Gallery: Sagan helps launch first Israeli pro team

Peter Sagan was in Jerusalem this week to help launch Israel's first UCI professional team. The Cycling Academy, a non-profit organisation to help train young Israeli talent in cycling, began in Slovakia and has two Slovakian riders, and brought Sagan in as an ambassador for the project.

"I joined this project with enthusiasm," Sagan said. "because a social project is being developed in Zilina, where I was born, and this was assigned to Peter Zanicky, my first coach. We are carrying out projects for children in Slovakia and the Cycling Academy provided us with an additional asset which made the collaboration even more natural: to give a real chance to young Israeli, Slovakian and Polish athletes who might eventually get to professional cycling one day, just like it happened to me.

"My commitment starts in Jerusalem today aiming to expand to other geographical areas over time. I'm thinking about South America, where I already have a number of proposals, and I'm dreaming of doing something for Africa one day. Always in the name of cycling."

Sagan was joined by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, Ron Baron, the president of the Cycling Academy, as well as team manager Ran Margaliot, a former professional rider. Jan Valach, formerly a coach for the Slovakian national team and Dror Pekatch, a former mountain bike pro, are the team's directors.

"I am proud for the opportunity to host the international launch of this special project in Jerusalem," Mayor Barkat said. "This is a very special occasion for all of us and I send my blessing to the team, and wish them great success in their mission – to bring these riders the world's biggest races. I am confident that we will see these riders return to Jerusalem for more exciting races in the near future."

The team is scheduled to debut its 2015 season at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. It consists of 12 riders, five of whom are Israeli, including U23 road national champion Roy Goldstein, elite time trial champion Yoav Bar. There are also two Skovakian, four Polish and one Czech rider on the team.

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