A new team for a new season
Team Israel Start-Up Nation is ready to take on the 2021 cycling season with a new line-up but the same enthusiasm and dedication from years past.
Froome: This is a long-term commitment for me. And I want my fifth Tour title.
Adams: More than a cycling team, we are a project.
Martin: We can become a stronger team together.
Carlström: Froome and Martin can support each other and make the team stronger.
At its virtual training camp press conference in Girona, Spain, the team introduced new riders Chris Froome, Michael ‘Rusty’ Woods and Sep Vanmarcke, who joined Dan Martin and Guy Niv in expressing their enthusiasm for the team and the new year.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is the biggest signing for the team, and he made his feelings clear. “This is very much a long-term commitment for me. I have committed to the end of my career. I’m in to give everything I can to help the team in every way possible as well as improve myself and get back to the top.”
Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply retire after the crash from two years ago? “That is not the way I wanted to end my cycling career. I have four Tour titles. I’m not done yet – I want number five.”
He does not see his age, 35, working against him. “Age is a state of mind. It is certainly possible to win again, and I would like to prove that.”
Team co-owner Sylvan Adams is “particularly excited for the upcoming season with a team that has been revamped for this year.”
“One of the reasons for all the change is that we were assured of our WorldTour license very late last year, so there wasn’t much time to make changes. We were still a Pro-Conti team and had a Pro-Conti lineup. But we had a good season anyway, and now we have a very good team heading into 2021.”
Guy Niv was the first Israeli rider to finish the Tour de France, and he knows that was simply the beginning. “We have definitely stepped up as a team, and the Israeli riders must step up as well. I am privileged to work with such big names, and I want to be the best rider I can be to help the team achieve its goals.”
Dan Martin, who finished fourth overall in the Vuelta a Espana in 2020, will no longer be the sole team captain in major races. “I am happy to see how the team has been strengthened, it gives me confidence. I know how much I can learn from Chris and the others. We can become a stronger team together. It’s a team effort.”
Team manager Kjell Carlström doesn’t anticipate problems with Chris and Dan as co-leaders in the Grand Tours. “Both are reasonable guys who respect each other and also respect team orders. Chris and Dan can support each other and make the whole team stronger.”
Dan also has his eyes on the Ardennes Classics, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013. New teammate Rusty Woods has also shown well there, placing second in the race in 2018. Will this be a problem? “It’s exciting to have strong teammates in races. You never know what might happen. And I’d rather have Rusty racing on my team rather than racing against him,” Dan said.
“It’s an honor to be racing with him. He has been so consistent over the years, there’s a lot I can learn from him. I would love to be able to help him win.”
Not just a team, but also a project
But the team is not just about winning races. “More than just a cycling team, this is a project. There are two sides. On one side, we are promoting cycling in Israel,” Adams said. “And on the other side, we are there to promote our home country of Israel. We are representing our home country around the world with true sportsmanship and determination.”
Unfortunately, the team was not able to hold its traditional training camp in Israel this year, due to the COVID pandemic and prohibitive travel restrictions. “But, when things open-up again in Israel, we will bring the new riders there for a camp. It is important that experience our home country and visit such places as Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Center.”
Chris Froome looks forward to that visit. “My only experience with Israel was at the Giro d’Italia 2018, and that experience blew me away. It was not at all what I expected.”
Adams also emphasized that while Israel has made huge progress in vaccinating its population, there will be no exceptions for his team. “By the end of March, every person in Israel should have received both doses. At that point, it may be possible to consider vaccinating our riders. We won’t jump the queue.”
Photo credit: Noa Toledo Arnon & VeloImages