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Another Giro d'Italia podium finish for Sam Bennett

Luk Benies

A grande partenza that made history as the first to take place outside of Europe ended with Elia Viviani, QuickStep-Floors' Italian sprinter, claiming his second stage in succession as all the race favourites, including Team Sky's Chris Froome, came home safely in the bunch in the coastal resort of Eilat.

The 36-year-old aims to return to racing after the Giro d'Italia at the Tour de Pologne, then "come back for the Vuelta and be on the look-out for some stage wins".

"When I first started cycling, I never thought that I would wear all Grand Tour leaders' jerseys".

He'd have a tough take ahead of him though, with the likes of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina) and Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac) all looking to make up for missing out to the Italian on stage two.

The 120 million shekel (34 million dollars, 27 million euros) investment in the Israeli leg attracted thousands of tourists as spectators watched to see whether four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, victor of three Grand Tour titles in a row.

The fourth stage will be held in Sicily (Catania - Calagione, 198 km). "I've got the best lead-out team for the sprints, so I don't really care who I am up against".

After the race, Dennis told the BBC: "The team rode for me in the 30km before the intermediate sprint and delivered me perfectly".

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He remains one second clear of Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin and 13 clear of José Gonçalves (Katusha-Alpecin) on the general classification.

Stage 3 will follow a 229-kilometer (143-mile) route from Beersheba in the Negev desert down to Israel's southern tip of Eilat along the Red Sea.

The riders will leave Israel for Italy on Monday, with the Giro to resume on the island of Sicily on Tuesday. He is now 19th, 38 seconds behind the leader. The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.

Jerusalem's opening leg was named in honor of Gino Bartali, a three-time former Giro champion who in 2013 was posthumously bestowed Israel's highest honor given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.

"The way the fans responded these three days, we've been impressed - we've also spoken about it amongst the riders - a Tour of Israel could be a good thing one day", he said.

Having led much of Saturday's stage, Israel Cycling Academy's Guillaume Boivin once again hit the front of the race early on, narrowly missing out on the King of the Mountains blue jersey.

The Giro start was seen as the biggest sporting event staged in Israel, and coincides with the country marking 70 years of independence.

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