Viviani pushes for second consecutive win as Dennis remains in lead

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After a tiresome stage through the desert, the final 5km saw the touch paper lit with a brutally fast pace set by Quick-Step Floors into the sprint finish.

Mareczko held off Ireland's Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) while Italians Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain Merida) and Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac) completed the top five.

But Viviani was right on his wheel and, despite nearly being pushed into the barriers by a veering Bennett, kept his nerve to take his third stage win at the Giro as the Irishman was forced into third.

"The pressure was off after yesterday's win". "I've got the best lead-out team for the sprints so I don't really care who I am up against". "But the final straight was good for me".

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Four-time Tour de France victor Chris Froome, who bloodied his right knee and ripped his shorts and jersey in a training crash before Friday's opening leg, finished safely in the middle of the pack.

The BMC Racing rider is followed by defending champion Tom Dumoulin of The Netherlands.

"It sewed the first seeds of thought about changing teams but that wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, it was at the end of the season and discovering that Froome would be riding the Giro and once again I might be excluded".

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. "Israelis are the greatest fans in the world".

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Dennis said the ride through the desert was not as hot as originally feared and that strong winds were the main obstacle as they went through the barren moonscape after passing by its famous craters.

"I've been nicely surprised with Israel: when we race outside of Europe, Australia or the USA, it's pretty quiet on the roads".

The peloton seemed relaxed as it departed Be'er Sheva with a trio managing to escape pretty easily consisting of Guillaume Boivin (Israel Cycling Academy), Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) and Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec).

At the conclusion of the Sunday stage, almost 1,000 people and three cargo planes will leave Israel and continue on to the next leg of the race in Sicily. "But the time trial in Jerusalem was simply magical, as the helicopter footage of this historic and splendid city, lined with cheering fans, took it up to another level", said honorary president of "Big Start" Israel Sylvan Adams.

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Last year, 840 million people watched some portion of the Giro D'Italia on TV, and this year the number is expected to be a billion, according to Danny Benaim, CEO of Comtec Group, which is the production company in charge of the Big Start Israel and has overseen other major sporting events in Israel.