Tel Aviv. Nov 1 2017.
Israel Cycling Academy has signed the Israeli rider Omer Goldstein to a two-year contract and has completed the construction of the strongest and most expensive roster since its establishment with the declared goal to win stages in the world's largest competitions.
“I dreamed about this moment since I started riding an 8-year-old bike,” said Goldstein, 21, who became the team's fifth Israeli and the youngest rider on the team. “But for me the dream is just beginning. I hope to stand in the Academy uniform on podiums. It will take very hard work from me and maybe quite a bit of time, but I got the chance and now I have to prove that I deserve it.”
“I cannot wait for the start of the new academy race season,” said Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams, who, together with Israeli businessman Ron Baron, is behind the first Israeli professional team. “We have established a much expanded and strong team that includes a series of experienced international cyclists with proven track records, including victories at the world's greatest races. They join our talented young group who has already gained experience in many races and the Israelis who were promoted from the development team.”
ICA aspires to participate next season in one of the three largest World Tour races, hoping to take part in the historic Giro d’Italia that will launch in Jerusalem in May. “We believe that we will be there with a very strong team that will make history as the first Israeli group in a Grand Tour,” said Ron Baron, owner and founder of the group. He stressed that in his view Omer Goldstein's inclusion is even more important. "Omer and the Israelis are the reason for the establishment of ICA: to provide an opportunity for Israeli cyclists to fulfil their dreams and compete in the world's greatest races. Therefore, it is symbolic to me that Omer is the rider who completes the upgraded team.”
The new ICA roster was built with considerable financial investment by its owners and the recruitment of additional sponsors. The team’s budget has almost doubled and stands at more than 5 million euros. It reflects the dramatic rise in the squad’s quality and success since its establishment three years ago with a relatively small budget of less than one million euros. In 2017, the team won an impressive eight races but the Giro challenge demanded a massive investment. World-renowned cyclists such as Ben Hermans of Belgium and Spain's Ruben Plaza, a stage winner in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, have signed in recent months. The team is also joined by outstanding riders from Colombia, Norway, Italy, and Australia. The revamped roster includes a former track world champion and four national champions, led by Turkey's Ahmet Örken, whose joining the Israeli team has won wide support at home and abroad despite tense relations between Israel and Turkey.
With riders from sixteen different countries, Israel Cycling Academy is among the most internationally diverse teams in the peloton while at the same time maintaining its character as one of the youngest players in the world. “We have undoubtedly built the most balanced and strongest team we have ever had to aim for a stage win in every tour we race, but we also made sure to maintain and even strengthen our identity as an Israeli team,” said team manager Ran Margaliot. “Even with an unprecedented schedule of about 240 race days, at least one Israeli rider will represent us in every race.”
Omer Goldstein is considered one of the most talented riders who has grown up in Israel in recent years, but his path to earning a professional contract has been fraught with ups and downs. Crashing hard into a support car at the 2015 World Championships, he went through long months of rehabilitation before returning to the peloton. The following year as a stagiaire with Israel Cycling Academy, he twice finished in the top 10 at the Tour of Rwanda, revealing his vast potential. But after joining the Academy development team, he and the team management were divided over his professional conduct which ultimately led to releasing him. Nonetheless, the team hierarchy helped him join the Basque team Ampo. Success was immediate. Goldstein turned out to be an outstanding rider, helping his friends win and even claiming a victory himself. “Parting with Academy was a kind of blow to my head for me,” admitted Goldstein. “I realised that if I did not take [control and live] as a professional in every detail, I would lose my career. I am almost happy today that this crisis has come. It helped me understand what was required of me as a professional.”
Margaliot said, “Omer proved very mature and took the opportunity with both [hands]. We are convinced that he is coming to us more willing and mature to begin a career as a professional rider. We [will give] him races and a chance to develop patiently.”
Oscar Guerrero, the team’s sports director who took Goldstein under his wing and opened the gates to the Basque team, said, “I see Omer as a true talent. He is a talented climber and a very aggressive rider and perhaps most important: he has a lot of faith in himself and his abilities. With hard work and with lots of race miles in his legs, he can go far.”
Goldstein, who joins his older brother, Israeli champion Roy Goldstein, is not afraid of the challenge. “It will not happen quickly. I'll learn from the great riders around me, work hard, and give everything to the group until my time comes.”
Two weeks from now, the full-fledged roster will arrive in Israel for their first team camp, which will include a short, boot camp style training in the Jerusalem hills and an opportunity for international riders to get to know the country.
Israel Cycling Academy was established in December 2014 with the declared goal of “putting Israel on the bicycle map of the world and providing an opportunity for the next generation of Israeli riders,” as stated by its founder, Ron Baron. Since its inception, ICA has competed in hundreds of races around the world, won dozens of victories, and gained hundreds of thousands of fans from across the globe. This has led to the Israeli Tourism Ministry becoming one of the largest sponsors of the team.
In addition to the Pro Continental level outfit, ICA has established an all-Israeli development squad whose young riders also compete internationally. This group nurtures the future riders of the professional academy.
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