Israel’s first professional cycling team, Israel Cycling Academy, has received one of the four “wild card” invitations to participate in the Giro D’Italia, the Grand Tour three-week bike racing event, which opens May 4 in Israel.
It’s the first time an Israeli team will compete in one of cycling’s Grand Tour races (which include the Giro D’Italia, Tour de France and Spain’s Vuelta a Espana) and the honor comes as Israel is set to become the first country outside Europe to host a leg in one of the continent’s three major cycling races.
Since 2006, the Giro has launched its race every other year with a high-profile “Big Start” outside Italy. Previous Big Starts have brought Giro riders to the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Belgium.
The “Big Start Israel” portion this years race will have three stages traversing the country, with 176 of the world’s top cyclists riding from the north of Israel down to the tip of the Red Sea.
Like the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, the Giro is a three-week-long event, usually held in late May and early June with routes that change each year. It normally includes two time trials, and a passage through the Alps, including the Dolomites.
The Giro wild cards are special invites for teams that don’t usually race at the Grand Tour level.
“Our dream, almost unthinkable only three years ago when we launched the team, is now coming true,” said team founder Ron Baron.
The Israel Cycling Academy has enhanced its roster in order to compete in the race, adding eight riders to form a team of 24, including riders with a proven record of victories in Grand Tours, explained Israel Cycling Academy team director Kjell Carlström in the team’s statement.
Five of the 24 riders are Israeli, said a spokesperson for the team.
Carlström said the next three months of training would help the Israeli team plan their race and rider strategy for the Giro, handling both the sprints and mountainous portions.