The Israeli sports ministry has today (Thursday) confirmed that the country will host the ‘Big Start’ of the 2018 Giro d’Italia cycling race.
In July, it was reported that Israel had secured hosting rights to the event for the first time in the history of the Giro, and last month further reports emerged that the news would be confirmed in September.
The AFP news agency has now quoted a spokesperson for Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev as saying plans have been confirmed and an official press conference outlining details of the event will take place on Monday.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
According to the Associated Press news agency, a Giro delegation is currently in the country to explore possible locations for the race. Earlier reports suggested that the 2018 Giro, one of cycling’s three ‘Grand Tour’ events, will open with a time trial in the Old City of Jerusalem, with Tel Aviv and the south of Israel candidates to host two more stages.
The Giro d’Italia has never before started outside Europe. Washington D.C. in the US was close to a deal to stage the Big Start for the 2012 event, but was unable to finalise an agreement to host the event.
Daniel Benaim, chief executive and owner of Comtec Group, the Giro’s Israeli production partner, told the AP: “This is a hugely exciting moment for cycling and for Israel. An event of this magnitude is something that the country will always remember.”
Meanwhile, Wales has stepped up its efforts to host a stage of a future edition of the Giro after “positive discussions” between the Welsh Government and race organiser RCS Sport.
A Welsh Government spokesperson told BBC Sport Wales that talks took place last weekend, after RCS representatives visited the country’s capital of Cardiff to attend the finale of the Tour of Britain cycling race.
The spokesperson said: “We are continuing the very positive discussions with RCS about hosting the Giro d’Italia. This visit was an excellent opportunity to showcase Wales, to start building relationships.”
Wales previously declared an interest in hosting the opening stage of the Tour de France, another of cycling’s ‘Grand Tour’ events, but the spokesperson said that the government was unable to come to an agreement with race organisers, and has opted to target other Grand Tour races.
The spokesperson added: “We have made clear our ambition to host a future Grand Tour event. In recent years we have made contact with the owners of all three events and have been keen to explore options.
“The ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France… have advised that there are no short-term opportunities for Wales to host a Grand Depart of the Tour de France.”