Tel Aviv dedicated the Middle East’s first velodrome indoor cycling racetrack on Tuesday as part of the celebrations surrounding the Giro D’Italia opening leg in Israel this weekend.
Sylvan Adams, the Canadian real estate mogul who helped bring the prestigious cycling race’s international start to Israel, hopes the Velodrome will be able to hold the 2021 World Junior Championships for track cycling.
A velodrome is an indoor arena for track cycling, a special type of bicycle race with steeply banked walls. The bicycles do not have brakes and racers utilize the angle of the walls to maneuver around opponents. It is a highly strategic form of racing that transfers well to all other types of cycle racing, including road races such as the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.
The Sylvan Adams Velodrome is located near the Yarkon Park and close to Israel’s Olympic Center. An official from the Union Cycliste Internationale, the international sport governing body for cycling, was on hand to measure the track and ensure it meets Olympic standards.
The wooden track has steeply sloped sides that sometimes reach as steep as 45 degrees, giving cyclists the appearance of riding almost parallel to the ground as they whip around corners.
The NIS 70 million ($19 million) project required 900 tons of steel and 100,000 screws. When it is finished in September, the stadium will seat 620 people and there will be dressing rooms, doctor’s offices, drug test areas for competitions, and bicycle stores open to the public.
“Three years ago, this crazy guy on a bike came to me and said that it can’t be that Tel Aviv doesn’t have any professional cycling facilities,” mayor Ron Huldai said on Tuesday morning at the official dedication. Adams paid for 4/7 of the project, and the city’s Tel Aviv Foundation paid for the remainder. Huldai said the city decided to name the track after Adams to honor the work he has done raising awareness about professional cycling in Israel through the Giro d’Italia.
“In Tel Aviv, the bicycle revolution took place long ago and we became a city where the bicycle is our daily vehicle and an alternative to private cars,” Huldai said. He added he hopes that Israel will soon be able to replicate the country’s success in Judo in the cycling field. Last week, Tel Aviv hosted the 2018 European Championships for Judo, and Israel’s Sagi Muki took home the gold in the under-81 kg class.
Adams said he hopes to replicate Britain’s success in the cycling world after the country invested in velodromes for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and helped grow a generation of young cyclists. Adams said he was especially excited to welcome Israel’s neighbors to the velodrome during the Giro d’Italia. Both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are fielding teams at the race, and there have been no issues with the race start location in Israel, race organizers said.
“We hope to host international competitions here, including with the participation of our neighbors in the region, with the aim of using sport to lay the groundwork for being good neighbors and bringing nations together,” said Adams. “When the riders from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates arrive here today and see the velodrome, they will know that they are always welcome and we can compete and train together.”
Adams added that he had “tears in his eyes” as he took the first lap around the Velodrome.
Almost 200 spandex-clad world-class cyclists will be whizzing down Israel’s highways this weekend as the country hosts the start of the Giro D’Italia from May 4 to 6. The Giro D’Italia is the second-most prestigious cycling race after the Tour de France.
The first three days of the 21-day race will be held in Israel, consisting of a 10-kilometer time trial in Jerusalem, a 167-kilometer race from Haifa to Tel Aviv, and a 226-kilometer race from Beersheba to Eilat. Afterwards, the 176 riders from 22 teams will fly to Italy to ride the remaining 18 stages of the race, finishing in Rome.
It is the first time in the 101-year history of the Giro D’Italia that the race will start outside of Europe, though it has started in neighboring European countries during different years.
Roads and highways along the race route in Israel, including Route 2 and Route 90, will be closed during portions of the race. Air traffic to Eilat will also be affected for about four hours on the event’s last day.
Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli will be the official presenter to winners of each day’s stages in Israel.
Information about road closures, shuttles, race updates, and spectator suggestions is available on the Giro D’Italia Big Start Israel official site.