There may still be a few weeks left of 2017 but teams are already setting down the base for their 2018 campaigns. The Israel Cycling Academy is no different and they have headed to their native Israel for a team bonding camp.
After stepping up to Pro Continental level at the start of the year and with a Giro d'Italia start looking more than likely, the team has made some big changes to its staff as well as its line-up. Ben Hermans is the team's biggest signing for 2018 as he moves from the BMC Racing set-up after four years.
The Belgian is joined by sprinter Kristian Sbaragli, WorldTour veteran Ruben Plaza, Norwegians Sondre Holst Enger and August Jensen, Nathan Earle, and first-ever Turkish professional Ahmet Orken.
Most of the team arrived in Tel Aviv late on Monday evening and had little time to recover from the jet-lag before they were up again and heading into the mountains on the outskirts of Jerusalem. There was no pedal power involved and instead they set off on a six-hour hike through the mountains to their campsite for the night.
There wasn't much time to sleep for the riders and staff after they were woken up at midnight by former members of the Israeli Defence Forces for a quick lesson in the martial art Krav Maga. Amped up by the hour-long lesson, they were allowed back to bed before being woken up again at 5am to continue their hike into Jerusalem. The hike was finished off by a lesson in stretcher carrying, as a demonstration of teamwork.
The hike finished just below the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre on the side of Mt Herzl. After a brief rest, they headed up to the centre and taken on a tour by a guide who had lost several members of her family to the Holocaust. The visit ended with a talk on Gino Bartali in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. Bartali's name is among those listed in the garden after he helped to save many Jews from the Nazi's during the Second World War.
The riders were also taken on a guided walking tour of the Old Jerusalem before heading to the Bloomfield Science Museum later that evening for their official presentation. Along with the new riders, the team unveiled its new colours for the season with a kit designed by Nalini. The team's new De Rosa bikes were also on show and the riders grabbed the opportunity to test the new material by riding it around the museum.
The final day of the camp brought the riders back to Tel Aviv. Before arriving, they stopped off at Beit Shemesh to gift bikes to a school in the district. The school will include riding in its curriculum with a bump track situated on school grounds. A second stop at the Peres Centre for Peace came in the afternoon and the riders were awarded 'peace ambassador' certificates from their respective ambassadors in a ceremony by the sea.
The camp will end on Friday, and the riders will then head to Spain for a technical camp to get their kit and gear fitted for the new season.