The Giro d’Italia cycling race will open next year’s event in Israel, marking the first time any leg of the sport’s Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.
Organizers said Thursday that details of the exact route of the three-day leg in Israel will be announced next week, with Italian and Israeli ministers making the announcement in Jerusalem along with Spanish cycling great Alberto Contador.
“We are proud to host in Israel any international competition and of course the Giro, which is an important competition with the world’s best riders,” a spokesman for Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev told AFP.
More than 175 of the world’s best cyclists will arrive in Israel for the race, one of cycling’s top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta.
Hosting the race’s start will mark a major sporting coup for Israel.
The Giro has started 11 times outside of Italy in the past, but never outside of Europe. The Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana have also never begun outside of Europe.
Viewed by hundreds of millions across the globe, it will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Israel and is expected to draw tens of thousands of tourists and cycling enthusiasts.
“This is a hugely exciting moment for cycling and for Israel. An event of this magnitude is something that the country will always remember,” said Daniel Benaim, CEO and owner of Comtec Group, the Giro’s Israeli production company.
A delegation from the Giro d’Italia is currently in the country, scoping out locations for the race.
According to Cycling Weekly, it will begin next year in Jerusalem with a possible time trial on May 5, followed by two stages in southern Israel and Tel Aviv, along the Mediterranean.
Contador will soon be arriving in Israel after ending his career in front of his home crowd at the Vuelta. Considered one of Spain’s greatest riders, the 34-year-old won that event three times, along with the Tour de France twice and the Giro d’Italia twice. He was stripped of a third Tour victory for doping.
Italian racer Ivan Basso, a two-time Giro winner, will also attend the ceremonial announcement in Jerusalem next week.