Saxo Bank team members building a school in Israel

The Saxo Bank Sungard team was first off.

The Saxo Bank Sungard team was first off. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Bjarne Riis always has a surprise in store for his team-building sessions, and this year he continued that trend. Not only is Team Saxo Bank in Israel – believed to be the first time a top-ranked team has held its preparations there – but the riders will also build a school. A school for cyclists, of course.

“Cycling for Peace” will be part of the Peres Center for Peace, and will integrate both Jewish and Muslim youngsters in its programme. It is located in Acre, in northern Israel.

The riders started on things on Wednesday, and the entire team will be there on Thursday. “As truly authentic pioneers in the world of cycling, the team set out, armed with tools, to create the fundament of the school so the traditionally true team spirit of the team was actually transformed into something as tangible as building a school for cyclists,” the team said in a press release. .

“It's an ambitious project with visions concerning making living easier in the relationship between Jews and Muslim children, and I believe that in the long run projects like these can turn prejudices to concern, and create a good foundation for at least a small group of kids here and now, but also for a big group of people in the long run by introducing them to sports and physical activities,” said Bjarne Riis. “It really doesn't matter if it's cycling or any other sport. We know that when you do sports you'll have a healthier and more versatile life.”

This will be the first school of its kind in the country, said Tami Hay, director of the sports department of Peres Center for Peace.  “In Acre there are two communities - a Jewish and a Muslim and the city suffers from vast segregation in terms of different schools and separate leisure activities. But this Friday one class from each school will mix as one to join a cycling program and we're then using sport as a tool to integrate.”

The Danish team is scheduled to stay in Israel through December 11.

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