ARENBERG, France — An Israeli team made history in the Tour de France on Wednesday when one of its riders won a stage of the world-famous race.
Australian Simon Clarke of Israel Premier Tech won stage five of the tour in a photo finish after a 157 kilometer (97.5 miles) run from Lille to Arenberg featuring 20 kilometers (nearly 12.5 miles) of cobbled mining roads.
It was the first time an Israeli team has ever done this well.
The 35-year-old Clarke used a bike throw on the line in a razor-thin victory over Taco van der Hoorn, after Native American Neilson Powless launched a sprint in a bid for the yellow jersey, but fell just short. Clarke completed the course in 3 hours 13 minutes 35 seconds.
Speaking after his victory, Clarke thanked the Israeli team for taking him on board and creating the opportunity to compete in the race.
“I had no team and Israel-Premier Tech rang me up. I was given that chance,” Clarke said in an interview published on the official tour website. “Today is the reality check that everything can happen if you take the opportunity.”
“I thought today was maybe the day… But I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I passed Taco less than 50 meters to go. I gave my bike the biggest throw I could.”
Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov congratulated the team and Clarke in a tweet.
Congratulations to @IsraelPremTech cycling team on an historic Stage win today at @LeTour,” he wrote. “@simonclarke thanks for an impressive ride.”
“The exposure you bring is a great gift to expanding Israeli tourism,” Razvozov added.
Israel Premier Tech began as Team Israel Start-Up Nation, which was established in 2014 as the Israel Cycling Academy by Israeli businessman Ron Baron and former rider Ran Margaliot. They were later joined by Israeli-Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Sylvan Adams. The team joined the World Tour, the highest level of professional cycling, in 2019. That gave it a place in the 2020 Tour de France, one of cycling’s three Grand Tours along with the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, three-week races run in stages.
Over the years, the team built up a roster of top-level competitive riders from all over the world, alongside Israeli athletes.
For the 2022 season, the Canadian company Premier Tech partnered with the team and it became Israel Premier Tech.
The team has a roster of eight riders in the tour, including an Israeli, Guy Niv. Another Israeli rider, Omer Goldstein was supposed to take part as well, but was forced to give up his place after he was exposed to COVID-19, making him a risk to the other riders. He was replaced with Canadian Guillaume Boivin.
Belgium’s Wout van Aert of Jumbo retained his overall leader’s yellow jersey in the Tour de France, despite a nasty fall, but his teammate Primoz Roglic lost around two minutes to defending champion and fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.
Van Aert fell early and hurt a shoulder and was almost run over by his own team car, but rallied to cling to his overall lead by 13 seconds from Powless of EF.
Defending champion Pogacar did the best of the pretenders to the 2022 title when he finished seventh, 51 seconds off the lead, putting a little time into all his rivals after threatening to pulverize them before fading in the final kilometers.
Ineos trio Adam Yates, Tom Pidcock and Geraint Thomas all hung in and trail Pogacar by 28, 29, and 30 seconds, respectively.
The treacherous stage raced over cobbles that sent clouds of dust billowing making it tough to breath and easy to slip.
Eleven cobbled sections totaling almost 20 kilometers of bone shaking mining roads caused much of the chaos, but not all of it.
Roglic, runner-up in 2020, was brought down when Caleb Ewan was himself brought down by a stray hay bale, the Jumbo man then hitting him and struggling thereafter.