Young Australian sprinter moves up to WorldTour

Taj Jones of the ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast team beat top pro riders to win a sprint in the Tour of Langkawi this year, and raced his way to a three-year contract with Israel Start-Up Nation.

The speedy 20-year old Australian will start the 2021 season with the Israel Cycling Academy, before moving up to the WorldTour team later in the season.

“It’s incredible to think about where I have come from and where I am heading. To be a part of the same team as a legend like Chris Froome along with other world class riders is exciting and I can’t wait to see where I can take my career under the guidance of a WorldTour team,” he said.

“I cannot think of a better place to learn than Israel Start-Up Nation. The riders and staff are people I’ve looked up to, and the ethos and values make me excited and grateful to have this opportunity in 2021.”

After showing promise in the last few years, Taj burst into the spotlight in February, winning Stage 2 of the Tour of Langkawi, outsprinting none other than two top pros, Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) and Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept).

“Taj came to our attention after winning a stage in Langkawi and getting a podium against solid pros. He’s a young guy who last year was not quite ready, but used his time effectively to prepare before taking advantage of his first chance to win a high level sprint. After that win he went straight back to work and his progress during the COVID situation is really exciting,” said Zak Dempster, ICA Sport Director, who recommended Taj to the team.

“The important thing now is to continue step-by-step with effective processes and ensure he’s ready for his next chance to win when racing does return.”

Israel Start-Up Nation team manager Kjell Carlström called him “a very promising young sprinter who has shown good capacity in some Asian races.” Starting him off on the ICA team before a mid-season move “will give Taj the opportunity to grow into the European racing scene in a good way and continue developing into a winning sprinter.”

Taj grew up with sports as a big part of his life, but it was seeing Peter Sagan win the World Championship in 2016 that convinced him to concentrate on cycling. In 2018 he won the Queensland State U19 title, and later that year he joined the Australian Cycling Academy. Riding with them, he not only helped in the sprint train but also won a stage in the Tour of America’s Dairylands.

“I am still learning what type of rider I am, but for sure, it is my dream to be a sprinter who can win one day races and the Classics. I am excited to continue to develop.”