” said Viviani. “Fantastic fans, a lot of people on the roads. That is definitely what I will take home with me.”
Australia’s Rohan Dennis took over the overall lead, one second ahead of Dumoulin.