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Jakob Fuglsang, Hugo Houle set for Israel Start-Up Nation

Jakob Fuglsang (left) and Hugo Houle (Team Astana -Premier Tech) racing on stage 1 of Tirreno-AdriaticoLIDO DI CAMAIORE ITALY MARCH 10 Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark Hugo Houle of Canada and Team Astana Premier Tech during the 56th TirrenoAdriatico 2021 Stage 1 a 156km stage from Lido di Camaiore to Lido di Camaiore TirrenoAdriatico on March 10 2021 in Lido di Camaiore Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Jakob Fuglsang (left) and Hugo Houle (Team Astana -Premier Tech) racing on stage 1 of Tirreno-Adriatico (Image credit: Getty Images)

With the BikeExchange and Premier Tech deal now dead in the water, two riders who were meant to sign for the Australian squad, Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle, are set to move to Israel Start-Up Nation in 2022.

Both riders are currently on the Astana roster but were set to leave Alexander Vinokourov’s team and move to Team BikeExchange as part of a package that included Premier Tech. 

The Canadian firm decided to terminate their sponsorship at Astana this year due to disagreements over Vinokourov’s role in the team and a contract had been drawn up with BikeExchange. Premier Tech was reportedly set to kick in roughly €8 million as part of the sponsorship, with discussions also involving shares within the team. 

However, BikeExchange owner Gerry Ryan decided to step away from the proposal, leaving Fuglsang and Houle back on the market.

It’s understood that, after the BikeExchange discussions fell apart two weeks ago, Sylvan Adams, the founder and owner of Israel Start-Up Nation, held talks with Premier Tech CEO Jean Bélanger and reached an agreement to bring on board both Fuglsang and Houle for the 2022 season. 

It’s unclear if Steve Bauer, currently a directeur sportif at Astana, will join Israel Start-Up Nation but Cyclingnews understands that the Canadian does have the option.

The wider question is whether Premier Tech will invest its millions alongside the Israel Start-Up Nation brand. Premier Tech has been on the lookout for a partner for several months, with a number of squads linked to their signature. 

It’s understood from one source that a deal has not yet been agreed, although there have been discussions, with various options on the table. One option would be for Premier Tech to hold fire until May of next year before declaring their sponsorship intentions. 

According to one source, that would give Premier Tech time to decide if it would sign as a co-sponsor well before the Tour de France.

Israel Start-Up Nation would not comment when contacted by Cyclingnews in relation to the possible signings of Fuglsang and Houle.

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.