Israel’s top-ranked cycling team makes their long-awaited return »J-Wire
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When Israel Start-Up Nation team cyclist Guy Niv hooks up with fellow travelers, you usually have to fly from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Europe or some other distant destination for training or a race.
Last Friday, Niv had a different experience at the airport: he greeted his fellow travelers. To Ben-Gurion, they have arrived for their first full team visit to Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent opening of tourism doors to the country.
“It’s super nice to welcome everyone to Israel – and to go and train from home without flights, without luggage,” he said.
The 27-year-old, who lives in Atzmon in northern Israel, said “my girlfriend took me to the airport to meet the team.” Niv chatted with JNS from the team bus as they headed to Jerusalem for a festive weekend that will include horseback riding, but most of all tours, bonding, meeting with Israelis and a Sunday reception for the team at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Israel Start-Up Nation, its first professional cycling team, was established in 2015 and includes riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when Sylvan Adams joined as part owner alongside Ron Baron. The team took part in their first Grand Tour, joined the WorldTour (the highest level of professional cycling) and secured a place in the 2020 Tour de France. In 2021, Israeli rider Itamar Einhorn beat the former world champion Peter Sagan to win the first WorldTour victory by an Israeli.
Adams is impressed with his team and not at all disappointed that they don’t spend the majority of their time on intensive rides. “It will be a more relaxed camp – more of a tourism and liaison camp – and will allow the team to experience some of Israel’s wonders, ”he said. Israel Start-Up Nation is currently ranked in the world’s top 10 for the first time in its history and has achieved 17 victories this season.
Riding legend Chris Froome, 36, who has won the Tour de France four times in addition to other prestigious cycling races, can’t wait to be in Israel and ride a bike.
Back home from his last race in Spain, Niv said he hiked the desert with friends and celebrated his brother’s recent wedding, and now looks forward to spending time with his teammates. . Now it’s back to training events. He signaled that there will only be two or three team outings; he and his Israeli teammates are expected to lead one in the Golan Heights.
Niv sees this trip as an important opportunity for his comrades to experience Israel. “The team has Israel’s name on their jersey. It is important that they know what Israel is like: the culture, the people, the history, the food. It will give them a good taste of what it looks like and what it feels like to be here.
He noted that although his fellow travelers are “athletes, not politicians,” they are often asked about the situation in Israel. “The best way for them to respond is to be here for a bit and see. They will have the opportunity to form their own opinion.
His 24-year-old Israeli teammate Itamar Einhorn said he saw an advantage in bringing the team to Israel: “I’m always happy to show our riders what the country has to offer.”
“I didn’t expect so many fans”
The team has already met and interacted with hundreds of dedicated fans. On their first morning of ISN Homecoming Camp in Israel, fans met cyclists, got autographs, and posed for selfies as they made their way from Jerusalem to the top of Nes Harim in the Judean Hills, the most great meeting destination for cyclists in Israel, and organized a morning coffee break at Bar Bahar restaurant in the Jerusalem Forest in Bar Giora.
“I didn’t expect so many fans and runners,” Froome admitted. Later that day on Saturday, they took a walking tour of the Old Town and the Western Wall.
At Sunday’s event, Israeli President Isaac Herzog enthusiastically greeted the riders, saying, “We welcome the team wholeheartedly and bless you for representing Jerusalem and Israel in the cycling world. This team demonstrates incredible professionalism, and we are honored to have all of you here. We are very proud that you are a world class team, and we believe that you will continue to improve and achieve more results next year.
Herzog shared his enthusiasm for the delegation’s visit on Twitter: “Delighted to welcome back to Israel the amazing @TeamIsraelSUN riders, including world legend @chrisfroome, after a season with a top ten team ranking and 17 international victories! Enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Israel at lightning speed! ”
“We try to use sport to build bridges”
Adams has participated in many large-scale events in Israel designed to showcase the land and its people. These include bringing Madonna to the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel in 2010 and donating $ 5 million to SpaceIL, the organization working to land Israel’s first spacecraft on the moon.
He said he was happy that the runners had the opportunity to visit Israel and that the Israeli supporters could spend time with them. “It is very important for us to bring the team here to introduce the riders to our home country to make them understand what Israel is because we are the ambassadors of the nation. We don’t have a brand sponsor like the other teams; our brand is Israel, and we carry the name everywhere we go. Another of our missions is to help make the world a better place, and we try to use sport to build bridges and make new friends around the world.
It’s a group ride!
Amazing scenes today from the outskirts of Jerusalem as Israel Start-Up Nation enjoys its first day in Israel!
Everyone is there: from Einhorn to Woods, from Froome to Goldstein.
– Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@TeamIsraelSUN) November 6, 2021
Before the trip, Froome said: “I can’t wait to finally be able to visit Israel. Throughout this year, I have truly felt the heartwarming support of the Israeli fans, and I look forward to meeting them in person and thanking them for all their support.
He was keen to stress that he loves what he has seen so far: “I have enjoyed being in Israel so much the past few days and would really love to come back with my family next year. In this team, one of our biggest visions is to inspire the new generation of Israeli cyclists. When we met our young fans it was clear that they all dreamed of becoming professional runners. You could see their eyes twinkle when they met the team and to witness our vision being realized right now is such a joy. “
The team began their program with a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem on Sunday. The members visited Tel Aviv on Monday. They plan to meet with young cyclists to talk about cycling and running at several schools when they return to the north. In addition, the team will be presented at the Expo on Thursday, one day before the 2021 Ironman 70.3 Tiberias and its 2000 competition on November 12th.
Israel Start-Up Nation has announced that Israeli runners Niv, Einhorn, Omer Goldstein and Guy Sagiv will remain with the team next year, maintaining a significant Israeli presence on the team.
Report: Howard Blas