Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN), the Israeli cycling team, went back to training camp Tuesday in preparation for the 2020 Tour de France amid the relaxed coronavirus restrictions in country - the first professional World Tour cycling team to do so, giving the Israeli riders a headstart on the competition for the year's largest race.
Considering the daily number of coronavirus infections and deaths have been moving in a downward trend for the past few weeks as Israel flattened out the curve with the draconian-like lockdown that lasted from early March to the end of April, the Health Ministry approved that certain sports are able to return to group training, as long as they follow specific guidelines.Since mid-March all sporting activities, professional and amateur, had been suspended due to the coronavirus spread. For a couple of weeks prior to that, some professional teams had been playing in empty stadiums with no fans. There is still no indication of when actual races, games and matches may resume, and even when they do the extreme likelihood is that they will take place without fans in attendance for the foreseeable future. "This is a testament to the forward-looking and astute Israeli management of this pandemic and our nation’s relatively low number of cases,” said ISN team owner Sylvan Adams who joined the training camp, located in Beit Hillel, northern Israel. “We look forward to similar improvements in other countries, as we prepare for the resumption of the race season, and our historic participation in the Tour de France, a first for our Israeli team.”The team is riding together for the first time in two months. They had participated in virtual rides alongside their teammates, and a few times even fans, however, this is the first time they will mount their bikes, buckle their helmets and ride alongside one another since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak.Following Health Ministry guidelines, the camp will be conducted under strict parameters. No more than 20 people can participate in a training session together, that includes riders, mechanics and coaches. All team members signed a statement declaring a clean bill of health, body temperatures are regularly checked, meals are eaten according to social distancing guidelines, group team meetings are being held outdoors and team sport therapist/medical doctors are conditioned to wear a mask while treating riders. “The team is doing its utmost to protect us,” said ISN’s Israeli climber Guy Niv, “so I feel pretty safe.” His teammate, the young Israeli sprinter Itamar Einhorn added that “everything is much stricter. You bring your own set of bottles to the ride, and nobody else will touch them but you.”“It is priceless. Being able to train together, race together in a sprint or working on high speeds. This is something you can’t train for alone or on home trainers. It enables you to reach levels that you cannot otherwise reach," said Niv.Considering international travel is still at a standstill, this week's camp will only be featuring Israeli riders. The team sees this as a dry run for when the team is reunited in its entire, practicing safe social distancing, testing and vigialance amid the coronavirus pandemic.“There are several hurdles to overcome before the season restarts and restrictions of movement between countries are the most crucial,” explained ISN pro manager Kjell Carlstrom. “It may be difficult to have full team training camps as we have riders living all over the world. We may need to build several squads based on areas and which races they are selected to compete in – and keep them together. For sure, it will be very complicated and challenging.”