Jerusalem is set to stage the Big Start of the Giro d'Italia amid controversy ©Getty Images

Jerusalem will host the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia tomorrow as the first Grand Tour of the season begins with concern over the choice of host for the Big Start, as well as the ongoing case involving one of the pre-race favourites Chris Froome.

Organisers RCS Sport awarded the first three stages of the race to Israel last year, with the move prompting controversy.

Amnesty International are among organisations to have spoken out against the decision over Israel’s human rights record.

It comes amid protests in the Gaza Strip that have so far led to the death of 35 Palestinian protestors.

The decision to take the race outside of Europe for the first time has largely been down to billionaire Sylvan Adams.

The Israeli Cycling Academy, one of the four teams granted a wildcard into the race, are also run by Adams.

The opening stage of the race will see the field contest a 9.7 kilometre individual time trial in Jerusalem.

A 167km stage from Haifa to Tel Aviv will follow on Saturday (May 5), before a 233km ride from Beesheba to Eilat concludes Israel’s hosting the following day.

The race will then return to Italy, with action resuming on May 8 in Catania.

Three mountain stages will feature in the first week in Italy, with a further two coming in the second as the race heats up.

A 34.5km individual time trial on stage 16 could prove an important moment in the race, while mountainous routes on stages 18, 19 and 20 will effectively decide the outcome.

The race will then conclude with a 118km flat stage in Rome on May 27.

Chris Froome will target a third straight Grand Tour success but his salbutamol case looms large over his participation ©Getty Images
Chris Froome will target a third straight Grand Tour success but his salbutamol case looms large over his participation ©Getty Images

Britain’s Chris Froome heads to the race as one of the major contenders, as he seeks to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.

It follows his victories at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España last year.

The second race have now become embroiled in controversy, after it emerged Froome failed a drugs test at the Spanish Grand Tour for the asthma medication salbutamol.

He was found to have had twice the permitted 1,000 nanograms per millilitre concentration in his sample, but has denied any wrongdoing and has so far not been suspended.

Froome, winner of the Vuelta after clinching a fourth Tour de France title earlier in the season, claimed he upped his dosage on the advice of his team doctor when his asthma got worse mid-race.

He remains permitted to ride the Grand Tour, with organisers stating that cannot prevent him from doing so, although also asserting they believe the case has gone on for too long.

Giro d’Italia director Mauro Vegni has reportedly claimed he has received assurances from International Cycling Union President David Lappartient that the result of the race will stand should Froome be sanctioned at a later date for the positive test.

He claimed this would avoid the same scenario as when Spain’s Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2011 Giro d’Italia title after being sanctioned for a positive test for clenbuterol in 2010, following a protracted legal case.

Tom Dumoulin will hope to defend his Giro d'Italia title ©Getty Images
Tom Dumoulin will hope to defend his Giro d'Italia title ©Getty Images

“We've always said that we would not be willing to accept a situation like Contador in 2011,” Vegni said, according to cyclingnews.

“We've received assurances that this won't happen, so we're confident that the result at the end of the Giro in Rome is the result that will stand for this Giro d’Italia.

"Given the length of time the case is taking, I proposed to President Lappartient that any suspension would start from the moment that a sanction was handed down.

"The uncertainty is not correct for the public, for us organisers, or for the athlete himself.

“So if Froome is sanctioned, he would lose the Vuelta title, but any ban would only start from the moment the sanction was confirmed.

“Lappartient seemed open to this, and he in some way reassured me that there wouldn't be great problems with the Giro.”

The UCI have since denied this is the case.

"The UCI wishes to clarify that the UCI President is not in a position to decide when a potential suspension for any anti-doping rule violation should start and whether results obtained before the starting point of a suspension should be annulled or maintained," a UCI statement read.

Froome has claimed he could understand the frustration with the length of time to reach a resolution to the case, while asserting that he has done nothing wrong.

The Briton looks unlikely to end questions surrounding his participation at the race and they may only increase should he look like claiming victory in the Grand Tour.

He is likely to face competition from defending champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, with the Team Sunweb rider set to take to the start line tomorrow.

Italy’s challenge will be lead by Fabio Aru, with the national champion seeking to secure his second Grand Tour crown, following success at the Vuelta a España in 2015.

France’s Thibaut Pinot could also prove a threat, along with the Mitchelton–Scott pairing of Britain’s Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves of Colombia.