“I was left high and dry with no team after the best couple of years of my career.”

“I was left without a team and a contract at the end of 2022.”

“I was left without a team.”

Nick Schultz, Stevie Williams, and Simon Clarke have a lot in common. All three riders have become an integral part of Israel – Premier Tech: As riders, as teammates, as winners, as leaders. So, it’s difficult to understand how all three found themselves facing what could have been the end of their careers in the blink of an eye.

While Clarke was a victim of the late closure of Team Qhubeka Assos in 2021, Schultz and Williams landed in a similar position one year later with the collapse of B&B Hotels. Picture this: it’s December or even January, your team has just folded, other teams have signed the maximum number of riders for the following year, and the rest have nothing left in the team budget.

Throughout the undoubtedly stressful time, the trio’s determination to find a solution didn’t waver. That solution came in the form of Israel – Premier Tech.

“I was going to be coming back to Europe and basically just riding around, without a job, staying at home, doing nothing and that was really worrying for me because I didn’t know what I was going to do,” explains Schultz. “I was flying back to Australia with my partner for Christmas, I think on the December 21 or 22, and I thought I was going back without a job and basically my career over. And when I was in the Dubai airport, Rik Verbrugghe called me. And more or less from there things happened fast and within 24 hours, I’d been given a lifeline contract with the team which has obviously turned out to be probably one of the best turn of events in my career.”

Clarke adds: “I was not very optimistic that there would be an opportunity. Since then, I feel like there’s been some more later signings, but around that time, there hadn’t been so many January signings. And so, I wasn’t really sure I was going to make something of it, but fortunately, Israel – Premier Tech and Sylvan Adams came to the rescue, and it’s been a great three years.”

Williams echoes Clarke’s sentiments: “It was time to try and find a solution so I could carry on racing and ultimately the team was here and ready to give me a ride and put my career back on track.”

From zero to hero

IPT may have succeeded in reviving their careers, but Clarke, Schultz, and Williams have more than repaid the lifeline given to them. Originally signed for one year each, all three have been renewed on long-term contracts.

While there were many memorable moments from the 2022 Tour de France, Hugo Houle’s emotional stage victory being one of them, few will forget Simon Clarke’s win on stage 5. Having battled the infamous cobbles of northern France as part of the breakaway of the day, it came down to a mere few centimeters on the line, securing victory with one hell of a bike throw. Not bad for a guy who was facing forced retirement just seven months prior.

“That setback that I had really was a real reality check for me in the fact that I said, you know, if I really want to do this, I need to commit 100%,” says Clarke. “And I think that maybe if I didn’t find myself in that situation, I wouldn’t have found myself at the Tour de France so hungry and so keen to prove myself. So maybe it was a gift in disguise, although a tough gift to handle at the time. It paid off, not giving up in the long run. A super Tour de France win and a very nice memory in my career.”

Clarke made history for IPT, scoring the team’s first Tour de France stage win. In 2023, two more historic milestones in the team’s tenth year would be ticked off courtesy of Stevie Williams, who surprised the cycling world by winning the Tour Down Under, the team’s first-ever WorldTour stage race win, and just last week, battled the elements with a masterclass on the Mur de Huy to win La Flèche Wallonne, IPT’s first WorldTour one-day win. For Williams, the culture IPT has fostered in the last couple of years has been a game changer.

“I really enjoy racing with this group of people and also being around the staff as well,” adds Williams. “I think it’s a great culture and atmosphere. And I think that’s shown this year with the results we’ve had as a team and the trajectory we’re on. Coming to races with these guys is so great. It’s literally just racing bikes with your mates and having that atmosphere and support around you on the bike and off the bike is something that complements each other so well. And I think that’s pretty much been the reason why results have been so good this year.”

Williams’ words ring true. It is that very friendship and camaraderie within the team that led Schultz to upset the field on the opening stage of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya this year, taking the win – his first since 2021 – while Williams rounded out the podium with third place.

“I guess this time last year, I was re-signed because I’d shown ultimately that I’m good at the job I’m paid to do, which is being a teammate,” admits Schultz. “And that’s something I love doing. But at the end of the day, as bike riders, we all want to cross the line first every now and then. And it’s something that I’ve almost become content with not doing, knowing my role within the sport and where the sport is going. It’s often the same guys that are winning everything.

“So, to get that opportunity [at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya] was really special. And I think it also just really highlights where the team is at. That day I was working for our leader, Stevie, and it was his decision that ultimately led me to winning that stage. Not every rider would have made that decision in his shoes and, I think it just speaks volumes of the atmosphere within the team.”

A new chapter for IPT

The arrival of Clarke, Williams, and Schultz at Israel – Premier Tech came at a difficult time with relegation seeing IPT drop down to ProTeam status for the 2023-2026 WorldTour cycle. But, if their stories are anything to go by, overcoming adversity can be the key to success.

“It’s been great, being part of a progressing organization like Israel – Premier Tech is at the moment,” explains Clarke. “I’ve been in similar situations with previous teams before where we are maybe on the brink a little bit and have had a bit of a shake up and restructure, really redefining their motive and moving forward. This all started 12 to 18 months ago, and we’re really starting to see the fruits on the tree coming through this year, and it’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to what we can achieve in the future.”

For IPT owner Sylvan Adams, offering a second chance to Simon Clarke, Stevie Williams, and Nick Schultz is a source of pride and a decision he believes is responsible for helping to change the team’s reputation.

“We had an image, not a nice image, as a retirement home for washed up riders,” he admits with a laugh. “I’m proud to say I believe we’ve changed our image, and I would like to believe that we can be considered the team that will offer an opportunity to good riders who deserve a contract and have been abandoned. I’m proud of that reputation.

We’ve been rewarded with amazing performances by these three guys. But more importantly, they’re character guys. And they’ve become part of the team’s DNA.”