The Israel Cycling Academy’s 2018 roster was unveiled on Thursday while also being awarded the title of Peres Center “Ambassador for Peace” in a ceremony in Tel Aviv.
Israel Cycling Academy was established in December 2014 with the declared goal of “putting Israel on the bicycle map of the world and providing an opportunity for the next generation of Israeli riders.”
Since its inception, ICA has competed in hundreds of races around the world and claimed dozens of victories.
In addition to the Pro Continental level outfit, ICA has established an all-Israeli development squad whose young riders also compete internationally.
The new roster includes cyclists of three religions, from 16 different countries on five continents, including recent addition Ahmet Örken, the 2017 Turkish national time trial cycling champion.
The team is expected to receive a wild-card to next year’s Giro d’Italia, which will begin in Jerusalem in May 2018 before continuing with stages between Haifa and Tel Aviv and Beersheba and Eilat.
The Peres Center for Peace bestowed upon the team members, team managers, plus team founders – Sylvan Adams and Roni Baron – the title of “Ambassador for Peace”. The award was given by Chemi Peres, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Adams’s support has seen the team’s budget almost double ahead of the 2018 season, standing at more than 5 million euros. ICA’s budget in its first season was a fifth of that.
Thanks to the additional investment, ICA has recruited several notable cyclists such as Ben Hermans of Belgium and Spain’s Ruben Plaza, a stage winner in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. The team also includes riders from Colombia, Norway, Italy, and Australia.
In all, the team has 24 riders, among them five Israelis: Brothers Roy and Omer Goldstein, Guy Niv, Guy Sagiv and Aviv Yechezkel.
“Despite its focus on developing Israeli cyclists, ICA is one of the most diverse pro cycling teams, with riders from 16 different nations on five continents represented on the team. Our athletes understand that being on an Israeli team, they are each ambassadors for the team’s home country,” said Adams, co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy and Honorary President of “Big Start Israel”.
“Our team bonding camp held this week in Israel was intended to familiarize, educate, but mostly get the riders to bond together and enjoy their experience in Israel amongst its people.
“The power of our ICA project to bring this diverse group together to ride under our Israeli colors in pursuit of common goals gives me and these fine athletes great pride.”
Among the team members are four current national champions, including Örken.
“For me, the opportunity to ride in the Israel Cycling Academy is a great honor and a major professional challenge.
No Turkish cyclist has ever raced for a team at this level,” said Örken. “But beyond this, just as the Academy does not see itself as just a cycling team, I don’t see myself just as a cyclist. Together, we have the opportunity to excite and inspire people, and to change the world around us. The fact that a Turkish cyclist is competing side by side with Israeli cyclists and others from around the world, and striving together for victory sends a message of coexistence and peace to all. For all the team members, and especially for me, it is a great privilege to be made an Ambassador of Peace.”
Roni Baron, founder and co-owner added: “The vision and main goal of the team is to instill a love of cycling among young Israelis from all backgrounds. Just yesterday, the team announced the signing of an 18-year-old Druze cyclist, Sanad Abu Faris, to our youth team. We believe that in the not too distant future, the Academy will also include Arab and Palestinian riders. That is what we are aiming towards.”
Chemi Peres believes ICA is further proof of the power of sport. “My father [Shimon Peres] believed in the ability of sport to bridge nations, cultures and religions. As he used to say, ‘When you are on a sports field, you are a team player – Not a Muslim, Jew or Christian.’ “Sport knows no boundaries.
Sport is an international language that unites us all. It does not matter if you speak English, Hebrew or Turkish – everyone has a place and a role to play.
Athletes have the power to be ambassadors for peace, and to serve as role models for the younger generation.”
While the riders spend most of the year abroad, ICA was insistent on holding its first team camp in Israel, including boot-camp style training in the Jerusalem hills.
“I cannot wait for the start of the new academy race season,” said Adams. “We have established a much expanded and strong team that includes a series of experienced international cyclists with proven track records, including victories at the world’s greatest races. They join our talented young group who has already gained experience in many races and the Israelis who were promoted from the development team.”