(Reuters) - Next year’s Giro d’Italia promises a volcanic opening week with Mount Etna confirmed on Wednesday as the first summit finish in the 101st edition of the race.
And for the first time one of cycling’s three Grand Tours will venture outside Europe, with the three-week race beginning in Jerusalem, the most southerly starting point ever used.
Stage one will be a 10.1 km individual time trial in Jerusalem on May 4, followed by road stages between Haifa and Tel Aviv (167 km) and Beersheba and Eilat (226 km).
The race will then head back to southern Italy with stage six featuring a climb of Mount Etna in Sicily on May 10.
“The climb towards Etna from this side is unprecedented even for me,” Italy’s twice Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali, who will be one of the favorites next year, said at the route ceremony.
Britain’s Chris Froome will begin the race for the first time since 2010, trying to become only the third rider to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.
“I feel as if my cycling career started in Italy in some ways. I lived there for three years when I began my career as a professional, so having the opportunity to go back to the Giro in the position I am now in, and with the opportunity I have, feels in some ways like completing a circle,” Froome, winner of this year’s Tour de France and Vuelta, said.
Eight summit finishes await Froome and the rest of the 2018 peloton, including two huge days in the mountains in the final week which could prove decisive in the battle for the Maglia Rosa, which promises to be one of the fiercest ever.
Stage 14 ends with the 22 percent gradients of Monte Zoncolan while stage 19 to the ski resort of Bardonecchia features the winding gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre and a brutal 7.25km climb to the Jafferau ski station.
The 3,546.2 km trek will end in Rome on May 27.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Alexander Smith