Israel will be participating in the Tour de France bike race for the first time next year, as the Israeli Cycling Academy embarks on the sport’s premier world tour under the banner of the “startup nation.” Last week the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body of cycling, confirmed that the Israeli team had achieved WorldTour status.
The academy introduced its new 30-rider team at a press conference last week and announced that the team was changing its name to Israel Start-Up Nation, after its new sponsor, Start-Up Nation Central, the Tel Aviv-based nonprofit organization that promotes Israeli high-tech companies abroad. The team comprises riders from 16 different countries, among them four Israelis – Guy Sagiv, Guy Niv, Omer Goldstein and Itamar Einhorn. Of these, one will be chosen for the final squad that will be sent on the tour, and he will be the first Israeli to ride in the world’s most prestigious cycling competition.
“We have a great team, riders that have proven to be winners,” said the team’s co-owner, Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams. “The dream of competing in the Tour de France, almost unthinkable only five years ago when we launched the team, is now coming true. A professional team with world-class Israeli riders alongside the finest international talents, racing with pride in one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. Around 3.5 billion viewers in hundreds of countries across the world will see the Israeli flag and hear the message that this is a country bringing unrivalled innovation to the world.”
“I think that this year will not revolve just around who will be the first Israeli in the Tour de France,” said rider Guy Niv. “A lot of challenges await us. But when I was 13, in 2007, I went on a bar mitzvah trip to see the Tour de France and it will be a big deal if I manage to close a full circle and get there as a rider.”
“I won’t lie, I’m excited,” said Guy Sagiv. “I’m looking forward to this season and I’ve done a lot of work for it. The Tour de France will certainly be a big deal, I will try to get there. I have concerns, it will be a mental challenge, not just a physical one, but I’m ready for this mission.”