Cycling Academy adds Colombian Edwin Avila to 2018 roster

Israel Cycling Academy continues to bolster its stage racing prowess with the signing of Colombian fast man Edwin Avila from Team Illuminate.

The 27-year-old Colombian, who is a former national road champion and two-time points race world champion on the track, took up road racing four years ago and spent the last two seasons with US Continental team Illuminate. In that time Avila has won two stages at the Tour de Taiwan, where he was second overall this year.

Avila also showed promise this year with second at the Tour of Korea and stage wins at the Sibiu Cycling Tour and the Tour Azerbaijan. He won the points competition in Taiwan, Azerbaijan and Korea.

"We strongly believe that the best is yet to come from our first Colombian rider," said Israel Cycling Academy Manager Ran Margaliot. "We were waiting for the opportunity to add a Colombian rider to Academy as we always admired the great cycling passion they possess, along with enormous courage. In Avila, we found these characteristics with so much more; a rare combination between a climber and a sprinter, who will give us an enormous boost and a chance to win in wide race scenarios.

"He is not a pure climber but he can climb very well and win in a selective sprint and a breakaway," Margaliot said. "He can also perform in a TT very well and serve as a lead out when needed. Bottom line - he is extremely versatile and aggressive and that perfectly suits the racing style of our team."

Israel Cycling Academy first noticed Avila's talents at the Tour d'Azerbaijan when the Colombian attacked on the final climb of stage 4 and then held on for the stage win.

"We liked what we saw that day and have followed him closely since," said team director Kjell Carlstrom. "When we raced later in the Tour of Korea, he was not a bit less impressive, so it was an easy decision really. If you can't beat them, join them."

Avila, who signed a two-year deal with the team, was obviously excited about moving to the Pro Continental level with the rising team.

"I have waited for this opportunity to be part of a very ambitious team, thriving to grow and get to the world's biggest races," said the Cali-born Colombian. "I feel that I am still learning the trade, as I am relatively new to road cycling. I realise it might be a bit difficult, but I am ready to face it and help the team win races."

The team views Avila as a key part of the stage-racing roster as Israel Cycling Academy seeks a wildcard invitation to its first Grand Tour, with a special marker placed on the 2018 Giro d’Italia start in Jerusalem.

The team previously announced signing Ben Hermans from BMC Racing and Rubén Plaza from Orica-Scott. Cycling Academy also added Norwegians Sondre Holst Enger from AG2R La Mondiale and August Jensen from Team Coop.

The team, which started as a Continental program in 2015 with the help of Peter Sagan, stepped up to Pro Continental level this year and is continuing to grow into next season.

Eight returning riders have contracts through at least 2018, including José Manuel Díaz, Luis Lemus, Krists Nielands, Ben Perry, Mihkel Raim, Guy Sagiv, Hamish Schreurs and Tyler Williams.

Daniel Turek, the only remaining rider from the 2015 roster, hasn't yet announced a contract for 2018, nor have Guillaume Boivin, Dan Craven, Zak Dempster, Roy Goldstein, Jason Lowndes, Guy Niv, Dennis Van Winden and Aviv Yechezkel.

Israel Cycling Academy hasn't yet announced any contract extensions but is expected to do so soon.

"We upgraded and increased the roster size from 16 riders to 24, adding both veteran and young talent to our solid core group," said team co-owner Sylvan Adams.

Avila first got into cycling as a young boy when his father Alcibiades, himself a former cyclist, bought him his first bike.

"And I won the first race I ever entered," Avila said. "When I won every race that followed - I realised that I am really good at it."

As a track cyclist Avila accumulated numerous titles in the team pursuit before winning the World Championship in the points race in 2011 and then again in 2014. After the 2012 Olympics Avila started racing on the road with the Colombian national team, eventually signing with Illuminate for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He upended the Colombian championships in 2016 when he beat Sergio Henao, Nairo Quintana and a host of other WorldTour riders for the victory.

"I feel that I am improving in every facet as I am gaining experience," he said. "And now I am ready for the biggest step with Israel Cycling Academy."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.