Dan Martin thrilled with Israel Start-Up Nation

Ranked third at Vuelta, veteran Irishman full of praise for team’s young blue-and-white riders

Israel Start-Up Nation riders at Vuelta a Espana (photo credit: BETTINI PHOTOS/COURTESY)
Israel Start-Up Nation riders at Vuelta a Espana
After seven stages of the Vuelta a Espana, Israel Start-Up Nation’s Dan Martin is third in the overall rankings, having already won a stage of the race.
Martin sat 20 seconds overall behind leader Richard Carapaz, while the blue-and-white team sits in 16th overall after Tuesday’s Stage 7 following Monday’s rest day.
It represents an excellent start to the race for the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team, which is competing in its first ever Vuelta a Espana. The Vuelta is one of professional cycling’s three prestigious Grand Tour races, alongside the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.  
Martin finished 18th on Sunday’s very difficult mountain stage, which was complicated by cold and very wet weather, but he came through well.
“It takes a lot out of you when you race in those conditions and then we had a long transfer,” said the 34-year-old Irishman. “Of course, today we’re feeling a little bit tired, and it’s been a very tough week. Mentally, I’m feeling really good, although the legs are a little bit tired. But I’m sure I’ll be fighting fit again tomorrow.”
An experienced rider, Martin won his second Vuelta stage and his fourth Grand Tour stage overall on Thursday. Asked whether he will go for more stage wins, he replied: “It depends on the opportunities, but I think a breakaway will decide a lot of the stages ahead. But who knows? If I have good legs and the opportunity comes then of course I’ll go for a stage, but the focus is on the General Classification [overall race leadership] and we’ll see how far we can go with that.”
The veteran is very impressed by the young Israeli riders on the Israel Start Up Nation team, especially Omer Goldstein, who is in the squad riding at the Vuelta.
“Omer has done a great job here. He rode at the front yesterday and he’s very competent in the peloton. He’s a really good kid to have around,” said Martin.
“We saw with Guy Niv how he suffered through the Tour de France, it was one of the hardest Tours ever, but he got through it. And Guy Sagiv at the Giro d’Italia – he made it to the end after a really bad crash. That shows the strength of character and determination that will take them far in cycling.
“These guys are young, perhaps not young in age but in experience,” Martin added.
Most of the Israel Start-Up Nation team at the Vuelta are competing in their first Grand Tour.
“Sutherland, Reto and myself are telling them what to do on a rest day. They’ve never done a rest day before! It’s things like that. They have that wide-eyed enthusiasm and obviously they have no idea how they will feel in the third week. We haven’t broken it to them yet that it’s going to be terrible.”
But it’s nice to see that enthusiasm going into the race and that hunger for success and it’s a really great atmosphere. We’re racing with fun and a smile on our faces.”
Martin is also very happy that multiple Grand Tour winner Chris Froome will be joining the team in January. The two have known each other for years.
“We’ve talked every day this week in the peloton. The fact that he is even on the bike this year after his crash is amazing. I think he’s going to progress so much in this race
“I can’t wait to actually race on the same team with him. He’s a real presence and will inspire everybody. The team is going to step up another level next year. It’s been on such a steep learning curve so far, from a small Continental team to now a World Tour team. Now, with signing the best rider of this generation, I feel like it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”
Israel’s first professional cycling team was established in 2015 as “Israel Cycling Academy,” and included riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when Sylvan Adams joined as a co-owner alongside Ron Baron. In 2018, Adams was the driving force behind bringing the prestigious Giro d’Italia to begin in Israel – One of cycling’s three Grand Tour races. This also saw the team compete in its first Grand Tour, with Sagiv becoming the first Israeli to finish such a race. The team competed again in the Giro d’Italia in 2019, with Israel’s Niv completing the race. Later in 2019, the team took another historic step, joining the World Tour (the highest level of professional cycling) for the first time under the name Israel Start-Up Nation, securing its place in this year’s Tour de France.