Giro great for Israel, but not all the riders were so happy

  • JackSportGiro (2)
If the idea of hosting the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia cycle races was to market Israel to the world, it proved a great success.
by JACK MILNER | May 10, 2018

Millions of people worldwide watched the televised event as about 184 cyclists competed in a time trial around the streets of Jerusalem, starting on May 4. Their second stage took the riders from Haifa to the north and then down to Tel Aviv, and the final stage took them from Be’ersheba to Eilat.

Through most of the stages, the streets were lined with fans, many dressed in pink as they mimicked the Maglia Rosa, the jersey worn by the tour leader.

Every time the cyclists approached a village, kibbutz, factory or noteworthy place, an explanation about the place would appear on the TV screen.

No doubt, brand Israel benefited greatly from the tour. This will delight Sylvan Adams, the top cyclist from Canada who’s been instrumental in bringing the Giro to Israel.

However, it is the cyclists’ performances that will ultimately decide on its success or failure.

Anybody who has been to the Maccabiah Games will know that in Israel, things tend to be done differently from anywhere else.

Many of the issues that cropped up during the first three days of the Giro d’Italia were not the fault of Israeli organisation, but rather, due to logistics.

With the major part of the tour continuing in Sicily, some 2 700km away, most of the teams had to bring the minimum of equipment to Israel. The South African-based Dimension Data team explained some of their difficulties. Said sports director Alex Sans Vega. “Logistically speaking, it’s the most complicated start we’ve ever done.”

This was because Israel is outside of Europe – further away than any grand tour has ventured before. Some non-European riders required visas.“We are using the same support staff for the entire Giro,” Sans Vega said. “But we do have staffers waiting for us in Sicily with our buses, team cars and other equipment that we didn’t bring to Israel. It was a big operation to organise everything.”

The Dimension Data team comprises Louis Meintjes (SA), Ben O’Connor (Aus), Ryan Gibbons (SA), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (SA), Natnael Berhane (Eritrea), Igor Anton (Spain), Ben King (USA) and Jaco Venter (SA).

No team brought their team buses from Europe, though the Israel Cycling Academy had a local team bus at their beck and call. Israelis provided passenger vans, team cars and small cargo vans to move around the entourage.

Most of the technical equipment was flown to Israel last week from Milan in a 747-cargo flight. Half of the plane was for the teams, while RCS Sport (the company which organised the cycle race) filled the other half with all their start and finish-line materials, including podiums, banners, VIP tents and other equipment.

Each team was allowed one big container box on the cargo plane. Dimension Data stuffed theirs full of three bikes per rider — one time-trial frame and two road frames — as well as wheels, tyres, helmets, clothes and everything else needed to race. Every item had to be registered, valued and catalogued with Israeli customs offices.

On Monday, everything was packed back into the plane for the flight from Eilat to Catania, in Sicily.

“We brought the minimum,” Sans Vega said. “The Israelis set up all of the vehicles and equipment we needed. Everything was very well organised.”

But Dutch rider and defending champion Tom Dumoulin criticised Sunday’s wind-blasted finale of the Israel leg of the race at the end of the 229km stage, which was buffeted by strong desert winds and sand. Other riders also complained.

Dumoulin remains second overall, one second behind Australia’s Rohan Dennis. After finishing safely in the main peloton (group or pack of riders), the Dutch cyclist added:

“The first day was okay in Jerusalem, and it’s nice because I won the time trial. But the past two days haven’t been so nice. It was too dangerous.”

The best performer in the Dimension Data team so far has been Louis Meintjes, who left Israel lying in 31st spot.

Ironically, the Palestinian authorities were furious about the teams from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain taking part in the opening legs as they broke the boycott of Israel which has been in place since 1948.


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