Israel Start-Up Nation finalizes roster for 2021, appoints Pridham

Froome headlines incoming talent • Brit becomes first female Sports Director on World Tour • Israeli Dror Pekatch also joins squad’s staff

ISN Training Camp 2020 (photo credit: NOA ARNON)
ISN Training Camp 2020
(photo credit: NOA ARNON)
The Israeli World Tour cycling team Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) has finalized its rider roster for the 2021 season, to be led by four-time Tour de France winner and Britain’s most decorated road cyclist Chris Froome.
What will be ISN’s largest lineup to date comprises 32 riders from Israel and 16 other countries, as well as nine new cyclist signings including Froome.
World-class veterans German Andre Greipel (157 individual wins) and Irishman Dan Martin (a top-10 finisher in the 2018 Tour) will also be returning this year to lead the team beside their new British counterpart.
“Despite COVID-19, Israel Start-Up Nation had a good inaugural season in the World Tour.  We secured our first victories at this level – including Grand Tour stages,” said the team’s co-owner Sylvan Adams.
“Our lineup for next year is significantly enhanced, yet it keeps the core group together” added Adams. “We plan to be extremely competitive in the biggest races, including Grand Tours, Monuments, and Classics. Our preseason training camp will provide an opportunity to bring everyone together and bond as a unit. Exciting times ahead.”
ISN typically holds its preseason training camp in Israel, and will do so again this year in January – taking full advantage of the warm winter weather to continue to train outdoors throughout the 10-day camp.
“We see ourselves as ambassadors of Israel, and we feel confident that we can hold the camp and ensure the health and safety of our riders and staff,” said new CEO of Israel Cycling Academy Ido Shavit.
The Israel Cycling Academy races on the UCI Continental tour and helps nurture talent in Israel to eventually be featured on the World Tour squad.
The ISN squad itself has been climbing the ranks since it made its way through general classifications of cycling to become a World Tour team in 2019. The World Tour status earned the team the ability to race in all three Grand Tour races this year even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The ISN cycling team made history in October by recording its first-ever stage victory in a Grand Tour race, just five years after the team’s establishment. Alex Dowsett earned the team the accolade after he finished first on Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia. The Giro is one of professional cycling’s three prestigious Grand Tour races, alongside the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.
Guy Niv also became the first Israeli to finish all 21 stages of the Tour de France.
“It will be fascinating to see how well we can perform up against the established big teams,” said ISN Team Manager Kjell Carlstrom. “We have a balanced roster in the sense that we can get results in all types of races, but our strongest chances will be at stage races.”
“We are still underdogs for overall General Classification victories, but we can be in the mix for General Classification podiums. In the next few weeks, we’ll sit down and establish a game plan for that,” he added.
Team directors intend to meet to discuss ISN’s upcoming strategy for 2021 in Girona, Spain, on December 12.
In related news, Cherie Pridham will lead the Israel Start-Up Nation squad next season as sports director in the World Tour and other races, becoming the first woman to assume the role at the highest level of professional cycling.
The team also announced that it will have an Israeli sports director at some of its 2021 races after reaching an agreement with Dror Pekatch.
“I feel truly proud and privileged to be the first woman to serve as a sports director at the World Tour level, joining one of the best teams in the world and being entrusted with great and legendary riders,” said Pridham. “So, for me, I want to get it right because when I do, I know that it will inspire others to take the same journey and that really does mean something to me.”
The appointment of Pridham is a significant development in what is traditionally a male-dominated sport. Carlstrom underlined Pridham’s credentials.
“She has what is needed to be successful: experience and skills. I believe that Cherie will have a positive impact on our team and get the job done.”
Pridham comes to ISN with an established and significant record of directing male riders in the sport. After a successful 15-year career as a pro rider (cut short by a hit-and-run accident in 2006), she pivoted her career towards managing and directing. In 2011, she became one of the first female sports directors in Britain, with local team Raleigh, where she served as manager and director. A few years later, she became the owner, leading the team to victories in races all over the globe.
“I have dealt with male cyclists all my life, so I do not see the move as any different in that regard,” said Pridham with confidence.
Emphasizing her experience, Pridham said: “My role is Directeur Sportif, not Female Directeur Sportif, and I know that I'll be expected to concentrate on that aspect. I’ll be tackling the very same issues as my colleagues – I’ll make the same mistakes and have the same successes, too.”
“Cherie has the distinction of being the first female sports director on a men’s WorldTour squad,” said Adams. “She has earned this position through her experience and success in various roles on both women’s and men’s teams. Cherie is a true professional and will have an opportunity to work with the very best riders in the pro peloton. I welcome her to Israel Start-Up Nation. I’m very excited for the coming season.”
For Israeli Pekatch, joining the team is a happy reunion of sorts. He was the first sports director of the team when it was founded as Israel Cycling Academy back in 2014 and guided the team in its first season. As a pro, Pekatch, who enjoyed a successful career as a mountain biker, has since directed the Israeli National MTB team and works as a cycling broadcaster and analyst.
Team co-owner Ron Baron welcomed Pekatch back to the team.
“Dror is a skilled DS and deserves the chance to take this step up to the highest level. For an Israeli team, it is crucial to have Israeli representation to further develop the sport of cycling in the country at all levels. This is our obligation.”
Pekatch said that he is “thrilled” to return, this time to a team that has made the jump from Continental to World Tour: “The path the team has been on since its establishment is just unbelievable. It’s not even close to what we had back then, but it’s still, or even more, wrapped up in the blue and white colors and flag.”
Pekatch went on to express his confidence in the Israeli riders on the team and their ability to step up.
“Our Israeli athletes are the heart and the core in many ways, but we need to see and judge them as equals now. We are here to win races.”
Jerusalem Post Sports Staff contributed to this report.
ISN 2021 Roster (Courtesy Israel Start-Up Nation)
ISN 2021 Roster (Courtesy Israel Start-Up Nation)