Battle for Israeli Giro berth heating up

Only one blue-and-white cyclist is set to be part of Israel Cycling Academy’s squad for Grand Tour.

IN A heated race, (from left) Guy Sagiv, Roy Goldstein and Guy Niv are battling for what is expected to be the lone berth for an Israeli rider on the Israel Cycling Academy’s squad at the upcoming Giro d’Italia. (photo credit: NOA ARNON/ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY)
IN A heated race, (from left) Guy Sagiv, Roy Goldstein and Guy Niv are battling for what is expected to be the lone berth for an Israeli rider on the Israel Cycling Academy’s squad at the upcoming Giro d’Italia.
The start of the Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem in five weeks will undoubtedly be the greatest moment in Israeli cycling history, one that was unimaginable not that long ago.
The race will see 176 of the world’s top cyclists begin the competition with a time trial against the backdrop of the Old City.
Among all the elite riders waiting at the start line there will also be one Israeli, preparing to make history and become the first blue-and-white cyclist to ever compete in one of the three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana).
While the Giro will get under way in just over a month, the battle for what is expected to be the lone berth for an Israeli rider on the squad of Team Israel Cycling Academy is still wide open.
Guy Sagiv, Roy Goldstein and Guy Niv are set to be the three Israeli finalists for a place on the team’s eight-man squad for the Giro.
While in theory more than one Israeli could make the team, in all likelihood there will only be room for a single local rider in the monumental race, which will continue with road stages between Haifa and Tel Aviv (167 km) and Beersheba and Eilat (226 km) before heading to southern Italy.
“This 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia will be historic in many ways,” Israel Cycling Academy team owner Sylvan Adams told The Jerusalem Post. “The first time a Grand Tour will race outside of Europe it will happen in Israel. And, our Israel Cycling Academy team, the country’s first professional bicycle team, is participating in the Giro on home soil, which also means that an Israeli athlete will be competing in a Grand Tour for the first time. Each of these is a remarkable first, unimaginable just a couple of years ago, and announces Israel’s arrival as a true cycling nation on the World stage.”
Sagiv, Goldstein and Niv all live in the city of Girona in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, and are good friends away from training and racing. They often meet for Friday night meals and go out for coffee when they are all in town.
But they are all well aware that only one of them is set to take part in the Giro, which will obviously leave the two other riders bitterly disappointed.
“This is our career and this is our life, but we also all undoubtedly want the best for each other,” said the 23-year-old Sagiv, a native of Givat Nili, a moshav near Zikhron Ya’akov. “There is no doubt that this is a very special race but there will be more races.”
Sagiv is coming off a remarkable performance at the Milan-San Remo “Monument” classic two weeks ago, being among the nine riders in the early break. Sagiv and teammate Dennis Van Winden were part of the lead group for 250 kilometers before it was pulled in by the peloton, with Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali ultimately claiming the win after 291km.
“I’m happy to see Guy Sagiv do well in the Milan-San Remo. I don’t want someone else to fail, I want to do well myself,” explained the 24-yearold Goldstein, a native of Gilon in the Lower Galilee. “I’m happy when the other riders do well, but even happier when I succeed.
At the end of the day we are friends and teammates who will always work for each other. The bottom line is that this battle will help us progress and make us stronger.
“This Giro really is historic, but our path only passes through the Giro. It isn’t our ultimate goal. Our goal is bigger than this Giro or next year’s Giro.”
The 24-year-old Niv, a native of kibbutz Misgav Am in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel, echoed a similar sentiment.
“At the beginning of the year there was a race in which Guy Sagiv was injured but he had no problem riding in front of me, blocking the wind for me and helping me out,” noted Niv, who has surprised everyone with his form after only making the switch from mountain biking to road racing last year. “We are pros and we are all doing our job.
Eventually the team will make its choice. We live in the same city, far from our families, and we also meet away from cycling. We will be happy for whoever makes it.”
While Sagiv, Goldstein and Niv are genuinely rooting for each other, they each also have little doubt that they should be the one racing in the Giro.
“I for example have more experience than Guy Niv. He has made amazing progress this year and has closed the gap from a physical standpoint, but you can’t discount years of experience and the understanding of racing in a peloton, which I have,” said Sagiv. “Regarding Roy, I think that I have an advantage over him in experience, as well as knowing how to work for the team.”
Goldstein, whose brother Omer is also a member of Israel Cycling Academy, is extremely confident.
“I think my chances of making the team are really high,” he stated.
“I’m the current Israel national champion and that says a lot. We are all being tested in competitions across the world and it will ultimately come down not to who is the better or stronger rider, but on which rider will adapt himself to the team at the Giro and help the team to win.”
Niv understands he has the disadvantage of having focused on mountain biking up until a year ago, but he still believes he will make the team.
“I really believe in my abilities. Obviously, I lack experience. I still need to learn a lot about racing in a peloton, but I try to learn from every race in which I compete and not make the same mistake twice,” he explained. “I have no qualms about saying that I’m the best Israeli climber and ultimately the Giro is a race with many climbs.
A rider who can overcome the climbs and stay with the leaders can be a great asset to the team and that is what I’m counting on.”
Niv became a professional road cyclist almost by coincidence, taking part in a race in France last April to prepare for a mountain bike competition, only to discover that his passion for cycling wasn’t limited to rough terrain.
“Fortunately the transition was smooth,” said Niv. “One of the things that crossed my mind when I decided to make the change was that there was talk that the Giro might be coming to Israel.
It seemed unrealistic for me at the time as I hadn’t even competed in top road races. It was a dream, but I’m happy that I’m one of the candidates to make the squad one month be-fore the Giro.”
One of the things on which Sagiv, Goldstein and Niv all agree on is their good fortune to be racing at a time when Israel’s first professional cycling team is rising to prominence. Only one of them is set to be at the start line in Jerusalem on May 4, but the future of all three under the stewardship of Israel Cycling Academy looks to be brilliantly bright.
“It really is a gift from heaven,” said Goldstein on having the opportunity to race for ICA. “Sometimes you have to be at the right place at the right time to get your chance. A few years ago the path to success was much tougher, not that it is easy and simple now. I didn’t know that the team would exist when I was a young rider. I always believed I would be able to make it regardless, but now the Israeli riders are extremely lucky to have a much clearer horizon for the future.”