21 September 2020 (Tel Aviv)
Israeli cyclist Guy Niv made history yesterday as he became the first ever Israeli cyclist to complete the Tour de France. Niv was riding as part of the Team Israel Start-Up Nation squad, which was competing in the Tour for the first time. Completing the biggest professional cycling race of all, represents a remarkable accomplishment for Niv who, until three years ago, was primarily a mountain biker and had little experience in road racing.
Guy Niv commented, “I felt shivers when I crossed the finish line on the Champs-Elysees. It was a sense of vast relief and sheer happiness: I have done it for the next generation of young Israeli cyclists. They can now dream of achieving this and more.”
Niv was visibly thrilled and emotional as he finished the race, achieving the historic milestone of becoming the first Israeli ever to start and finish the Tour de France. Niv readily admitted it was far from a “walk in the park,” saying “I had to dig deep inside at times.”
There were undoubtedly challenging moments, with the most dramatic of all during the final hour of stage 17, when Niv was climbing to Meribel – the second HC climb of the day. Niv commented, “I suddenly felt empty. Like when your fuel tank is suddenly drained. My BPM was rocketing but my power was dipping. I had nothing. But I said to myself that I just couldn’t give up and I finally made it. In retrospect, we discovered that I had not eaten enough after the first climb.”
In general, Niv surprised both his teammates and the Team Israel Start-Up Nation directors with the relative ease with which he was able to handle his first Tour de France. “Guy impressed us all,” said the team’s sports director Eric Van Lancker. “He knew that the whole country – Israel – was looking up to him, and he dealt with that pressure admirably. We are proud of him.”
“He is such a brave kid,” said team owner Sylvan Adams. “He faced the country’s and the team’s expectations and never blundered. As a team, we were in the game in almost every stage, and although we did not get the coveted stage win, ISN finished with 7 top 10s and we were part of many breakaways. I can promise you that we will be back next year with a strengthened team which will be led by the greatest cyclist of the generation – Chris Froome. We are just getting started.”
Niv’s historic accomplishment has been covered widely in the Israeli media, making him one of the country’s most celebrated athletes in a sport which is usually eclipsed by football and basketball.
Guy Niv added, “I dreamed about racing in the Tour as a kid. I even witnessed it as a spectator on the side of the road. Now, I hope that this dream will be shared by many Israeli kids who will follow my footsteps and surpass me.”
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.
Pictures: Noa Arnon