Could Aqua Blue Sport be set for a ride at the Giro d’Italia in 2018?

Sources say the Irish team will ride their second Grand Tour at the Giro 2018 with Italian teams left out

6 September 2017
72nd Vuelta a Espana
Stage 17 : Villadiego – Los Machucos
DENIFL Stefan (AUT) Aqua Blue Sport, at Los Machucos
Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA

Sources say the Irish team will ride their second Grand Tour at the Giro 2018 with Italian teams left out

Chris Froome should aim to win all three Grand Tours in 2018, says Giro d’Italia director

Mauro Vegni hopes to tempt Froome back to Italy

Chris Froome could win a fifth Tour de France in 2018

After winning the Tour and Vuelta in 2017, Froome should aim to go one better and win all three Grand Tours in 2018, according to the director of the Giro.

Giro hopes politics stay on sidelines with Israeli start

JERUSALEM (VN) — Giro d’Italia officials are hopeful the focus will remain on bike racing when the Italian grand tour starts in Israel for its 2018 edition.

Officials downplayed the possibility of politics becoming an issue as the Giro takes its “Big Start” beyond the European realm for the first time with three stages in Israel in May.

Speaking to VeloNews on Monday following the official announcement of three days of racing in Israel, Giro director Mauro Vegni said politics was not a major part of the conversation with Israeli officials.

“There are some difficulties about coming to Israel, but they are logistical, not political,” Vegni said. “The country is trying to change how it is perceived in the world, so maybe it is time to stop talking about these political questions. In the end, the decision to come to Israel was easy.”

Israeli officials are also keen to put the emphasis on sport. They hope that the divisive and emotional political questions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won’t overshadow what many wish will be a chance for the nation to show off a different side of Israel that often does not make international headlines.

“Our message to the world is clear: Jerusalem is open to all,” said Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. “Viewers around the globe will watch some of the world’s best cyclists ride alongside the walls of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City and our historic sites.”

The decision to bring the Giro to Israel won’t come without its detractors. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has prompted calls for an international boycott and divestment effort by some quarters critical of Israel’s policies.

This week, a pro-Palestinian group started a social media campaign (#RelocateTheRace) to try to pressure race officials to change the location of the start of the 2018 edition.

Israeli officials and backers, however, are hoping to use the Giro to show off another side of Israel in what will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation. The stage routes will take in the beaches, deserts, ancient sites and modern cities, and wooded hillsides that dot the Israeli landscape.

Sylvan Adams, a Canadian billionaire who recently moved to Israel, is one of the main benefactors in the nation’s booming interest in cycling. As honorary president of the Giro effort, he is also one of the co-owners of the Israel Cycling Academy, the Professional-Continental team angling to receive a Giro wild-card bid, as well as helping to fund Israel’s first indoor velodrome.

“This historic ‘Big Start’ is about showcasing our country. This country today is not your grandfather’s Israel,” Adams said unabashedly. “Cycling is outdoors, so how better can we about having so many people see our normal Israel, the Israel they don’t normally read about every day in the newspaper.”

There is also some concern whether or not the two WorldTour teams backed by Muslim sponsors — Bahrain-Merida and UAE-Emirates — might not want to participate. Israeli citizens are not allowed to travel to the United Arab Emirates, and neither UAE nor Bahrain officially recognizes the state of Israel.

On Wednesday, Bahrain-Merida released a statement on their team website indicating they are planning on racing the 2018 Giro. Without saying so directly, the team confirmed it would race the Giro despite its start in Israel.

UAE-Emirates officials could not be contacted, but Vegni said he does not expect any problems.

“We already talked to all the teams before signing off on this,” Vegni said. “We expect all the WorldTour teams to race the Giro.”

In general, cycling has turned a blind eye to potentially divisive political issues. Qatar, China, UAE and Bahrain, all nations with human rights concerns, have been involved in elite cycling events or teams without resistance from major sporting governing bodies and institutions.

Ministers of tourism from both Italy and Israel joined officials from RCS Sport in Monday’s announcement. Negotiations with Israeli contacts began about 18 months ago, and the project reached the highest levels of the Israeli government, including approval from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, before receiving the green light.

Local media reported that RCS Sport will receive 12 million euros for the project, a fee that also includes transportation and logistical costs. The project is a major coup for RCS Sport, both financially and in terms of ambition.

Another concern is security, but the Giro route is steering clear of any potential hotspots. Officials outlined three stages across areas of Israel that deliberately avoid trouble zones. The routes include a time trial around western Jerusalem. That’s followed by road stages along the northern Mediterranean coast of Israel, between Haifa and Tel Aviv, and another across the southern desert to Eilat, all far away from possible conflicts along Israel’s borders.

The peloton and entourage will return to Italy in a flight of about two-and-a-half hours. The remainder of the Giro route will be revealed over the winter.

Two-time Giro champion Alberto Contador, a guest of organizers at Monday’s announcement, said he doesn’t expect security to be a major concern.

“The situation in the world is a little crazy right now, and it isn’t just in one country, but all the world,” Contador said. “I’m sure the riders will be happy with the security situation. I visited Israel for two weeks in 2012, and we never had any problems.”

Ran Margaliot, a former pro and manager of the Israel Cycling Academy team, said Israel will embrace the Giro’s arrival as a chance to show a different side of their nation and people.

“When you practice sport, you reach people through their heart. We hope we can change a little bit about what they think about our country,” Margaliot said. “This is the reason we are here. We are trying to change what people think about our country. We think it’s important to let the world know what we know is normal Israel.”

Israel is an evocative, if divisive place. Everyone involved in the Giro project are hoping that the bicycle will help build bridges between the walls that divide many.

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Giro boss challenges Froome to record-setting attempt

JERUSALEM (VN) — Giro d’Italia boss Mauro Vegni is hoping a chance to make history will lure Chris Froome to next year’s corsa rosa.

“It would be an opportunity for Froome to make history,” Vegni told VeloNews. “No one’s ever won three grand tours in a row like this. He could try if he comes to the Giro.”

Vegni is putting the challenge to Froome: come to the Giro, and try to make it three in a row.

It’s an interesting ruse. With back-to-back wins in the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a España, if Froome won the 2018 Giro, it would be something never done, at least in this order. Bernard Hinault won three-straight grand tours in 1982-83, when the Badger won the Giro-Tour in 1982, and the Vuelta in April in 1983.

Eddy Merckx won four straight grand tours — the 1972 Giro and Tour, and the 1973 Vuelta and Giro — when the Vuelta was held in April.

Since moving the Vuelta in 1995 from April to late summer, Froome became the first rider this year to pull of the Tour-Vuelta double in that order.

Vegni knows that the missing jewel on Froome’s otherwise shimmering palmares is the Giro, and hopes that Froome will eventually want to fill out his palmares.

“That’s the last big challenge for him. He’s won the Tour and Vuelta, now it remains the Giro,” Vegni said. “We hope that this will help push Froome to come to the Giro. We are hoping that he can confirm this challenge.”

This year, Froome balked at a Giro attempt despite a course that strongly favored him.

Will Froome take up the challenge in 2018, with the Giro taking an historic start in Israel? Vegni said he hopes so.

So far, Froome has been hesitant about committing to the Giro. He’s one short of joining the “Five Win” club, and suggested the Tour will be his priority in 2018.

“A fifth Tour in 2018 will be the priority and focus,” Froome said after winning the Vuelta. “We will have to see what the courses look like next year, and then sit down with the team to draw up plans.”

So far, Froome has steered clear of the Giro since his rise as a generational grand tour powerhouse. In fact, Froome hasn’t raced the Giro since 2010, when he was still anonymous in the pack. He finished 32nd in 2009 and did not finish the 2010 race.

Since then, Froome has raced 12 grand tours — six Tours and six Vueltas — with an impressive track record. He’s won five of those 12 (four Tours, one Vuelta), finished second four times (two Tours, two Vueltas), DNF’d two times (2014 Tour, 2015 Vuelta), and only once finished off the podium in races he’s completed (fourth, 2012 Vuelta).

With four Tour titles and one Vuelta win, Froome needs the Giro to join the elite company of only six riders who’ve won all three of cycling’s grand tours.

Vegni denied suggestions that the Giro designs its route with the hope of attracting a big name like Froome. He said that’s a dangerous bet because there is no guarantee the rider will come. On paper, this year’s Giro looked ideal for Froome. Instead, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) fended off a deep field of climbers to win the 2017 maglia rosa.

The official Giro course will be unveiled this winter. Until then, the Giro will be holding out hope that Froome will race, at least sooner or later.

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‘Chris Froome won’t remain one of the greats without the Giro d’Italia on his palmarès’

Giro director Mauro Vegni says he is working to bring the four-time Tour de France winner to the race

Chris Froome at the 2017 Tour de France (Sunada)

Giro director Mauro Vegni says he is working to bring the four-time Tour de France winner to the race