Israel Cycling Academy sign Davide Cimolai from Groupama-FDJ

29-year-old Italian will bolster Pro Continental team's sprint set-up

The Israel Cycling Academy continue to bolster their 2019 roster with another addition to the sprint train, announcing on Wednesday that they've signed Italian lead-out man Davide Cimolai from Groupama-FDJ.

The 29-year-old has five UCI wins to his credit since turning pro in 2010 with Liquigas-Doimo, but he has flourished in the WorldTour most recently as a lead-out man for the likes of Arnaud Demare at FDJ and Italian teammate Matteo Trentin, who Cimolai helped deliver to the European Championship road race victory in August.

Two of Cimolai's own wins came in Spain at the Volta a Catalunya in 2015 and 2017, and he also took stages at the Tour of Japan in 2016, Paris-Nice in 2015 and the Italian one-day Trofeo Laigueglia in 2015.

"This is exactly what we need from Davide," team manager Kjell Carlstrom said, adding that the Israel Cycling Academy believe signing Cimolai is a big step in fulfilling their goal of improving the team's sprint results.

"Davide is a strong rider who has shown that he can get results himself, but can also support other sprinters," Carlstrom said. "What we like most is that he can do it in hard races – those races when the terrain or the level of the race and the intensity is very high, like the Classics. It's no secret that we lacked a bit in those races this past season."

The Israel Cycling Academy took 15 wins in 2018, in what was the team's second season in the Pro Continental ranks. Colombian sprinter Edwin Ávila started things off with a stage win at the Tour de Taiwan in March, but was then shut out for the rest of the season.

The team added 2015 Vuelta a España stage winner Kristian Sbaragli from Dimension Data this year, but the Italian wasn't able to crack the podium's top step. Estonia fastman Mihkel Räim was once again the team's most prolific winner, with stage wins at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Tour of Japan and Tour de Korea, along with the Estonian road race championship and the Great War Remembrance Race in Belgium.

"Some of our sprinters were having some difficulties in adjusting," Carlstrom admitted. "But now we're confident that they'll perform much better and will enjoy quality reinforcements like Davide and Rudy Barbier, who we previously signed. And we are far from done."

Cimolai has plenty of experience working with other riders. In 2012 he moved from Liquigas, where he rode with Peter Sagan, to Lampre, spending five seasons with the Italian team before jumping last year to French squad FDJ to ride in support of Demare.

"When I was a young, my idol was Marco Pantani, but I now appreciate many riders like Alejandro Valverde, Daniele Bennati and, more than anyone, Peter Sagan," Cimolai said in a statement released by the team. "I am a fast rider that can stay [in comtention] on the short climbs."

Like many Italian riders, Cimolai dreams of winning Milan-San Remo, the early season Classic that takes riders nearly 300km from Milan to the coast. He has competed in the Italian Monument every year since 2012, cracking the top 10 in 2015 with an eighth-place finish.

The Israel Cycling Academy competed in the race for the first time this year, with the team's Krists Neilands initiating an attack that launched Bahrain-Merida's Vincenzo Nibali to success. The team's relationship with Giro d'Italia and Milan-San Remo organiser RCS Sport also bodes well for their future inclusion in the race – a fact that helped drive Cimolai's decision to sign.

"My dream is Milan-San Remo, and I chose the Israel Cycling Academy because I believe a lot in this unique project: an Israeli team that wants to change cycling In Israel by achieving success with Israeli and international riders – together. I think here – with ICA – we can make this dream of Milan-San Remo and other great victories come true together."

The team previously announced re-signing Ruben Plaza to a second season. The 39-year-old Spaniard won a stage at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in 2018 and took the overall there. He then went on to finish second on stage 18 of the Giro – the team's best result in the race that featured an historic start in Jerusalem and marked their first Grand Tour participation.

Plaza, who previously won stages at the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, was hoping to finish his career with a hat-trick of wins in each Grand Tour. Although he just missed that accomplishment this year, team co-owner Sylvan Adams said when the team announced the new deal that he was "confident" Plaza would get another shot at a Giro stage, hinting that the team will be pursuing another wildcard berth to the race this year.

Also returning to the Israel Cycling Academy for 2019 will be Ben Hermans, the Belgian climber who came into form at the end of the year, winning a stage and the overall at the Tour of Austria. Among the sprinters, Kristian Sbaragli, Mihkel Räim and Edwin Ávila will all be back for the team next season.

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