Ruben Plaza has signed on for another year with Israel Cycling Academy. The 38-year-old Spaniard announced his decision Friday with a presentation on Facebook Live. Plaza joined the team this season after three seasons with the Australian Orica WorldTour teams.
"When I signed with ICA for the 2018 season, I was really thinking that this is going to be my final year as a pro, but as the season progressed I realized that I am still very much motivated," Plaza said in a statement released by the team.
"The fantastic experience being a leader and a veteran in a young team, being part of a project that is changing Cycling in Israel - has given new meaning to what I do on the bike," he said. "Then came the historic and unforgettable Giro D'italia and the moments I will never ever forget when all the country united behind the team."
Plaza had a resurgence of sorts with the Israeli-registered team this year, taking his first win in three years as he soloed to a stage win and overall victory at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in April. Plaza made the roster for the team's Giro d'Italia squad and the historic start in Jerusalem, and he nearly scored a stage win when he was second to Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) on stage 18 to Prato Nevoso.
"I was close, but close is not enough," Plaza said. "I wanted to give myself and the team a dream win, and this mission is still unfulfilled. When the team came to me with the offer to continue for another year, I asked myself if I can still deliver with ability and motivation, and the answer was, 'Yes, I can.' So I see it as almost another chance to leave a mark and continue the journey with this unique team."
Plaza finished 10 seconds behind the German on that Giro stage as the day-long breakaway disintegrated on the final climb, just missing out on his goal to win a stage in each Grand Tour after taking wins at the Vuelta a Espana in 2015 and 2005, and in the Tour de France in 2015. Team co-owner Sylvan Adams hinted that Plaza will get a chance at his Giro win again next year.
"We are delighted that Ruben will be with us next year, as he has proven this year that he has still has strong legs and a young heart," Adams said. "Ruben is also an experienced veteran on ICA and has been a mentor to some of the younger riders. Having come so close to a stage win in this year's Giro, Ruben had to come back in order to complete his career goal of a stage victory at all Grand Tours. I am confident this will happen in 2019."
The team also announced signing current trainee Matteo Badillatti two a two-year deal that will take the 26-year-old Swiss rider through the 2020 season. Badillatti rode on the Continental level with Austrian team Team Vorarlberg Santic for most of the year before signing on as a stagiaire with Israel Cycling Academy in August.
"Matteo has only been riding a short time," said Israel Cycling Academy Manager Kjell Carlström. "But specifically the results in Tour of Austria intrigued us [Badilatti finished ninth in the GC riding for Vorarlberg Santic -ed.] We are confident he can still improve and be there on the climbs in many different races."
Badilatti said he was eager to prove himself to the team when he started as a trainee.
"I came to the team with hope that I can justify the Chance ICA gave me," he said. "From The first moment, I felt that I am given the full opportunity and being treated as part of the ICA family. Racing with the team was an amazing experience and I am delighted to now get a chance to grow and develop full time as a pro. I will not disappoint."