The Giro d'Italia has moved back to traditional territory in Italy from its grand start in Israel, but the lingering impression is that the Middle East country embraced the multi-stage cycle race with a fervour.

Israelis lined the roads, streets and motorways in their thousands to get a glimpse of the riders racing through their part of the world.

The final stage of three in Israel 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 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.

In the chaos of mingling riders, support staff and media after the stage finish, won by Italian sprinter Elia Viviani, I caught up with two of the three Kiwis in the peloton, Tom Scully and George Bennett.

Lotto JumboNL rider Bennett had just shared his water bottle with the third Kiwi, Sam Bewley of the rival Mitchelton Scott team.

Bennett described the stage as tough and hectic towards the end. "There were, like, four lead-out trains spread across the road all trying to control the race," he said, "And we were hitting over 70kph."

Newly-crowned race leader Rohan Dennis later commented that the peloton was averaging 64kph in the final 30 minutes.

According to Scully, in this part of Israel all he could see was sand. "There's a ton of sand out there!" he said. "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."

Scully got caught out with a mechanical failure 8km from the finish, so wasn't able to help his EF Education First team leader Sacha Modolo at the end. "So that was a little disappointing," he said.

"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."​