Cycling Academy add Hermans and Plaza for 2018

Israeli team bolstering roster ahead of hoped-for Giro d'Italia start

Israel Cycling Academy have taken the first steps toward bolstering their roster for next season, confirming Thursday they have signed Ben Hermans from BMC Racing and Rubén Plaza from Orica-Scott.

The team appear to be strengthening their roster with a Grand Tour start in mind, as Cyclingnews has reported previously that the 2018 Giro d'Italia will start in Jerusalem next year.

Hermans, 31, has ridden the Giro d'Italia three times and the Vuelta a España twice, while Plaza, 37, has ridden 12 Grand Tours, including the Tour de France six times, the Giro twice and the Vuelta four times. Plaza has two stage wins in the Vuelta, in 2005 and 2015, and one stage win at the 2015 Tour de France. Hermans' most recent additions to his palmares include two stages and the overall win this year at the Tour of Oman in February.

"We are delighted that great WorldTour riders are joining our team," said team founder and co-owner Ron Baron. "It's not only a show of trust in this project but a real boost to fulfill our Grand Tour dreams, help us inspire the next generation of Israeli Cyclists, and put Israel on the map in professional cycling."

For co-owner Sylvan Adams, whose investment allowed the team to jump to the Pro Continental level this year, the moves are part of a concerted effort to make the team competitive in more and bigger races.

"Next year will be very significant in terms of the evolution of our young program, as we aim to race in our first Grand Tour," Adams said. "These riders, and others soon to follow, will provide leadership to ICA, including to our contingent of Israeli riders as we remain a very young team."

Hermans, who has ridden on the WorldTour since 2010 with RadioShack, said the move from BMC to Cycling Academy will allow him a leadership role and provide opportunities that were harder to get at bigger teams like BMC.

"After several years on big teams, I will now get many more opportunities," he said. "This is a great new motivation. I believe it will bring me to a new level – but not just me – this whole Israeli team that desires to reach the highest level of cycling."

Cycling Academy team director Kjell Carlstrom was obviously excited to work with his two new riders, who he says will facilitate a "groundbreaking" new race programme for the team.

"Hermans is a strong rider and a guy that can do a good TT," Carlstrom said. "He can be a leader in short stage races but can also win stages in Grand Tours too.

"[Plaza] has tons of experience, can guide our young riders, and on top of all this, he has the ability to go for stage wins in Grand Tours," Carlstrom said.

Plaza started his professional career in 2001 with iBanseto and spent four years on Movistar from 2011 through 2014. He signed with Lampre-Merida for one season in 2015 and has been with Orica the past two seasons. His move to Cycling Academy represents his return to the Pro Continental ranks since he rode with Caisse d'Epargne in 2010.

"For me, the past is irrelevant," Plaza said. "I am now focused on a team that, to me, represents the future of cycling. I am determined to help and lead.

"Fifty per cent of my life I have spent as a pro, and believe me, it's not possible if you do not love cycling," he said. "I have a huge amount of experience. I love to teach and to help the team win. We have extra responsibility because we are the image of one country … 2018 will be really important for this project."

Cycling Academy sprung onto the scene in 2015 as a Continental project supported by Peter Sagan. The team jumped to Pro Continental level for this season, adding a host of riders. More new signings are expected to soon. 

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