SPORTS

Gyros of Greece an appetizing prospect

By George Georgakopoulos

Cycling in this country is happy to welcome back Greece's answer to the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, as the Gyros Elladas (Tour of Hellas) is returning this month for its 17th edition after six years.

The international race will start from Ioannina on April 13 and end in Athens four days later.

According to organizers, it will feature some of the world's top teams and cyclists and try to raise the profile of the sport in Greece after its having spent the last few years in the wilderness. It also forms part of the European cycling calendar.

The 17th Gyros Elladas, not to be confused with the country?s traditional fast-food staple, will consist of 728 kilometers in five stages: Stage 1 on April 13, from Ioannina through Dodoni to Preveza (140 km); Stage 2 on April 14, from Preveza to Mesolongi (120 km); Stage 3 on April 15, from Mesolongi to Delphi (150 km); Stage 4 on April 16, from Delphi to Marathon (178 km); and Stage 5 on April 17, from Marathon to Athens, including a 10-round race in the historic center of the capital (120 km).

Greece's national team will participate in the event, as well as a total of 20 local and foreign professional teams. The teams that have registered for the race hail from Austria, Germany, France, Romania, the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Among those eyeing the winner's blue jersey will be top Greek cyclist Yiannis Tamouridis, who will however not be racing with the national team but with SP Tableware, a professional team.

"The Gyros will feature some of the best cyclists in Europe,» said Tamouridis.

"Competition will be intense as all athletes will need to do their best to get victory. It is very important that Greek cycling is back on the front stage as the absence of the Gyros was a dark spot for the sport in this country.

"Greece and its cycling will be at the center of attention on the days of the Gyros and with the appropriate support by the local authorities and coverage by the media it will get the prestige of the respective tours in other countries,» argued the 31-year-old, who has his sights set on the 2012 London Olympics.

The Gyros Elladas was first organized in 1968, when it was known as the Antiquities Trophy.

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