Bike on

There are those who argue that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions crusade is irrelevant, that fighting a marginal movement is a waste of time and money; and there are those who do believe that BDS is a threat, but that publicly fighting against it only provides more attention than it would otherwise draw.

Either way, there is no greater antidote to those who would isolate, marginalize and demonize Israel than when a high-profile world-class event arrives in the Jewish state without any qualms or hesitation.

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That is why Israelis should take great pride in hosting one of the most prestigious international cycling races this week, when the opening stage this Friday of the 101st running of the Giro d’Italia race takes place. In the world of cycling, this Tour of Italy is a big deal, second only to the Tour de France on the sport’s calendar of events.

The 21-day race begins with a 10-kilometer time trial in Jerusalem, followed by a 167-kilometer race from Haifa to Tel Aviv, and a 226-kilometer run from Beersheba to Eilat. After that, the race moves to Italy, where there will be 18 additional stages until the finish line in Rome on May 27.

This is the first time any of cycling’s three Grand Tour races – the Giro, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España – is being held outside Europe (and two Israelis will ride on Friday, marking the first blue-and-white cyclists to compete in a Grand Tour).

Israel’s amateur-level biking community is excited over the impact the race will likely have on the sport’s growth here. But there is so much more: Some 800 million worldwide TV viewers will see 403 kilometers of our country’s beauty as we show off “normal Israel,” the Israel they don’t usually see, hear or read about.

When cycling enthusiasts around the world see four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome from Britain, current Giro title-defender Tom Dumoulin from the Netherlands, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot who placed third in the 2014 Tour de France, Colombian rider Esteban Chaves, and Simon Yates from the UK who finished seventh in last year’s Tour de France speed their way through the streets of Jerusalem on Friday, it will help put Israel on the global cycling map.

In addition to the competitors, race officials, world media and thousands of tourists and cycling enthusiasts are expected to experience the Giro d’Italia, and for them we’ll get to show off more than just 400 kilometers of open road.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has picked up the cycling fever, with a slightly awkward but well-meaning video clip of him enthusiastically riding with race participants while wearing a suit jacket (Note to PM: It’s okay to wear a sweatshirt when biking.) His exuberance and gratification is understandable.

We feel it too.

It’s not just having made it in the cycling world.

This event is also a spit in the eye to the BDS movement, a force that some try to marginalize but which does pose a concrete economic threat to Israel.

There’s no sugarcoating it: BDS is a gang of activists bullying international companies that operate in Israel, attacking stores that sell Israeli goods, threatening college campuses that host Israeli speakers, and intimidating artists planning to perform in Israel.

If BDS sanctions are allowed to pass without an adequate political response, it could bring about Israel’s isolation and significantly damage its political standing.

In the face of those ongoing threats, the Giro glides in like a whoosh of welcome fresh air to counter the BS of the BDS. Holding the event in Israel is not just significant for Israel as a mega sporting event being held here, it is another defeat for the nefarious boycott movement.

Jerusalem – often seen as a focal point of conflict in the Middle East – has been given a plum opportunity to be viewed around the world as a beautiful, cycle-friendly city. Additionally, the cycling world will be introduced to Israel as a welcome and inviting host for a major international sporting event.

Bike on!