Team Israel Start-Up Nation is eager and ready to take on its very first Tour de France – and this year’s edition is a great one! Mountains, mountains, and more mountains will challenge our eight riders on their three-week trip from Nice to the Champs Elysees.
What will they face? A few sprints, a lot of climbing (and we mean A LOT), hard work and enormous satisfaction.
Dan Martin, Andre Greipel, Nils Politt, Hugo Hofstetter, Guy Niv, Ben Hermans, Tom Van Asbroeck and Krists Neilands – eight riders from six different countries – will proudly wear the Israeli team kit during the historic moment at the start line in Nice on Saturday, August 29.
It is a moment of multiple debuts: the first Israeli team to ride the Tour: the first Israeli rider, Guy Niv, to ride the Tour; the first Tour de France for Niv, Hofstetter, Hermans, Van Asbroeck and Neilands; and the first Grand Tour at all for Hofstetter.
And of course, the first Tour to start the end of August!
Team co-owner Sylvan Adams: “This is a special moment for our Israel Start-up Nation team, as we embark on our first competition around ‘la grande boucle’ in cycling’s biggest race. I’m looking forward to the journey and seeing the riders finish in grand style in Paris in three weeks.”
Team manager Kjell Carlström: “We have put together a team that we believe is best for our strategy.”
“We are hunting for stage wins and as the parcours is demanding, we have opted for having all possibilities covered. All the teams, of course, are out for success, but we’re focused on our goal to win a stage.”
And what do our riders think of this great challenge?
Team captain Dan Martin: “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. 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.”
Andre Greipel: “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. But it will be a challenge!”
Guy Niv: “I am honored 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.
The Director Sportive
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.”
The Tour de France is never easy, and this year will be particularly challenging with its many climbs. And the hard work starts early on! Still, there will be possibilities for our guys to get into break groups, and the sprinters will have their chances – not the least of which is the final stage on the Champs Elysees!
Stage 1: Nice Moyen Pays – Nice, 156 km
This year the Tour opens with one for the sprinters! The 156 km of the Grand Depart are flatter than not and include two laps of a circuit course around Nice followed by a longer circuit before dashing into a dramatic bunch sprint on the long, flat and glorious Promenade des Anglais. The first yellow jersey of the 2020 Tour de France will be placed on the shoulders of the best sprinter in the race – and we have the perfect candidate!
Stage 2: Nice Haut Pays – Nice, 187 km
If Stage1 was for the sprinters, Stage 2 is for the climbers. Never before has the Tour had such a difficult mountain stage so early on in the race! Two Cat 1 climbs are on tap for today, with the second topping out just over halfway through. The peloton will then shoot down back to Nice, where a good climbing sprinter will have the chance to show off and steal this away from the mountain goats.
Stage 3: Nice – Sisteron, 198 km
The sprinters will be happy again today as we say goodbye to coastal Nice and head inland. Sure, there are a few bumps along the way, namely three Cat. 3 climbs and one Cat. 4, but those are easy to get over, right? Actually, this looks like one for a break group, which may have a good chance to make it all the way to the end. Maybe we will see an Israeli in this group?
Stage 4: Sisteron – Orcieres-Merlette, 157 km
Another shorter stage with a sting in the tail. LeTour politely describes this one as “hilly”, which to us seems to ignore the Cat 1 mountaintop finish…. We are sure our climbers will want to give this one a go! Oh yes, those “hills” along the way are three Cat 3s and one Cat 4. Surely a break group will get away on this one, but the favourites for the overall win will want to flex their muscles today.
Stage 5: Gap – Privas, 183 km
They call it flat. We call it rolling. Whatever you call it, this is going to be one for the sprinters again. There is more descending than climbing, and two little Cat. 4 “bumps” along the way. It does feature an uphill finish, but we’ve that covered, right?
Stage 6: LeTeil – Mont Aigoual, 191 km
This is an interesting one, relatively flat up until the final 40 km or so. Which to us means a break group will get away but with little chance to make it untouched to the finish. The finale is a triple threat, starting out with a short climb up a Cat. 3, with no real descending before charging up the Col de la Lusette for the first time in the Tour, with gradients up to 11%. Another minimal descent before heading up for the finish line atop Mont Aigoual, the first time it has been used as a stage finish. Our climbers will need to pay a lot of attention today!
Stage 7: Millau – Lavour, 168 KM
Another stage where we would quibble with the title of “flat”. It’s important to know that the wind here is famous and could well play a role – and of course the ISN riders will make sure we don’t get caught out in the echelons! This one is a toss-up between a group getting through and a bunch sprint. But we are well prepared for both possibilities!
Stage 8: Cazeres-sur-Garonne – Loudenvielle, 141 KM
A short but definitely not sweet introduction to the Pyrenees. First the Cat 1 Col de Menthe, followed by the HC Port de Bales, and then the Cat 1 Col de Peyresourde, before a 12 km descent to the finish. We will have our climbing legs warmed up and ready to go.
Stage 9: Pau-Laruns, 153 km
This is so much fun, let’s stay another day in the Pyrenees! “Only” five ranked climbs today, with the first, admittedly a Cat 4, coming 9.5 km in. A little further on we go up the Cat. 1 Col de la Hourcere, followed only minutes later by the Cat. 3 Col de Soudet. “Only a Cat 3?”, you say? Yes, but it takes us to an altitude of 1540 m, only the seventh time the Tour’s taken us above 1500 m in its history! That is clearly not enough today, so add on a climb up the Col de Marie Blanque with some leg-burning double-digit gradients, before descending into a flattish finish in Laruns.
Stage 10: Ile d’Oleron Le Chateau-d’Oleron – Ile de Re Saint-Martin-de-Re, 168.5 km
The longest-named stage takes the peloton from one island to the mainland to the finish on another island – another first for the Tour. A flat course, with lots of time on the coast and through marshlands, all of which can (and probably will) feature some wind to make things interesting. Whether we see a break group or a field torn apart by the wind, we really don’t anticipate a bunch sprint today.
Stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage – Poitiers, 165. km
Time to pack up the beach bags and head back inland. Across the windy marshlands we go in search of a bunch sprint finish with a closing straight 1.5 km run-in in Poitiers.
Stage 12: Chauvigny – Sarran Correze, 218 km
The longest stage this year, and in fact the only one over 200 km. Of course there is climbing involved. The nastiest moment should come 26 km before the finish at the Cat2 Suc au May. Break away here and you can coast in for the win!
Stage 13: Chatel-Guyon – Puy Mary Cantal, 191.5 km
Note to riders: Remember to put on your climbing legs today! We have a whopping 4400 meters of climbing to conquer, with seven, count them, seven ranked climbs. And if that seems too en’t so easy, let’s start and finish with Cat. 1 climbs, including a mountaintop finish, which has some double-digit gradients….
Stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand – Lyon, 194 km
Things are a lot easier today, with only five ranked climbs, the highest being Cat 2! Sarcasm aside, the stage ends with a flat run-in in Lyon, so we can expect a sprint from maybe a break group of climbers? Now, that could be interesting!
Stage 15: Lyon – Grand Colombier, 174.5 km
It starts out so innocently — the first 100 km are pretty flat. Breakaway, for sure! But they will bunch up no doubt before kilometer 111 – which is the top of the day’s first Cat. 1 climb. Followed only 18 km later by the top of the second Cat 1 climb! But you know that’s not enough. Let’s finish it off by climbing up the Grand Colombier, with lots of tight switchbacks and sections of up to 12% gradient!
Stage 16: La Tour-du-Pin – Villard-de-Lans, 164 km
We hope everyone rested up well during yesterday’s rest day and we know our guys got good massages to keep the legs in top form. Because what is on the agenda today? More climbing! Even LeTour says it has “all the ingredients of a tricky stage”. The fun part will be the Cat 1 Montee de Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte only 21 km from the finish – but then again, that finish is atop a 2.2 km climb at 6.5%…
Stage 17: Grenoble – Meribel Col de la Loze, 170 km
You knew we weren’t done with the climbing. You knew more was coming. You knew the worst was coming. And here it is. Two HC climbs in one stage, both in the second half of the race. That’s not enough? It is a new route up the Col de la Madeleine, and the closing Col de Loze in Meribel is on the route for the first time ever. The latter is a difficult 22 km with gradients at times over 20% to the mountaintop finish. Wait a minute! Over 20%????
Stage 18: Meribel – La Roche-sur-Furon, 175 km
What, you expected a flat stage? Dream on! At least there is no mountaintop finish today. Instead we have Cat 1, Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1 and HC. The latter, the Montee du Plateau des Gileres, is only 6 km, but features not only an average gradient of over 11% but also a gravel sector at the top! Fun times!
Stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse – Champagnole, 166.5 km
We have flat! Repeat, we have flat! Hard to believe, isn’t it? Well, not really flat-flat, but significantly flatter than the last few stages. The top favourites can take it easy today, and the sprinters’ teams can concentrate on not letting the expected break group get too far away. Assuming there are any sprinters left, of course. Those who have toughed it out this far can use this stage as a warm-up for the famous finale on the Champs Elysees only two days away.
Stage 20: Lure – La Planche des Belles Filles, 36.2 km
Everybody loves an individual time trial, right? A handful will be going for the win, the top riders will be trying to outdo one another with potentially vital seconds to be gained, and everyone else coasts along with half an eye on the time limit. Right? Well maybe not so much when the ITT ends atop a Cat 1 climb up 7 steep kilometers.
Stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie – Paris Champs-Elysées, 122 km
We survived! We made it to Paris! What a day! Just a nice short relaxed jaunt today to one of the most famous cities in the world. And probably the most famous finish in all of cycling: a mad dash around the Champs Elysees to take the most coveted stage win in racing. Eight laps bouncing along on the cobblestones and Israel Start-Up Nation will have conquered its first – but not last – Tour de France!