- Manager: Kjell Carlström
- Team size: 30
- Average age: 29.83
Backed by Canadian/Israeli billionaire philanthropist Sylvan Adams, the Israel Start-Up Nation team are entering their third season in the WorldTour and are still in a building phase after two years of high-profile acquisitions.
The first iteration built upon the original ProTeam, adding Dan Martin and André Greipel, then this season saw the arrival of a rehabilitated Chris Froome, Michael Woods and Sep Vanmarcke.
Martin was arguably their best hire, and in 2020 he was largely responsible for the team's point tally thanks to his fourth place and stage win in the Vuelta a España, but he has since retired. So has Greipel, who scored two wins for the team before climbing off for good.
This season, Woods took over as the team's top point-winner with a stage win in Tour de Romandie and several top-fives in the Classics, while Froome continued his recovery but made little racing impact.
So Israel Start-Up Nation have some work to do to close the gap to the likes of UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma.
The team capitalized on a shake-up at Astana to bring on Jakob Fuglsang as their marquee Grand Tour rider, although the Dane's best finish was a sixth place in the 2020 Giro d'Italia. He's shown far better promise than a top-10 after twice winning the Critérium du Dauphiné, but just hasn't been able to put form and luck together at the same time for three weeks.
They've also swept up Giacomo Nizzolo from the Qhubeka team, and he's a strong bet for sprint and Grand Tour stage wins if Israel Start-Up Nation can put together an effective lead-out train.
How did they fare in 2021?
- Wins: 17
- UCI World Ranking: 10th - 6704.66pts
Israel Start-Up Nation climbed up the rankings from a dismal 22nd in 2020 to 10th this season, which is no mean feat.
Although they didn't manage to repeat their two Grand Tour stage wins this year, they had a far more consistent season and results from more riders. Martin won a stage and was 10th in the Giro d'Italia, Mads Würtz Schmidt won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and Vanmarcke landed on the podium in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Ben Hermans had four victories, though none were WorldTour, taking the overall and a stage at the Arctic Race of Norway, winning the Giro dell'Appennino and a stage of the Tour Poitou-Charentes.
Greipel won in Mallorca and at the Ruta del Sol, Alessandro De Marchi won Tre Valli Varesine as well as wearing the leader's jersey in the Giro, while Woods added to the team's ranking with high finishes in Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Suisse and Tour de Romandie.
Key riders for 2022
After years of struggling with injuries, Nizzolo blossomed with the Qhubeka team, in particular from 2020, when he won at Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice and won both the Italian and European titles. This season, Nizzolo wasn't as prolific a winner but scored some important results - most notably his first Giro d'Italia stage after a dozen second places over his career and his second place to Wout van Aert in Gent-Wevelgem.
Expect Nizzolo to be the go-to guy for Israel Start-Up Nation. He'll have some experienced lead-out men in Guillaume Boivin, Alex Dowsett and Rick Zabel and aspirations for stage wins in the Giro d'Italia and/or Tour de France.
Fuglsang is a rider with plenty of class, and can bring home big scores like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which he won in 2019, or Il Lombardia (2020) and he excels in shorter stage races.
Even if he may struggle to challenge riders like Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič in the Grand Tours, as a two-time winner of the Dauphiné (2017, 2019), Fuglsang will be counted upon to rake in the points and prestige should Froome continue to ride like a shadow of his former self.
The Canadian turned 35 in October but, having started his career late, he still has the drive and ambition of riders a decade younger and the stats to prove it. As the runner-up in the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a podium finisher in Flèche Wallonne, Woods will be the ultimate foil for Fuglsang in the Ardennes Classics and will be in the hunt for Grand Tour stage wins.
While Fuglsang and Woods are riders for the Ardennes, Vanmarcke heads up Israel Start-Up Nation's squad for the cobbled Classics. A podium finisher in Paris-Roubaix (2013), Tour of Flanders (2014, 2016) and Gent-Wevelgem (2010, 2016) and a past winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2012), Vanmarcke is the cornerstone of a Classics team that includes Guillaume Boivin, who was ninth in Paris-Roubaix, and Tom Van Asbroeck. The addition of Nizzolo gives the team a more complete set of capabilities for the Spring Classics.
Alessandro De Marchi
One of the best breakaway artists in the peloton, De Marchi has undoubtedly gotten his teams the most television time of any rider on the roster. He took the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia this year thanks to those talents, and the mountains classification at Tour of the Alps. He finally got to raise his arms in victory in the Tre Valli Varesine after recovering from his nasty crash at the Giro, confirming his grit and determination. A past winner of three Vuelta a España stages, look for De Marchi to be both a critical domestique and a relentless stage hunter.
Froome has certainly underperformed for a four-time Tour de France winner, with every single placing in the double digits since joining the team last year. Many doubt that he can ever regain his old form. The team excused his lacklustre Tour by announcing he'd been treated for a recurrence of the parasite bilharzia, and he seemed to downplay his aspirations to win another Tour de France. Can Froome get back into the game in 2022? Even if he doesn't, his wealth of experience can still pay off for the team in many ways.
Israel Start-Up Nation are less sniper and more machine gun; they may lack the locked-on-target talent of a rider like Pogacar, Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel or Julian Alaphilippe, but they have so many opportunists that they will almost always have someone in the mix. They've swapped Martin for Fuglsang and, with riders like Ben Hermans and Mads Würtz Schmidt, they excel at scoring results in smaller races.
Now with Nizzolo, they'll undoubtedly up their WorldTour win tally, in particular during the Classics and possibly in the Grand Tours, but they'll also have added capabilities in shorter stage races. It will be interesting to see how Corbin Strong and Taj Jones fare in the sprinting hierarchy.
The team are lacking a superstar on the level of Van Aert and will be relying a lot on Nizzolo.
When it comes to the Grand Tours, it would be a major surprise if Froome could be a contender after two years of dismal performances. Fuglsang is a solid GC rider but has not quite managed to make his form last for three weeks, while Woods is more likely to win a Classic than to become a Grand Tour podium finisher.
Their roster is on the higher end of average age, too, and they haven't so much invested in up-and-coming riders as they have bought cast-off talents or picked up riders from teams that were aflame. If the established names don't produce, the rest are too far behind to step up.
Israel Start-Up Nation made great strides this season when compared with 2020 but they've put a lot of resources into older riders like Froome, Fuglsang, Vanmarcke and Woods. Take out the three neo-pros - Jones, Strong and Sebastian Berwick - and the team's average age is over 30. In 2022, they'll continue to be jack-of-all-trades/master of none. They might get a short-term boost from the marquee riders but would be wise to invest in the younger generation.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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