RIDERS OF the Israel Cycling Academy stick together during stage four of the 2018 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in eastern Spain in early Februrary. From left: Guy Niv (Israel), Ben Hermans (Belgium) and Ruben Plaza (Spain).
(photo credit: NOA ARNON)
Israel Cycling Academy has selected its rising young talent Krists Neilands as the first confirmed rider for the historic Giro d’Italia, along with Ben Hermans and Ruben Plaza, with three Israelis included in the 12 candidates for the five undecided spots in the final lineup.
“The Israelis will be required to meet the same criteria as all the other riders selected,” said Team Manager Kjell Carlstrom. “They’ve already proved that they can help this team significantly.”
With the Giro opening in Jerusalem on May 4, there is much speculation about which of the Israeli riders will earn a place. Roy Goldstein (24), Guy Niv (24), and Guy Sagiv (23) are the three Israelis vying for selection, with one of them set to make the team.
Carlstrom said that any Israeli selected must “have the same spirit: we are a team, helping each other. We want to be on the attack. We start in Israel but we finish in Italy. On top of being able to help the team and maybe being in a breakaway, he has to be able to make it through the whole Giro with the team. I’m sure he can do it.”
The ICA will select the last five riders in late April after a two-week altitude camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain and after competing in the Amstel Gold, Tour of Croatia, and Tour of the Alps races.
“I prefer not to see myself contending for a spot against my Israeli teammates,” said Israeli climber Guy Niv. “But proving that I deserve it compared to the other riders in the team. I want to be picked because I am a good rider, not because I am Israeli. If we Israelis are good enough, we can get two spots in the Giro lineup. Why not?”
“Selection for ICA’s Giro team is difficult due to the talent and commitment of our riders,” said team co-owner Sylvan Adams.
“The final cut will necessarily disappoint some riders who are working hard. From the riders announced so far, Ben and Ruben were signed largely in anticipation of this race, our first participation in a Grand Tour.
“As for Krists’s early selection, he earned his position through his excellent season start. For the remaining five rider selections, we will not necessarily be choosing the five best riders, but rather those that will complete our eight man Giro squad, and provide the best opportunity to achieve our goals in this historic Giro that begins on home soil next month.”
Other riders in the long list include: Edwin Avila (Colombia), Guillaume Boivin (Canada), Zak Dempster (Australia), Nathan Earle (Australia), Sondre Holst Enger (Norway), August Jensen (Norway), Kristian Sbaragli (Italy), Daniel Turek (Czech Republic) and Dennis van Winden (Netherlands).
The decision to select Latvian national champ Neilands is seen by the team’s hierarchy as both a sound and symbolic decision.
“Krists is Academy DNA - A young rider who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and has developed remarkably,” explained General Manager Ran Margaliot.
“The Giro is one of the biggest races in the world and one of my dreams is to take part in a Grand Tour,” Neilands said. “Riding the Giro means a lot to me. I am super happy I can be a part of this team for the Giro."