The Israel Cycling Academy are taking multiple steps to bolster cycling development within their home country, signing key Israeli riders to the Pro Continental team for 2019, while increasing their investment in their under-23 development squad and launching youth clubs at schools around Israel.
The team agreed to contract extensions with current riders Guy Sagiv, the first Israeli to finish a Grand Tour this year at the Giro d'Italia, and Israeli national champion Roy Goldstein. The team also promoted sprinter Itamar Einhorn from the development team to the Pro Continental roster. Goldstein has been the national champion for two consecutive years, while Sagiv became a national hero this year during his participation in the Giro.
"Since our launch in 2014, the heart and soul of our project are our Israeli riders in the elite and development team, which are the foundation of our project," said team co-owner Ron Baron. "In 2019 we'll have five riders in the elite team and many more in the 'devo' team. Guy became a local hero and showed us that our model is working: Inspire a new generation. We are all excited to have him and Roy continue their progress and achieve many more milestones."
Sagiv said he is looking forward to making it back to another three-week race and making more history for Israel.
"The Giro is behind me now," Sagiv said. "As great as it was to be the first Israeli in a Grand Tour, I'm looking much further [ahead]. I aspire to be a factor for the team when we reach our next Grand Tour and to personally be far more ambitious. And, of course, to help the team with achieving its goal to be one of the top Pro Continental teams in the World."
Einhorn, meanwhile, will race with French team Côtes d'Armor for the first four months of the 2019 season before joining the Pro Continental team.
"Itamar is a talented sprinter, and we truly believe in him after watching him race with us as a stagiaire," said pro team manager Kjell Carlstrom. "We strongly believe that to gain the endurance and speed needed at pro level, he'll benefit considerably by racing in France."
The Israeli Project
The team's U23 development squad will grow to 14 riders in 2019 and will race and train in Europe more than 100 days, with the idea of providing the riders with the immersion they need to develop. But the core effort of the team's 'Israeli Project' is building the structure for the next generation of Israeli youth to prioritise the sport of cycling.
Headed by team manager Ran Margaliot, the team has opened youth clubs at schools, villages and other educational institutions, all operating under the Israel Cycling Academy umbrella. One of the youth programmes is taking place in the Arab village of Shefaram – a first project of its kind for the Israeli/Arab sector.
"The idea behind the Israeli pro team, which was launched four years ago, is far greater than simply bike racing," Margaliot said. "Following the great inspiration generated by the recent Giro d'Italia start in Israel, ICA has bolstered its investment in Israeli cycling, investing further funds in the opening of several unique youth cycling clubs around the country and creating a 'Dream Team' of coaches to lead them. Our goal is to eventually integrate cycling classes into the middle schools and high schools curriculum around the country and drive a true change in the life of youth and children."
Team co-owner Sylvan Adams is committed to the Israeli project and recently built a $25,000,000 velodrome in Tel Aviv, where they hope to host the UCI's junior track world championships.
"The velodrome is a beautiful project because we're going to take kids and we're going to grow the sport organically and create champions from below," Adams told Cyclingnews. "The Israel Cycling Academy project is an aspirational thing. Here we are at the highest level, and the message we're giving to parents is, 'Look at us. If you buy a bike for your kid, and your kid loves this sport and you love this sport, your child can reach the highest level of the sport. Look here, we've got five Israelis on this team, and, in the future, we're going to have more.'
"So I think it's about building it from underneath and showing that aspirational level, working with Olympic athletes. Winning is infectious. Winning medals is infectious. I hope to build up the sport of cycling. I hope to build up our Olympic movement in a multitude of sports."
Baron affirmed the programme's commitment to developing Israeli riders by inspiring them at the top of the sport.
"Our ambitious project will grow further in 2019 towards our goal of promoting the image of Israel and our Israeli riders, and participating in WorldTour races," he said.