Israel Cycling Academy re-sign Neilands, Raim and Dempster

Pro Continental team shoring up 2019 roster with eye toward 2020 Tour de France

The Israel Cycling Academy have begun shoring up their 2019 roster, re-signing Krists Neilands, Mihkel Raim and Zak Dempster as the team position themselves for a run at the 2020 Tour de France.

The Pro Continental team started their first Grand Tour this year during the Giro d'Italia and its historic start in Jerusalem. Now they're determined to keep the momentum going by targeting a Tour de France start in two years.

"Despite ICA's historic achievements at the halfway point of the 2018 season, we are already planning for next year," said team co-owner Sylvan Adams. "To that end we are already re-signing the team's core group of riders including Zak, Krists and Miku. The latter two were originally neo-pros,and have been nurtured in ICA into budding stars for the team. We will be even stronger and more experienced next year and I am proud of our riders and the team we have built."

Neilands joined the team from Hagens Berman Axeon in 2017 and has developed into one of the team's top riders, taking wins in Tour de Azerbaijan and Door Dwar Het Hageland. The 23-year-old Latvian also won his national road race championship in 2017 and 2018. He rode into cycling's spotlight with an attack on the Poggio in Milan-San Remo that helped launch Vincenzo Nibali's winning move.

"I got offers from big teams, from World Tour teams, and I had sleepless nights before I decided to reject them and say 'Yes' to my ICA team and stay another year," he said.

"I had a tough dilemma and It was a really hard decision," said Neilands who signed for a one year extension. "But eventually I made my mind to stay. I saw how this team treated me, how it patiently enabled me to take my time to progress and treated me like family while doing so. And here I am getting an opportunity to race in bigger and bigger races - and get a chance to fight for the win, while in big teams I will have to work for other riders."

Raim, 25, joined the team in 2016 from Amore & Vita and has become Israel Cycling Academy's most prolific winner. Raim has taken four wins so far this year after having missed several months this spring with a fractured wrist. He most recently won the Estonian road championship.

"ICA and I are enjoying a perfect marriage, so why break it?" Raim joked. "I became a much better rider during the development of the team, and I have no doubt that we will continue this way for years to come and will together get to the top of pro cycling."

Dempster, 30, has developed into a veteran mentor role within the team, which he joined in 2017 from Bora-Argon 18. Dempster, who the team has nicknamed 'Mr. Reliable,' was chosen for Israel Cycling Academy's the Giro with the team in May.

"It's a team in which I can really be myself," Dempster said. "I made some good steps and can now start to target winning in one day races."

Team director Kjell Carlstrom said retaining the team's top riders is crucial to keeping their momentum rolling.

"I am delighted that they decided to accept our offers to stay with the team," Carlstrom said. "It benefits both sides greatly. Krists is a great talent. That said, he also is a smart rider with both feet on the ground.

"Miku [Raim] is a winner type, and Zak brings consistent performances and leadership. For us, the fact that they decided to continue with us is a recognition that we are doing things the right way. We are committed to continue with our greatest assets intact and keep on with our process to achieve our goals."

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