Israel Start-Up Nation geared up for season

Blue-and-white cycling team newcomer Chris Froome committed for long term, wants 5th Tour title

ISRAEL START-UP NATION co-owner Sylvan Adams (left) and team newcomer and cycling legend Chris Froome ride together in training. (photo credit: VELO IMAGES)
ISRAEL START-UP NATION co-owner Sylvan Adams (left) and team newcomer and cycling legend Chris Froome ride together in training.
(photo credit: VELO IMAGES)
At a virtual press conference during its training camp in Girona, Spain, the Team Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) cycling team introduced new riders Chris Froome, Michael “Rusty” Woods and Sep Vanmarcke. They were joined at the press conference ahead of the new season by Dan Martin, Guy Niv, team co-owner Sylvan Adams and team manager Kjell Carlström.
The 2021 season will see Team ISN compete at WorldTour level (the highest level of professional cycling) for just the second season.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome is the team’s biggest signing, and he made his feelings clear.
“This is very much a long-term commitment for me. I have committed to the end of my career. I’m in to give everything I can to help the team in every way possible as well as improve myself and get back to the topour .”
Asked whether it would have been easier to simply retire after a serious crash two years ago, he replied: “That is not the way I wanted to end my cycling career. I have four Tour titles. I’m not done yet – I want number five.”
Froome added that he does not see his age, 35, working against him. “Age is a state of mind. It is certainly possible to win again, and I would like to prove that.”
Team co-owner Adams said he is “particularly excited for the upcoming season with a team that has been revamped for this year.”
Israel's first professional cycling team was established in 2015 as “Israel Cycling Academy,” including riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when 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. 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 Niv completing the race. Later in 2019, the team took another historic step, joining the World Tour for the first time under the name Team Israel Start-Up Nation, securing its place in this year's Tour de France. The team also secured its first Grand Tour stage victories in 2020, in both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
Adams emphasized that the team is not just about winning races, saying that it is “More than just a cycling team, this is a project. There are two sides. On one side, we are promoting cycling in Israel. And on the other side, we are there to promote our home country of Israel. We are representing our home country around the world with true sportsmanship and determination.”
Reflecting on the multiple changes on the team roster, Adams explained, “One of the reasons for all the change is that we were assured of our World Tour license very late last year, so there wasn’t much time to make changes. We were still a Pro-Conti team and had a Pro-Conti lineup. But we had a good season anyway, and now we have a very good team heading into 2021.”
Last season, Niv became the first Israeli rider to finish the Tour de France, and he believes that was simply the beginning.
“We have definitely stepped up as a team, and the Israeli riders must step up as well,” he said. “I am privileged to work with such big names, and I want to be the best rider I can be to help the team achieve its goals.”
Martin, who finished fourth overall in the Vuelta a Espana (one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, alongside the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia) in 2020, will no longer be the sole team captain in major races with Froome joining the team.
“I am happy to see how the team has been strengthened, it gives me confidence,” said Martin. “I know how much I can learn from Chris and the others. We can become a stronger team together. It’s a team effort.”
Team manager  Carlström doesn’t anticipate problems with Froome and Martin as co-leaders in the Grand Tours.
“Both are reasonable guys who respect each other and also respect team orders. Chris and Dan can support each other and make the whole team stronger.”
Martin also has his eyes on the Ardennes Classics, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013. New teammate Woods has also performed well there, placing second in the race in 2018.
Martin commented: “It’s exciting to have strong teammates in races. You never know what might happen. And I’d rather have Rusty racing on my team rather than racing against him.”
“It’s an honor to be racing with him. He has been so consistent over the years, there’s a lot I can learn from him. I would love to be able to help him win.”
Unfortunately, the team was not able to hold its traditional training camp in Israel this year, due to the COVID pandemic and prohibitive travel restrictions. Looking ahead, Adams said: “When things open up again in Israel, we will bring the new riders there for a camp. It is important they experience our home country and visit such places as Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Center.”
Froome looks forward to that visit.
“My only experience with Israel was at the Giro d’Italia 2018, and that experience blew me away. It was not at all what I expected.”
Adams also emphasized that while Israel has made huge progress in vaccinating its population, there will be no exceptions for his team.
“By the end of March, every person in Israel should have received both doses. At that point, it may be possible to consider vaccinating our riders. We won’t jump the queue.”