Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin
Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin
Photo: AFP
Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin

Israel's Tour de France team to use competition to fly national flag

Israel Start-Up Nation acquire a host of world-class cyclists, including champion Chris Froome, ahead of the upcoming season; owner Sylvan Adams says his main goal isn’t to win but to develop the sport in Israel, change country’s image

AFP |
Published: 08.26.20 , 12:05
For Tour de France newcomers Israel Start-Up Nation, this year's race is a chance to send a message before Chris Froome arrives next season as part of a plan to turn them into contenders.
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  • Owner Sylvan Adams wants his team to fly the Israeli flag. Their livery is in the national colors of blue and white with "Israel" and a Star of David across the chest.
    Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin
    Members of the Israel Cycling Academy team train near Kibbutz Beit Guvrin
    (Photo: AFP)
    When the race starts in Nice on Sunday, their patchwork team will include the first Israeli to ride the Tour, Guy Niv.
    "I am honored and privileged to represent my country and team in the biggest race in cycling," the 26-year-old Niv said in a team press release. "And to be the first Israeli to do so? It might sound cliche, but my dream of a lifetime has now been realized."
    In a VeloNews podcast, Adams told former Tour cyclist Bobby Julich, that he has two goals for his team.
    "The first goal is to develop cycling in Israel," he said. "The second goal is to introduce the world to the Israel that I know and love."
    הרוכב הישראלי גיא ניב הרוכב הישראלי גיא ניב
    Israeli cyclist Guy Niv
    (Photo: Noa Toledo Arnon)
    Last season, Israel Start-Up Nation was on the second-tier Continental tour, known as 'Pro-Conti'.
    They only secured a place on the World Tour when they bought the license of the failing Katusha team for $1 the day before the October 1, 2019, deadline.
    Even though they inherited a handful of Katusha riders and signed 38-year-old German sprinter Andre Greipel and 34-year-old Anglo-Irish veteran Dan Martin, Adams is pragmatic.
    "We have a Pro-Conti budget and Pro-Conti roster," Adams told VeloNews.
    Sylvan Adams Sylvan Adams
    Sylvan Adams
    (Photo: AFP)
    "We don't really have a general classification candidate," said Adams. "We have some horses, and could possibly steal a stage."
    That will change when four-time winner Froome, who turns 36 next May, joins.
    "The opportunity to sign Chris came up when he decided that maybe the Ineos structure of multiple leaders wasn't how he wanted to race," Adams said.
    "He wanted to participate in decision making but Ineos is a top-down situation."
    "Instead of being a corporate structure, we're really a family."

    We'll be a real threat

    Adams is recruiting a strong group of supporting riders for next season, including South African Daryl Impey and Michael Woods who will be the fourth Canadian in the squad.
    "If we're going to invest in Chris, we have to build around him," said Adams.
    "We'll be a real threat to win the Tour," he said.
    For Adams winning races is the third goal.
    כריס פרום ג'ירוכריס פרום ג'ירו
    Chris Froome after winning the Giro d'Italia in 2018
    (Photo: AFP)
    "Winners get all the attention. They'll notice us a lot more if Chris Froome wins the Tour de France."
    The 62-year-old Adams ran his family's property company in his native Canada, emigrated to Israel in 2015 and proclaimed himself "self-appointed ambassador-at-large for Israel" adding that because he awarded himself the title, "I can't be reassigned or fired."
    Adams began competitive cycling as an adult and won two world masters titles and Canadian and Israeli masters titles.
    Israel Cycling Academy cyclistsIsrael Cycling Academy cyclists
    Israel Cycling Academy cyclists practicing ahead of the 2018 Giro d'Italia
    (Photo: AP)
    He took over the recently former Israel Cycling Academy team, the basis for Start-Up Nation, in 2015 and paid to bring the start of the 2018 Giro d'Italia to Israel. The fee "was too high, frankly," he said. But he made sure his team was invited.
    "It was my party," he said.
    "During those three days, we had more than one million fans come onto the street, watch this race and cheer on my team. The major sports are soccer and basketball and we're terrible at soccer."
    It also drew a global television audience, which is part of his soft-power strategy.
    "I'm trying to address a very large audience," he told AFP. "I don't try to convince one person at a time because it takes too long and I'm too old."
    סילבן אדמססילבן אדמס
    Adams with the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team
    (Photo: Oz Moalem)
    The Tour start list also includes the more established national representatives: Bahrain-McLaren, UAE Team Emirates and Astana, the former name of the Kazakhstan capital.
    Adams rejects the suggestion that he is "sportwashing".
    "You wouldn't accuse any other country of 'washing' every time they engage with the world," he said, adding that he intends to keep going, "unless peace breaks out everywhere in the world and we're totally accepted and loved."

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