A member of Team UAE sets off. (Hillel Maeir/TPS) (Hillel Maeir/TPS)
Giro d'Italia

Teams from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), neither of which has diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, are competing in the Giro d’Italia in Israel.

By: Mara Vigevani/TPS and United with Israel Staff

The Giro d’Italia cycle race is not only bringing unprecedented attention to Israel with a worldwide audience of a billion viewers, it is also leading to some unexpected “cycle diplomacy.”

In its 101-year history, the Giro has previously opened a dozen times outside Italy but never outside Europe.

Eight cyclists from Team Emirates landed in Israel on Tuesday to take part in the race’s Big Start in Jerusalem, even though the United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

“We are very happy that in the United Arab Emirates interest in cycling is growing and we are sure our fans in the United Arab Emirates will follow us also in Israel,” cyclist Fabio Aru told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on the sidelines of a press conference at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel last Wednesday. Aru, an Italian professional road bicycle racer who finished second in the 2015 Giro d’Italia before taking his first Grand Tour win at 2015 Vuelta an España, is one of UAE Team Emirates’ cyclists.

“Sport and cycling unify people, this is a fact, we are ready for this race,” he said. “My team and I arrived yesterday in Israel willing to compete at our best in this important race.”

While the UAE team was launched in Abu Dhabi in January 2017 and rides under UAE colors, all of its riders are professionals from other countries, mostly from strong European cycling nations.

On Tuesday, at the ceremony to unveil the Middle East’s first velodrome in Tel Aviv, Canadian-Israeli real-estate mogul Sylvan Adams, who played an important role in bringing the Giro to Israel, said he wants the UAE team to know that “they are always welcome and that we can compete and practice together.”

First Israeli Participation in the Giro

The 176 cyclists are made up of 22 teams of eight, including the first two Israelis to participate in a Grand Tour event as part of the inaugural Israel Cycling Academy team. The race will then move to Italy and the island of Sicily for an early rest day on May 7.

The event consists of 21 days of racing, totaling 3,546.2 kilometers (2,203.6 miles) with 44 kilometers (27 miles) of vertical elevation.

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“…for the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land… a land of wheat and barley, vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey”
(Deuteronomy 8:7-8)