Giro d’Italia reaches roads of Jerusalem

ROME – For the first time in the race’s history, the 101st Giro d’Italia started outside of Europe, getting underway in Jerusalem, as hotly-tipped rider, Chris Froome, suffered a setback, crashing during a practice session.

 The first stage of the tour kicked off with a 9.7km Individual Trial Time (ITT), involving a highly technical ride through the winding streets of Jerusalem before finishing near the walls of the Old City.

 Italy’s Fabio Sabatini, racing for Quick-step Floors, opened this year’s competition, leading a pack of 176 riders, tailed by Tom Dumoulin, who will begin the defence of his title and bring the first day to a close.

 Froome is hoping to become just the third rider in history to win three successive Grand Tours, following Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana victories last year. However, the 32-year-old’s preparations were hampered by a heavy fall in practice prior to his ITT on Friday afternoon.

 Team Sky announced that “there is no significant damage or cause for concern” for their rider. Yet, the crash certainly comes as an unwelcome addition to an already intense spotlight on Froome, whose level of anti-asthma drug salbutamol was found at twice the legal level after last year’s Vuelta.

 Security had been a concern in the build-up to this year’s race, but Israeli start director, Daniel Benaim, assured fans on Thursday that crowd safety was an absolute priority, saying that “political and religious confines are overcome in sport.”

 Around 70 security cameras have been deployed across the course and Benaim added, “we want to make you say, when you leave this land, that Israel is a safe country, that you have felt safe and we guarantee the utmost security for everyone.”

 The next two stages of this year’s Giro will be held across Israel before the tour cuts to Italy on May 8, starting in Catania. The 21st and final stage will take place on May 27 in the Italian capital.