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2020 Team Preview: Israel Start-Up Nation

Israel Start-Up Nation 2020
Israel Start-Up Nation's 2020 team presentation (Image credit: Noa Arnon)

Who?

There's a new name and a swathe of new riders on board at the team formerly known as Israel Cycling Academy as they step up to the WorldTour for 2020. Founded in 2015, the team has swiftly progressed through the ranks from Continental level to Giro d'Italia participation in each of the past two seasons. 

With names like Dan Martin, André Greipel and Nils Politt on board for the new campaign, Israel Start-Up Nation look to make a splash as they tackle the Tour de France for the first time.

Manager: Kjell Carlström

Squad size: 30

Average age: 28

How did they fare in 2019?

Wins: 30

WorldTour ranking: N/A

The team's 2019 campaign saw them take victories in such far-flung destinations as Rwanda, China, Estonia, South Korea and the USA, though the WorldTour's newest team didn't take a WorldTour victory during their final season in the Pro Continental ranks.

Ben Hermans scored the team's biggest victories, taking the overall wins at the Tours of Austria and Utah. Elsewhere, Davide Cimolai won the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and narrowly missed out on a Tirreno-Adriatico stage win to Julian Alaphilippe. Along with Rubén Plaza and Krists Neilands, he also scored a top 5 stage placing at the Giro.

Key riders

Dan Martin: The Irishman is the biggest name to join the team for 2020 and has said that he's looking for a more fun environment at the team after a tough, winless 2019 with UAE Team Emirates. The 33-year-old has big wins on his palmarès, including two Tour de France stages and two Monuments, and next year he'll be back in France and at the Ardennes Classics once again.

André Greipel: After a lost year at Arkéa-Samsic, the veteran sprinter is back in the WorldTour and excited for a fresh start at Israel Start-Up Nation. He'll be looking to prove that he still has what it takes to deliver big wins – his last victory at the top level came at the 2018 Tour Down Under. As with Martin, there'll also be an element of mentorship going forward, with Greipel having over a decade of WorldTour experience under his belt.

Nils Politt: One of seven additions from the folding Katusha squad that was taken over by Israel Start-Up Nation, Politt is one of the younger and more exciting riders on the roster. Last season his fifth and second places at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix were rare bright points in the team's final year. He says there's room for more progression too, so keep an eye out for him in April.

Ben Hermans: Something of a veteran of the team, having spent the past two seasons with Israel, Hermans has held the fort in shorter stage races, winning the Tour of Austria twice, plus the Tour of Utah last year. Hermans has also won the Tour of Oman and podiumed the Tour de Pologne and Adriatica Ionica during his career, and he'll surely be looking to prove himself at races like Paris-Nice or the Tour de Suisse as he moves back to the WorldTour.

Israel Start-Up Nation training camp

Israel Start-Up Nation head out for a training ride in the Negev Desert (Image credit: Noa Arnon)

Strengths

The team looks equipped to compete throughout the season, from January to October. In Dan Martin they have a proven winner of top-level races, a man who can compete at Grand Tours and hilly Classics. Greipel could still be a formidable threat for the sprints and the cobbles, while Politt is now a big name at the latter races.

Elsewhere, there's Alex Dowsett, who is among the world's leading time trialists, while Ben Hermans is a threat in short stage races. There's versatility elsewhere too, with Davide Cimolai, James Piccoli, Tom Van Asbroeck, Krists Neilands and Matthias Brändle among those who could potentially score results for the team.

They aren't likely to be among the top teams of the WorldTour in 2020, though that isn't really the aim here, at least not right away. A handful of big wins certainly look within reach, given the new recruits, and achieving that equal be a job well done.

Weaknesses

While the squad is set up to challenge across a wide range of races through the year, there's a danger that they're spread a little too thin for their first year in the WorldTour. Very few teams put together a squad capable of challenging in the stage races, sprints, cobbles, Ardennes and time trials. 

It's certainly possible on a huge budget, but even Ineos and Deceuninck-QuickStep have never quite managed cover all those bases and truly succeed. It's hard to imagine, for example, that they'll be competitive at each of the year's three Grand Tours.

Verdict

A year of change for the team, with a revamp across the board. It'll take time to bed in the 17 new riders, figure out tactics and have the new additions acclimatise the team, but there is some real promise in the squad. 

The handful of big stars look to carry the team through the biggest events of the year, while the rest of the squad will get their opportunities too. A cadre of less-experienced sprinters will learn from Greipel, for example, while James Piccoli will get his own climbing opportunities.

2020 lineup

Matteo Badilatti (Sui), Rudy Barbier (Fra), Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Matthias Brändle (Aut), Alexander Cataford (Can), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Alex Dowsett (GBr), Itamar Einhorn (Isr), Omer Goldstein (Isr), André Greipel (Ger), Ben Hermans (Bel), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Reto Hollenstein (Sui), Dan Martin (Irl), Travis McCabe (USA), Daniel Navarro (Spa), Krists Neilands (Lat), Guy Niv (Isr), James Piccoli (Can), Nils Politt (Ger), Mikhel Räim (Est), Alexis Renard (Fra), Guy Sagiv (Isr), Patrick Schelling (Sui), Rory Sutherland (Aus), Norman Vahtra (Est), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den), Rick Zabel (Ger)