Israel has embraced the Giro d’Italia. It’s even being broadcast in Hebrew on local television. Israelis have lined the roads, streets and motorways to get a glimpse of the riders racing through their part of the world.
The final stage of the Giro’s Israel leg took riders through the undulations of the Negev desert. The start location of Be’er Sheva—the largest city in the Southern District and “Gateway to the Negev”—has a rich history for Kiwis, as it’s the site of a cemetery for our soldiers of the First World War. The ANZAC Memorial Centre tells the story of ANZAC cavalrymen who defeated the Turks at Be’er Sheva, a battle many consider the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse during WWI.
The Stage Three route took riders on a long run across a rocky landscape, which became rougher after emerging from the Ramon Crater, with a categorised climb set in Faran River. The final part of the route descended slightly towards Eilat, located at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea.
The crowds were filled with supports and beachgoers; we were, after all, in a resort town. As the town is surrounded by international borders, Egyptian and Jordanian security was super tight. After a chaotic scramble to get to the finish line, we caught up with Tom Scully and George Bennett.
Straight after the finish, George Bennett turns to Sam Bewley and offers him a sip of his drink: they quickly chat about how crazy the final 40k were. You can see the bond these Kiwis have together. We ask, “How was the stage?”
George Bennett replies, “It was a tough stage and hectic in the final section. There were, like, four lead-out trains spread across the road all trying to control the race. And we were hitting over 70km/h.” He flicks through his power numbers and reports, “I didn’t average many watts but it was still demanding. I’m really happy to be heading to Italy. Good to get out of Israel and enjoy some croissants and espressos.” How was the team? “They were awesome today, they protected me all day and I couldn’t fault them. Especially in the chaotic parts.” Our last question is, how’s the body? George replies, “Hard to know, it’s still early days. We’ll see how it stacks up over the next few weeks.” He seems upbeat and focused on the task ahead.
We turn to Tom Scully for his impressions. “There’s a ton of sand out there!” he says emphatically. “But it’s good to see the people come out and support an event like this. They probably don’t get to see stuff like this that much.” Asked if he helped Sacha Modolo in the final, Tom replies, “Well, I actually had a mechanical at eight km to go. So that was a little disappointing. But, I’m now looking forward to getting to Italy and seeing the Giro over there.” And how’s the body feeling? “It’s not too bad and I’m getting into it. Think we will see over the next few weeks.” We keep getting interrupted by kids wanting his bidon. Tom simply replies, “Nah, I need that one.”
Words & Images: Liam Friary & Brakethrough Media
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