MILAN (AP) Next year’s Giro features two individual time trials, eight mountain finishes and eight stages for the sprinters in a balanced route that appears to suit four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who will race in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.
Organizers unveiled the route of the 2018 Giro d’Italia in a televised ceremony in Milan on Wednesday.
The 101st edition of the race runs from May 4-17 and consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,546.2 kilometers (2203.6 miles) with 44,000 meters of vertical elevation.
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Here are some aspects of the 2018 race:
A Grand Tour will start outside Europe for the first time, with the opening three stages of the Giro being held in Israel.
Organizers have been forced to navigate a tricky obstacle course, recognizing political sensitivities.
The route will not go through any land considered occupied by the international community – meaning it will circumvent the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state.
However, a group of about 15 protesters held Palestinian flags and posters criticizing the Giro outside the building hosting Wednesday’s presentation.
The Giro will start with a 9.7km individual time trial in Jerusalem before two stages set to suit the sprinters – a 167km leg from Haifa to Tel Aviv and then 229km from Be’er Sheva to Eilat.
The race will then transfer to Italy, and the island of Sicily, on an early rest day on May 7.
Rome will host the final stage of the Giro for the first time since 2009.
The 11.8km circuit of the center of Rome will be repeated 10 times and take in many historical sites. However, it will not visit the Vatican before the finish line at the Fori Imperiali, under the Colosseum.
It is likely to be more of a procession, with the race decided in the mountains earlier in the week.
”After such a challenging route, we will try to alleviate the pain of the athletes with the beauties of our city,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said.
Rome scrapped bids to host the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games because of financial concerns. Raggi was instrumental in the decision the second time and a joke was made during the Giro presentation that she had only accepted to host the Giro finish because organizers would fill the many holes in the city’s roads.
”We are trying to give back to Rome a lot of visibility in sport,” Raggi said. ”We want to continue bringing great sports events to Rome.”
There are eight summit finishes in next year’s Giro, including those at the end of three successive stages in what will surely be a decisive final week.
This year’s edition had just four, one more than the 2017 Tour de France.
There are three uphill finishes in the first nine days of racing and the first comes on stage six, with a 14.1km climb up the slopes of Mount Etna.
The final mountain stage of next year’s race packs 4,500 meters of vertical elevation into just three climbs and ends with a 19.2km climb in Cervinia.
The 11th stage of the Giro will honor 2011 winner Michele Scarponi, who died in a collision with a van during a training ride in April.
The route from Assisi to Osimo will pass by his house.
Scarponi, who was one of the most liked riders on the circuit, had two young twin boys. He died aged 37.
”If I think about Michele I can’t help but smile,” two-time Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali said. ”I still miss him. It would have been lovely to have him fighting next to me on the Zoncolan.”
Scarponi was awarded the 2011 Giro trophy after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title because of doping.
”Michele was a friend, thinking about him always makes me smile,” Contador said. ”Even if he was exhausted, he’d continue making jokes.”