Israel Start-Up Nation and its feeder team Israel Cycling Academy have started the first organised team training camp since the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak brought the cycling season to a halt.
The three-day camp is currently underway in the north of Israel and has brought more than a dozen riders together along with several staff members – the first time any pro team has gotten together since racing halted as governments shut down countries across the world in mid-March.
Health authorities in Israel have lifted restrictions still imposed around Europe, making it possible for the teams to hold the training camp – albeit with only Israeli riders taking part. Team members have held several virtual rides to raise funds for medical supplies, while team doctors have worked on the coronavirus frontline in Belgium and Italy.
"This is a testament to the forward-looking and astute Israeli management of this pandemic and our nation's relatively low number of cases," said team co-owner Sylvan Adams, who is at the camp with the squad.
The team is still training under strict rules while at the camp, aiming to limit risk of infection or transmission among team members. All participants in the camp signed a 'clean bill of health' statement prior to joining, while there are frequent body temperature tests and meals are delivered in boxes and eaten while socially distanced.
Non-training activities such as team meetings are being held outdoors, and masseurs and soigneurs are wearing masks when they treat riders.
"The team is doing its utmost to protect us, so I feel pretty safe," said Israeli rider Guy Niv. "It is priceless. Being able to train together, race together to a sprint, or working on high speeds.
"This is something you can't train alone or on home trainers. It enables you to reach levels that you can never reach otherwise."
The squad is based in Beit Hillel, close to the northern border with Lebanon, climbing the highest peak in the country – Mount Hermon – on Tuesday.
"There are several hurdles to overcome before the season restarts and restrictions of movement between countries are the most crucial," said team manager Kjell Carlström.
"It may be difficult to have a full team training camps as we have riders living all over the world. We may need to build several squads based on areas and which races they are selected to – and keep them together. For sure, it will be very complicated and challenging."