SAN JUAN, Argentina (VN) — The 2018 Giro d’Italia wildcard invitation Israel Cycling Academy received on Saturday is “big news” for the team and those riders gunning for a spot when the race starts in Jerusalem May 4.
The team received one of only four wildcard invitations offered by Giro organizer RCS Sport, with the other three going to Italian teams. With the race starting in Jerusalem, the first grand tour to go outside of Europe, the team put much weight into the 2018 season and the Giro.
The team began its season Sunday at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina.
“I’m happy, it’s big news for us and for cycling in general,” Italian sprinter Kristian Sbaragli told VeloNews.
“It’s historic for the Giro to start in Jerusalem and finish in Rome, iconic places, we are happy to be there and we are going to be there with a strong team. Our goal is to win a stage.”
The Israeli team will join Pro Continental teams Bardiani-CSF, Wilier Triestina, and Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, along with the 18 WorldTour teams with guaranteed starts in the grand tours.
“It’s a big deal for me, the Giro’s going to be my biggest goal of 2018,” continued Sbaragli. “I want to be there at 100 percent. I’m Italian, it’s big for me and then to be in the Israel Cycling Academy, so I have to show their colors both in the starting stages and when we get back to Italy.”
The team owned by Ron Baron and Sylvan Adams added depth to its roster over the winter, bringing on Sbaragli from Dimension Data, already a stage winner in the Vuelta a España, and Rubén Plaza and Ben Hermans. American Tyler Williams is also part of the 24-man roster. In addition, the team added support staff and structure with 2018 in mind.
“We have a good program this year with Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of the Alps, Tirreno-Adriatico, also Catalunya,” sport director René Andrle said.
“Another level in 2018? Yes, I think that this was the goal of the team when we started, to be among the best teams. Now we need to show that we can compete with the best teams.”
Israel Cycling Academy will be thrown into the deep-end in the Giro with Sky and Chris Froome, assuming he competes. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will also be back to defend his 2017 title.
“We hope that we will represent the team well,” added Andrle.
“It’s bigger than last year for us, we have many more strong riders, we have a big structure, like a WorldTour team. I hope that we will be one of the big surprises of 2018. And I hope that we can win one stage in the Giro, that’s our goal for the race.”
RCS Sport, according to VeloNews sources, should receive around 10 million euros from the local Israeli organizer. That money is partly profit but also covers the costs of flights, transportation of materials, and management of the complex foreign start.
Since Israel is giving such funds, many followers assumed that the home team would easily receive one of the four wildcard invitations without question.
“You never know if the invite would come or not,” said Andrle.
“Now, we have to prove to everyone that we deserve it.”