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Middle East Tour to cross Israeli-Jordan border

Joe Robinson
22 May 2018

Race to cross borders in attempt to spread peace in Middle East through sport

In the build-up to the Giro d'Italia’s big start in Jerusalem just under three weeks ago, Mauro Vegni of race organiser RCS repeatedly emphasised that sport and politics should be kept separate.

The remarks caused more than a little controversy, with many criticising what they perceived as wilful ignorance towards ongoing issues in the Middle East. 

But with the Giro now back on its own soil, one organisation is attempting to do what many felt the Giro missed its own opportunity to do – use sport as a means of bridging the divides between different nations and ideologies.

From 8th March to 14th March 2019, the inaugural Middle East Tour will take place, with 500 riders taking on a seven-stage race in Israel, Palestine and neighbouring Jordan.

Starting with a circuit around the Jordanian city of Amman, the race will then take in stages starting in Petra, Aqaba, Eilat and Jericho before the finish in Jerusalem.

The event is aimed at using sport as a tool to spread peace, and crosses the border between the three Middle Eastern territories several times in a bid to connect nations that have been political adversaries.

The local and national authorities of Israel, Jordan and Palestine have already come together in support of the event and to ensure the safe passage of all those attempting the seven-day ride.

The concept of the race comes from former professional rider Gerhard Schonbacher and UCI commissaire Ido Eindor, and today’s announcement comes after five years of planning, including a test run last year, with leading women’s pro Annemiek Van Vlueten among those taking part.

Talking about this new UCI event, Schonbacher spoke of the important factors surrounding this week of cycling.

‘It is our goal to promote peace through the participation of cyclists from all over the world as well as from local participants from the Middle East,’ he said.

‘We have put together a comprehensive five-year plan. It makes us happy that all participating authorities are behind our idea, seek to make this project work and give us all possible support. Sport, more than anything else, goes far beyond politics. It has the power to achieve global unity.’

Middle East Tour stages

Stage 1: Amman - Amman, 30km
Stage 2: Dead Sea - Petra, 53km
Stage 3: Petra - Aqaba, 131km
Stage 4: Eilat - Mitzpe Ramon, 151km
Stage 5: Mitzpe Ramon - Neve Zohar, 136km
Stage 6a: Neve Zohar - Jericho, 82km
Stage 6b: Jericho - Jerusalem

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