Tel Aviv. January 19th, 2018 – Calling it “a historic moment for Israeli sports and a great honor,” Israel’s first ever professional team, Israel Cycling Academy, has proudly accepted an invitation to participate in the Giro d’Italia, one of the world’s most significant sporting events, scheduled to begin in Jerusalem on May 4th.
“Israel Cycling Academy earned this selection with our excellent team, including seasoned riders who have secured victories in two of the three Grand Tours,” stated the team’s co-owner Sylvan Adams, who is also the Honorary President of the Giro’s “Big Start” in Israel. “We now expect to add a stage win in this year’s Giro and to place a team leader high on the GC [General Classification of overall leaders]. These are our goals in this year’s Giro and we wish to thank the race organizer RCS for this opportunity.”
The 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia opens with three stages traversing Israel, marking the first time a Grand Tour has ever left Europe. The prestigious event will see 176 of the world’s top cyclists begin the competition against the backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City. Over the following two days, the athletes will ride from the north of Israel southward to the tip of the Red Sea.
Team founder and co-owner Ron Baron stressed the importance of the team’s selection for the Giro, both to Israel and to Israeli cycling. “Our dream, almost unthinkable only 3 years ago when we launched the team, is now coming true. A professional team with world class Israeli riders alongside the finest international talents all under the Israeli flag, racing with pride in a Grand Tour. I encourage all our fans from Israel and around the world to support the team as it makes history.”
Israeli road champion Roy Goldstein said, “No Israeli rider has ever competed in a Grand Tour, so for us it’s really an unbelievable dream come true. It’s our chance to step up and stand on the biggest stage in the cycling world and to scream, ‘We are on the map and we will stay on the map!’”
To be competitive, Israel Cycling Academy has enhanced its roster. “The first step was already taken by adding 8 riders and forming a team of 24, including riders with a proven record of victories in Grand Tours,” explained Israel Cycling Academy team director Kjell Carlström. “But the most important thing will be getting the guys to race at a high standard in hard races to get used to the speed expected. The next 3 months of racing will help us to select our race strategy in the Giro, as well as the riders. We believe we have strong riders for both sprints and the mountains and since we have 24 [riders on the team], there will be plenty to choose from.”
As for the ambitious team’s strategy, it’s no secret. Carlström said, “Our team DNA is to attack. I am not afraid to say: We have a goal of winning a stage in the Giro!”
The squad’s early season racing calendar has also stepped up a level. The team will debut in World Tour races such as the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Volta a Catalunya, before returning to classic Giro preparation races like the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Vuelta a Andalucia.
The team will also add another two significant races to its strengthened calendar: Milano-Sanremo and Tirreno-Adriatico. RCS, the organizers of the Giro d’Italia, have confirmed Israel Cycling Academy’s invitation to the pair of respected Italian races.
Veteran riders like Ben Hermans and Ruben Plaza may be obvious candidates to make the 8-man Giro roster, but nothing can be
taken for granted. Plaza, with wins in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España already under his belt, is keen to line up in Jerusalem in what would be his third Giro d’Italia.
Ruben Plaza said, “My personal dream is to win in our home country Israel, but we would be very happy if it happens in any of the other stages. One thing we have already achieved through being selected for the Giro: a recognition that this team is on the path to achieving the greatest feats in the sport.”
The 5 Israeli riders in the team will be particularly motivated to make the team’s Giro squad, thereby becoming the first ever Israeli to race a Grand Tour. “I have no doubt that whichever Israeli rider gets the chance will prove that he can take it on successfully,” said the two-time Israeli road champion Guy Sagiv.
Hopeful that at least one Israeli rider will make the Giro roster, general manager Ran Margaliot said, “It’s certainly a goal for us to see an Israeli rider there but we made it clear to all the 24 riders: there will be no free gifts here. Every rider who wants to get selected will have to prove his worth.”
Picture credits: Montage picture credit Dvir Almog, action picture credit Noa Arnon