Giro imitates Tour of Abu Dhabi. Is that a good thing?

Giro Camels

It would be tempting to say that the Giro d’Italia starts Tuesday, May 8th in Catania, Sicily. That of course would be leaving out the first three stages in and around Jerusalem, Israel.

You could call those opening stages a strange but lucrative opening to the Giro. According to reports, Israel paid a reported $12 million to host the Giro’s kickoff. That’s a fantastic financial move for RCS Sport but was it a great move for cycling fans?

While the Jerusalem backdrop of the first day time trial was impressive, the two days out in the desert were anything but photogenic. The helicopter shots of the brown, feature-less wasteland and empty roads devoid of any spectators were not exactly the breathtaking beauty of Italy.

There were no Israeli tifosi lining those roads — just a few camels oblivious to the bright-colored peloton flying past them and disappearing into the distance — a Giro version of a desert mirage.

While the final ten kilometers of stage two and three were exciting and dramatic sprint finishes — both won by Quickstep’s Elia Viviani — the majority of this desert Giro felt like a May sequel of February’s Tour of Abu Dhabi. That’s nobody’s idea of majestic or grand or spectacular. That’s unless you really, really like sand.

Other than Viviani’s two excellent performances, this felt like a weird transplant job, leaving the garden of Italy for a desiccated landscape devoid of inhabitants. Riders didn’t appreciate the elevated temperatures, the sketchy, bumpy roads and the boring, fan-free race routes outside of the city.

But you get what you pay for — or rather, what Israel paid for. Twelve million will bring the race to Jerusalem but it doesn’t buy excitement and pageantry. But never fear — time to get pumped — the Giro d’Italia really starts tomorrow, May 8th.



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