It had been two years since the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team was able to gather in Israel for a pre-season camp, and it was worth the wait.
When Israel reopened its doors to tourism last month, ISN’s riders and staff were some of the first to set foot in the country. They had one goal: experience the best Israel has to offer.
“Discovering the wonders and historic sites of Israel has been amazing for all of us and I’m looking forward to coming back to see more one day soon,” said four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome as the participants prepared to depart this week.
It’s safe to say Froome spoke for the whole team.
Seven action-packed days saw the team visit historic sites in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, have the honor of meeting President Isaac Herzog, and ride in the awe-inspiring locations of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
For Froome and some of his teammates, the chance to go mountain biking in the desert surrounding Masada, above the Dead Sea, was a clear highlight. Alongside the cultural activities, the team experienced Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as tourists, taking in the cities with a number of bonding activities and group challenges.
No matter where the team went, one thing stood out: the fans. From meet and greets at Bar Bahar on the outskirts of Jerusalem and the Ironman 70.3 Tiberias, to meeting the next generation of Israeli cyclists at the Sylvan Adams National Velodrome, the sense of pride and passion amongst the team’s Israeli fans won’t be forgotten. For the riders, visiting Israel for the first time, it was a chance to feel the warm support they receive throughout the season first-hand on Israeli soil.
“I have really enjoyed these days with the team here in Israel. It has been a great experience for everybody. These kinds of bonding camps are so important for when racing begins again as this is something that really glues the team together,” added Froome.
For Israeli ISN rider Guy Niv, the camp was an opportunity to show his teammates his home roads under the warm November sun.
“It is great to show my teammates my country, and training grounds, as this year we visited the north of Israel again. The Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, it’s all so beautiful. Also, we finally had good weather. This time we were lucky and we got to enjoy and explore the beautiful country with sunshine.”
The pre-season bonding camp wasn’t just an opportunity to discover Israel but it allowed the new 2022 riders to integrate into the team in a relaxed setting. While many WorldTour teams gather their riders for a short bonding camp at the end of the season, ISN’s incredible Israel trip and the itinerary were nothing short of unique.
“It has been great to meet the team and get to know everyone already before the new season starts,” exclaimed two-time Monument winner Jakob Fuglsang, who visited Israel for the first time. “Getting to explore Israel has been a real privilege. It’s such a historic area in the world and we have seen so much this past week both on and off the bike. After being with the team this week, I can’t wait for the new season to start.”
ISN’s newest star sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo echoed Fuglsang’s thoughts.
“The first meeting with the team has been great,” said the 32-year-old Italian. “It has been very interesting to get to know everyone in unusual settings compared to a normal training camp. I think this was the right way to connect with everyone and I got a warm welcome from the staff and all the other riders. I’m really happy and now I’m looking forward to seeing them all next year.”
For ISN owner Sylvan Adams, the Israel camp has set the stage for the 2022 season.
“Our bonding camp in Israel was probably the most successful edition to date. A combination of tourism, fun team-bonding activities, combined with scenic riding in the Judean hills and Golan Heights, offered the riders and staff a taste of Israel’s geographic and cultural diversity.”
With 30-degree temperatures in November making for perfect holiday conditions, it’s no wonder riders are eager to return.
“Many of the riders told me how much they loved their stay, with several adding that they would plan another trip on their own in the near future,” noted Adams. “We also had the opportunity to meet our local fans, both on the bike and at the fan expo of Israel’s first Ironman competition in Tiberias, at the Sea of Galilee. All in all, a most successful camp, which brought us closer together as we look forward to a successful 2022.”