The Israel Cycling Academy finalised its 2019 roster with contract extensions for three current riders and the addition of Nicki Sørensen as director sportif.
Sørensen, a former pro who retired from Saxo Bank in 2014 and then worked as a director with that team in 2015, will return to the Israel Cycling Academy after being a director there in 2016. Sørensen left for Aqua Blue Sport in 2017, but will return next year after the Irish Pro Continental team folded this season.
"It feels great to come back in ICA," Sørensen said in a statement released by the team. "I had some really nice experiences with the team in 2016 that I will never forget. Back then the team was a smaller Continental team and now it has grown to a big Pro Conti team. I cannot wait to meet the riders and everyone involved. I have followed the team closely over the last two years, and I see a healthy and well-working team that has potential to take a step further up the ladder to successful WorldTour events."
The team also announced contract extensions for Dutchman Dennis Van Winden, Kiwi Hamish Schreurs and Czech Daniel Turek, who is the only rider at ICA that has been with with the team since its inception in 2015.
The final signings bring the 2019 roster to 30 riders representing 18 countries.
The team added nine new riders for the 2019 season, including Tom Van Aesbroeck, Matthias Brandle, Davide Cimolai, Rudy Barbier, Riccardo Minali, Alexander Cataford, Conor Dunner, Matteo Badiliatti nd Clemet Carisey.
Joe Manual Diaz, Luis Lemus, Tyler Williams and Aviv Yechezkel will not be part of the 2019 roster.
As the team grows from 24 riders this season to 30 next year - the third season on the Pro Conitnenal level, the owners have set two main goals for the program: top the Pro Continental ranking by the end of the 2019 season and earn an invitation to the Tour de France, building on the team's historic Giro d'Italia appearance in May.
"It's going to be a huge task, we do not have any illusions about it " said the team manager Kjell Carlstrom.
"There are at least seven other Pro Continental teams that are very much in the game and are in the same level with us. They all invested and re-armed their squads in order to achieve the very same goal. We understand that it will demand the utmost from our riders, but we are confident that ICA now have the right squad to battle for it."
To that end, the team believes it has made moves that will shore up perceived weaknesses in the time trials and bunch sprints.
"The most crucial improvement will look like this: We will be able to send a high-level competitive squad to every race we start, even when we will operate three race programs at the same time," said Carlstom, who revealed the team intends increase its race days next year. "We were not able to do that in the past, but now it will happen and assist us mightily in competing for ranking points every single race."
Changes at the top
The Israel Cycling Academy also announced changes to its management structure, as Ran Margaliot, team co-founder and current manager, will change his focus from the day-to-day operations of the Pro Continental team to the 'Israel Project,' a grassroots effort to make cycling the sport of choice for Israeli youth.
"The past four years have been an exciting journey," said Margaliot, who started the team in 2015 with Ron Baron and eventually brought in Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams as co-owner with Baron. "We came a long way against all odds at times. I am very proud of the organisation we were able to build in such a short time.
"Following the great success of the recent Giro d'Italia start in Israel and as the pro team continues to grow, it is now the time to invest in Israel's youth generation, which is essentially our target audience and where ICA has to leave the strongest impact," Margaliot said.
"We have recently launched several important projects in Israel, amongst them cycling schools and scholarships programs for young coaches, and a high school cycling league. And this is only the start. We have some work to do and in order to make it happen."
The team is also bringing on board retired Israeli Navy Captain Chen Tal as the organisation's CEO.
"I have been a longtime admirer of ICA and how it became such a prominent team world wide," said Tal, who will take over the day-to -day operation of the organisation.
"I am honoured to get an opportunity to join the team and help achieving new heights."
Israel Cycling Academy for 2019: Edwin Avilla, Matteo Badilatti, Rudy Barbier, Guillaume Boivin, Mattias Brandle, Clement Carisey, Alex Cataford, Davide Cimolai, Zak Dempster, Conor Dunne, Nathan Earle, Itamar Einhorn, Awet Gebremedhin, Omer Goldstein, Roy Goldstein, Ben Hermans, Sondre Holst Enger, August Jensen, Riccardo Minali, Krists Neilands, Guy Niv, Ben Perry, Ruben Plaza, Mihkel Raim, Guy Sagiv, Kristian Sbaragli, Hamish Schreurs, Daniel Turek, Tom Van Asbroeck, Dennis Van Winden