Israeli cyclists to race in Tour de France bearing Start-Up Nation banner
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Israeli cyclists to race in Tour de France bearing Start-Up Nation banner

Bike riders will team up with entrepreneurs to test technologies that may give them a competitive edge in one of the world’s most popular sporting events

The Israel Start-up Nation (Israel Cycling Academy) professional team roster to compete in the 2020 Tour de France (Noa Arnon)
The Israel Start-up Nation (Israel Cycling Academy) professional team roster to compete in the 2020 Tour de France (Noa Arnon)

An Israeli cycling team will for the first time ever be taking part in the prestigious Tour de France 2020 bike race, and will do so bearing the banner of Israel as a Startup Nation.

The biking race in France is one of the world’s most popular sporting events, watched by a TV audience of 3.5 billion people.

The Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) presented its 2020 squad in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, with the team changing its name to “Israel Start-Up Nation” ahead of its first season in the 2020 UCI WorldTour. As such, it will be competing in the Tour de France, taking the slot of Swiss team Katusha-Alpecin.

The newly dubbed team will consist of 30 riders from 16 nationalities, the ICA and Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) said in a statement on Wednesday. Start-Up Nation Central is a Tel Aviv-based nonprofit organization that connects companies around the world to Israeli innovation. The ICA was founded in December 2014 in Jerusalem as Israel’s first professional cycling team.

Israel Cycling Academy team cyclists practice ahead of the Giro d’Italia at Tel Azeka central Israel, May 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The team will include four Israeli riders: Itamar Einhorn, Omer Goldstein, Guy Niv, and Guy Sagiv. It has also signed some of the sport’s most experienced riders including Andre Greipel, Dan Martin and Dani Navarro, the statement said.

The team is owned by Canadian Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams and Israeli businessman Ron Baron. Taking a minority interest this year in the team is Kevin Lam, a Canadian, via his company, Reinvent.com.

“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,” said Adams, the team’s co-owner.

Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams (courtesy Velo Images)

In a bid to give the team a competitive edge, Start-Up Nation Central will work connect the cyclists with innovators and entrepreneurs who are developing technologies that could impact their performance. These include new, lightweight metals, more balanced and personalized diets and training sessions, and tools that will enable them to access to their performance data, and improve sleep, mental conditioning, and water consumption, the statement said.

The use of these technologies by the team will help accelerate research and development of sports innovations in general and for cycling in particular, and bring these innovations to the attention of a global audience, the statement said.

“By partnering with Start-Up Nation Central, we are showcasing the Israeli tech ecosystem on a global stage, sending a clear message that this is a country with so much to offer the world. I have no doubt that cutting-edge Israeli technology will give our team a competitive advantage as we race against the very best in world cycling,” Adams said.

The 2017 season was the Israeli cycling team’s first in the second-tier Pro Continental ranks. In 2018 the team raced in its first Grand Tour — the historic Giro d’Italia which started in Jerusalem. ICA raced again in the Giro d’Italia in 2019. Now, as a new entrant in the 2020 UCI WorldTour, it will get to race in the Tour de France in 2020, among others.

“Our goal is to get Israel’s powerful tech ecosystem behind the cycling team,” said Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, in the statement. The idea is to “leverage the knowledge gained from testing these technologies on Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team to benefit other athletic teams.”

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