The Israel Cycling Academy has finalised the roster that will take the team into its inaugural year on the Pro Continental level.
Two Irsaeli riders from the 2016 Continental team are the final additions to the 16-rider roster for next season. National time trial champion Aviv Yechezkel, 22, and Roy Goldstein, 23, will join riders from 11 countries, among them five national champions.
The team previously announced new signings Zak Dempster, José Manuel Díaz, Jason Lowndes, Krists Nielands, Ben Perry, Hamish Schreurs, Dennis Van Winden and Tyler Williams. They’ll join eight returning riders, including Yechezkel and Goldstein, to form the new squad.
Israel Cycling Academy was founded in December 2014 in Jerusalem as Israel’s first professional cycling team, with a vision to bring young cyclists, especially Israelis, to the top levels of cycling. The team raced on the Continental level this year and applied successfully to the UCI to jump to the Pro Continental level next year.
The team recorded wins in races on four continents over the past 20 months, including Tour de Beauce, Tour of Hungary and Tour du Rwanda. Cycling Academy is backed by sponsors like Cannondale, Lazer, Hertz Israel and Verge, as well as the Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams.
Although the team features three Israeli riders, including reigning road race champion Guy Sagiv, team manager Ran Margaliot said his Israeli riders are in for a long haul at the next level.
"Right now, Pro Continental is way above their level," Margaliot said. "But we believe that the only way to succeed is to put them in front of the biggest of challenges and demand one thing: When you get the chance to race, make an impact. Don’t ride to ‘just survive.'"
Team founder Ron Baron said having three Israeli riders on the team is a statement "that we are loyal to our Israeli roots and to our number one goal - and the reason we founded this team."
"We know that (the Israeli riders) are not ready yet, but we are committed to push the best Israeli talents up to the world’s biggest cycling stage, and to develop and revolutionize the Israeli cycling scene," Baron said.
The riders echoed team management’s sentiments about the challenges that lie ahead.
Yechezkel said he felt like he belonged in the pro ranks this year with the team, but he acknowledged that the next level will be a much bigger challenge.
"I have no illusions," he said "With the amazing team that’s been assembled, and the level of the races, it will take everything that I have to justify my inclusion in the races. I will have to be way better than I have ever been, and I am sure that it will take some time until I get there."
Goldstein said he is ready to work hard to prove his place on the team.
"I will not lie, I feel it’s a test – not only for me, but for all of Israeli Cycling," Goldstein said. "We have an enormous chance that the team has given us to reach a whole new level, never before reached. But if we fail, it could have a crushing effect on other riders who want to follow in our footsteps. So the need to succeed here is not just for ourselves."
Israel Cycling Academy 2017 roster: Guillaume Boivin (Can), Dan Craven (Nam), Zak Dempster (Aus), Roy Goldstein (Isr), Luis Lemus (Mex), Jason Lowndes (Aus), Jose Manuel Diaz (Esp), Krists Neilands (Ltv), Ben Perry (Can), Mikhel Raim (Est), Guy Sagiv (Isr), Hamish Schreurs (NZl), Dan Turek (Cze), Dennis Van Winden (Ned), Tyler Williams (USA), and Aviv Yechezkel (Isr).