Dan Martin will lead team Israel Start-Up Nation in the Tour de France – the first time an Israeli team will participate in the hardest race in the world.
The strong line-up supporting him also includes Guy Niv, the first Israeli rider ever to compete in the Tour.
Team co-owner Sylvan Adams called it, “A dream come true. We are here not to just ride along but to be seen. We will be in the mix in every stage!”
“This team is more than just a team, this is a project and we are on a mission. Our mission has two sides; on the one hand we are promoting cycling in Israel, creating a whole ecosystem for cycling in Israel. The second mission – as we wear the blue and white of Israel – is to promote our country and to show the real face of Israel, an Israel promoting peace, tolerance and diversity.”
In 2017, the riders received the title of ‘Ambassador of Peace from the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation’, a message which is proudly emblazoned on the team’s kit.
The team put forward a strong line-up to impress in its first Tour de France: Dan Martin, Andre Greipel, Nils Politt, Guy Niv, Hugo Hofstetter, Krists Neilands, Ben Hermans and Tom Van Asbroek.
Martin was strong in his return to racing after the Corona shutdown but suffered a sacral fracture in the second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in August. Rest, treatment and therapy have been effective, and he says, “I feel I am ready. I feel I can do something here in the Tour.”
In his eighth Tour, Martin will lead the way up the climbs. The team’s other leader is sprinter Greipel, in his tenth consecutive Tour, who aims to add to his total of 11 stage wins.
Guy Niv, 26, the first Israeli to ride the Tour de France, is a worthy representative of his nation. Not only because he is the national time trial champion and has already started the Giro d’Italia twice but because he has loved cycling with a passion since childhood.
Celebrating his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, he asked his parents to take him to see the Tour de France. His participation in the Tour is a remarkable accomplishment for a cyclist who was devoted to mountain biking and only took up road racing three years ago, under the tutelage of the Israel Cycling Academy.
The team has come a long way in its short history. Founded by Ran Margaliot and current co-owner Ron Baron in 2015 as the Israel Cycling Academy, it was the first professional cycling team in Israel. Sylvan Adams joined shortly thereafter as co-owner, and the team moved up the ranks, achieving top-ranked World Tour status for the 2020 season, under the name Israel Start-Up Nation.
While the Tour de France is the dream of every cyclist and every cycling team, competing in the race is not the only goal of Israel Start-Up Nation. As Ron Baron said, “When we founded the team five years ago, we dreamed of this moment. But we strive for more than just the glory of racing in the Tour de France. We want every kid in Israel to say, ‘I can be Guy Niv one day. I can get to the Tour.” We are committed to fostering young Israeli talent with our Israel Cycling Academy continental team, so I say to the young Israeli generation: The doors are open!”
Team Manager Kjell Carlström: “We have put together the team that we believe is best to execute our strategy.”
“We are hunting for stage wins and as the route is demanding, we have ensured that we have all possibilities covered. All the teams, of course, are out for success, but we’re focused on our goal to win a stage.”
Head Sport Director Eric Van Lancker: “Dan, of course, is our leader in the mountains. Ben and Krists will get some days free to join a break group in the mountains, to try and go for the wins. On the other days they will be the strong helpers in the mountains.”
“For the pure flat sprints, we have one leader: Andre. Tom will be his final wheel in the sprints and Hugo will look for the slightly hillier stages with a sprint in the end and, of course, for a good break. Nils can go in a break on some stages, as well – also helping the guys in the sprint.”
Dan Martin is looking forward to his eighth Tour. “I’m truly grateful to the team for being so patient and allowing me the time to really assess my condition after the crash in the Dauphine. My recovery progressed much better than expected and I was back on the bike, riding easily after only three days. Since then I have continued to improve and believe I can start the Tour de France in good condition.
“I expect to suffer through the first stages as I have missed a bit of training, but I am incredibly excited to use my experience in the race to help the team. Once I get back into the rhythm of racing, I will look for opportunities to take a stage win.”
Sprinter Andre Greipel is going for this tenth consecutive Tour, saying “It’s always great to be here. And this will be a great celebration as the first Tour for the Israeli team and with the first Israeli rider. The team can be proud.”
Guy Niv took a moment to reflect and said: “I am honoured and privileged to represent my country and team in the biggest race in cycling and one of the greatest sporting events in the world. And to be the first Israeli to do so? It might sound like a cliché, but it’s a dream come true. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s huge. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – and now we are about to make history. I cannot wait!”
Classics specialist Nils Politt has his eye on both team and personal goals. ““I think our goal should be that the team gets a stage win. I think that is realistic, with the riders we have – there are some good candidates for a stage win. Of course, I will try at some point to be in the day’s break group – it is a great dream to win a stage.”
French rider Hugo Hofstetter is set for the hilly sprints, having shown his abilities with his win in Le Samyn. Like his teammates, he will look to his own chances, but is eager also to help set Greipel up for sprints, and “like in the Dauphine, to protect our leader and bring bottles or take him in a good position at the bottom of big climb.”
Ben Hermans’ season got off to the worst possible start, as a crash in stage 3 of the Tour Down Under knocked him out for the shortened spring season. But now he is at “the biggest race in the world” for the first time. “The stages I am looking forward to are the hard stages, the long hard stages with climbs. We will have eight guys who can go for opportunities and work for each other to get stage victories.”
This Tour de France will be the first for Tom Van Asbroeck, whose role will be to ensure that Greipel is in the best position in a bunch sprint. “It’s a big honour for me that the team selected me to go to the biggest race of the year. Mainly I will be assisting our leaders, but you never know what might happen. Hopefully we can show the ISN colours in the Tour and be proud of what we achieve.”
Krists Neilands is another “super excited and happy” Tour debutante. “My Tour debut is more special due to the fact that I am doing it with this team, Israel Start-Up Nation, because since the first year when I joined this team, I knew what it wants to achieve. One of the biggest goals was to get this team and an Israeli rider to the Tour de France. I’m happy that we achieved this goal together and I can play a part of this big journey.”
About Team Israel Start-Up Nation
Israel’s first professional cycling team was established in 2015 as “Israel Cycling Academy,” including riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when Sylvan Adams joined as a co-owner alongside Ron Baron. In 2018, Adams was the driving force behind bringing the prestigious Giro d’Italia to begin in Israel – One of cycling’s three Grand Tour races. This also saw the team compete in its first Grand Tour, with Guy Sagiv becoming the first Israeli to finish such a race. The team competed again in the Giro d’Italia in 2019, with Israeli Guy Niv completing the race. Later in 2019, the team took another historic step, joining the World Tour (the highest level of professional cycling) for the first time under the name Team Israel Start-Up Nation, securing its place in this year’s Tour de France.
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