"Beersheba - Eilat": Elia Viviani won the second stage in a row

Elia Viviani

Thousands of enthusiastic Israelis lined the urban time trial in Jerusalem on Friday.

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Dennis was no match, however, for Elia Viviani, of Quick-Step Floors, who sealed his second consecutive stage win in the bunch sprint finish.

Sacha Modolo (Cannondale-Drapac) finished second as Bennett faded into third on the 229km stage from Be'er Sheva to Eilat, the longest of this year's race.

BMC Racing rider Dennis won the second intermediate sprint to gain crucial bonus seconds and eclipse defending champion Tom Dumoulin, of Team Sunweb, to take the maglia rosa. The general classification was unlikely to change on the predominantly flat route however, with the GC contenders eyeing the upcoming stage on return to Italy.

Froome remains in the top 20 with a 38sec deficit to Dennis ahead of Monday s rest day before the fourth stage begins in Catania following the transfer from Israel to Sicily.

Cyclist ride during the last stage at the Giro d'Italia, near the Makhtesh Ramon Crater in Southern Israel on May 6, 2018.

The historic opening of the race concluded just as the previous one ended, with Dumoulin grabbing the overall lead in an individual time trial.

"The win, everyone was expecting but doing it is never easy", Viviani said. "I've got the best lead-out team for the sprints, so I don't really care who I am up against".

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While Dennis perhaps benefited from a little good will on the part of Viviani in the intermediate sprint, the Italian gave no favours in the finale - despite being made to sweat on what was ultimately a comfortable win.

He was 19th, 38 seconds behind the leader.

The Giro has been warmly embraced in Israel. The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.

Deemed as the world's second most prestigious cycling competition after the Tour de France, it was arguably the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Israel.

After three days racing in Sicily, the Giro will move onto the Italian mainland, although not before the overall contenders have had a chance to test themselves on a summit finish at Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in western Europe.

Guillaume Boivin, riding for the Israel Cycling Academy, used his knowledge of the hard conditions to establish an early breakaway alongside Marco Frapporti and Enrico Barbin.

The three Grand Tours now have a tradition of starting outside their home country every second year.

Ryan told me he came around a corner on his recon ride to see pre-race favourite Chris Froome sprawled on the ground after crashing.

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