Gran Fondo bicycle race comes to Jerusalem

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat joins cyclists in Gran Fondo race down streets of Jerusalem.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Gran Fondo in Jerusalem
Gran Fondo in Jerusalem
Ronen Topelberg

The Gran Fondo New York Race (GFNY) was launched this morning in Jerusalem by Mayor Nir Barkat. This is the first time the world’s largest and most prestigious road cycling marathon for professional and amateur cyclists has come to Jerusalem.

Hundreds of riders, including Mayor Nir Barkat, pedaled through the city’s streets. They were cheered on by spectators, fans, and the riders’ families from Israel and abroad

GFNY offers two routes: Medio Fondo – 70 kilometers long and including 1,200 meters of climbing, and the Gran Fondo – 130 kilometers long and including 2,500 meters of climbing.

The winner of the 130km race was Jurgen Morillas from Belgium who rode in with the time of 03:51:04. Aaron Hitman from Israel was in second place with a time of 04:00:56, with Alon Lerer coming in third at 04:01:45.

The top three places on the 70km route were all cyclists from Israel. The winner was Lenny Engelhardt (55) from Moshav Ora came in at 02:16:30 and crossed the line ahead of Zahi Ben Gigi (30) who registered at 02:18:33.

In third place was Harel Swisa (32) from Beersheba, with a time of 02:19:05.

The GFNY riders passed through the Gihon Tunnel - a 2.1 km-long, three-meter-wide tunnel, which was used especially for the race and is set to become the longest and only bicycle tunnel in Israel. The Gihon tunnel, which was built in the 1990s and since has served the city’s water company, was specially remodeled for cyclists and was quality tested to allow GFNY riders to use it during the race. The city is now working to open it regularly for cyclists as part of the network of bicycle paths around the city.

Many of the international riders noted their excitement in being able to ride for the first time in Israel and on the streets of Jerusalem, on one of the most beautiful routes in the world, and said they are looking forward to riding again next year, too.

A ceremony was held at the endpoint of the race in the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, with thousands of participants from all over the country, where the winners were announced and prizes were awarded to the top finishers.

The Gran Fondo is being held as part of a special cycling week in the city, with the participation of more than 1,300 professional cyclists, including 300 international riders from 30 different countries who have come to Israel specifically to participate in the race.

The city of Jerusalem is investing heavily in organizing international sporting events, which attract numerous foreign and local tourists. The events take place at the initiative of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality, and is produced by the Kapaim Active production company.

In 2017 there was an increase of 32% in the number of overnight tourist stays and of 12% in the number of Israeli tourist overnight stays in hotels in Jerusalem compared with 2016. This May is expected to see an occupancy rate of 85% in Jerusalem’s hotels!

The Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, MK Zeev Elkin said, “The Gran Fondo event, with the support of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, is another step in transforming Jerusalem into an international tourist destination, as well as a sporting one. The city’s impressive sites, along which the ancient and new routes pass, captivate the eyes and the heart. We will continue to lead Jerusalem forward as a top capital city in all fields.”

Nir Barkat, the Mayor of Jerusalem, commented that, “Jerusalem has become the sports capital of Israel and one of the cities hosting the world's leading international sports events. Jerusalem is being put on the international professional cycling map and hosts huge cycling events - the Gran Fondo New York, the Sovev Yes Planet bicycle ride, and for the first time ever, the Giro d'Italia. These events will expose the beauty of the Israel’s capital to hundreds of millions of viewers all over the world, bring many tourists and visitors to Jerusalem, and strengthen business and tourism in the city.”

Ilanit Melchior, Director of Tourism at the Jerusalem Development Authority and who oversees tourism promotion in the city of Jerusalem said, “As part of the city of Jerusalem’s tourist development, which has undergone a revolution in recent years, we have succeeded in transforming Jerusalem into an international tourist destination, for both culture and sports. Take for example this year’s GFNY sports event, the Giro D’Italia, and the Sovev Yes Planet ride, and the Jerusalem Marathon, which has already become a tradition in the city. These events are turning Jerusalem into an attractive and popular tourist destination, and among the leading and most attractive in the world. The GFNY is expected to become an annual event that will attract many tourists every year. These events have led to an increase of 40% in incoming tourism to Jerusalem, alongside the adding of more than 5000 hotel rooms in the city to satisfy demand.”