Sbaragli signs with Israel Cycling Academy

Israel Cycling Academy continue to bolster their Grand Tour ambitions for 2018 with the signing of 27-year-old Italian Kristian Sbaragli from Dimension Data.

Sbaragli, who won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2015, has ridden five Grand Tours, with three Vuelta a España appearances and two outings at the Giro d'Italia. He joins Ben Hermans, Ruben Plaza, Sondre Holst Enger and Colombian Edwin Avila among the six new riders the Pro Continental team have announced so far.

"We are turning up the notch big time," said team owner Ron Baron, "and we certainly aim to be there in Jerusalem at the big start of the historic Giro. Yet, we made it clear that we expect to be selected on merits – as a strong team that can win stages.

"That's why we have signed a series of top-quality riders who already won stages in Grand Tours, and Sbaragli is a great example. And he is not the only one, nor the last."

Team Manager Ran Margaliot said he views his new rider as a talented sprinter who can make it over climbs and be a factor in selective sprints at the end of long, hilly stages. Sbaragli often worked for others at Dimension Data and MTN-Qhubeka, but Margaliot said Sbaragli will get his own chances with his new team.

"We went for Sbaragli because we believe the best is yet to come for him," Margaliot said. "In previous years he worked for other riders, especially being part of the Mark Cavendish 'train.' We intend to give him a chance to win, to be the main man in certain races, and we believe he will show why we trusted him to deliver."

Sbaragli said he signed with Israel Cycling Academy because be believes this is the right time in his career to step up and start winning on a regular basis.

"In the past years I have finished many races in top 10 but won only a few," Sbaragli said. "I am confident that I can change that. ICA wants to do the same thing, really, so for me it's a great opportunity to shine under the Israel Cycling Academy flag."

Sbaragli competed with Dimesnion Data for the final time at Tuesday's Tre Valli Varesine, where he finished 48th. In an announcement saying the rider was leaving Dimension Data, the South African team thanked Sbaragli for his five years.

"Sbaragli has been with us since the team turned professional in 2013, and he has been an incredible ambassador for Qhubeka and African cycling over the last five years," the team wrote in a statement sent to the media. "His 2015 Vuelta a España stage win and top 10 finishing consistency will be highlights that live in our team forever."

Sbaragli returned the gratitude.

"I would like to say thank you to the team and to all the people I worked with in these nice five years," Sbaragli said. "We had many good days together, and even if I am changing teams in the future, I will always take the project that I have supported for the last five years, Qhubeka, with me. This team gave me the chance to turn pro, and for this reason I will never forget what they have done for me. It was time for me to change teams now and that is just part of our sport."

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