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Giro d'Italia

Israel team eyes return to Giro before run at Tour

After a successful debut in the 2018 Giro, Israel Cycling Academy hopes to make the wildcard list again, and in 2020, the Tour de France is its goal.

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Israel Cycling Academy is hopeful its deep connections with Giro d’Italia brass will help smooth the way for a return to the corsa rosa in 2019. And the Tour de France? Well, that can wait another year.

“I don’t think the Tour de France is possible this season,” Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) owner Sylvan Adams told VeloNews. “We’re hoping to be selected to race the Giro d’Italia again. We have good relationships with RCS Sport [the Giro’s parent company] and we’re hoping that results in an invitation.”

Giro wildcard invitations are expected to be released before the end of January, and Adams is hoping his big-dollar investment in the Giro and Israeli cycling pays off with a return ticket to the Italian grand tour.

Adams, the flamboyant Canadian billionaire who owns Israel’s first professional cycling team, spent millions last year to lure the Giro d’Italia to venture to Israel for the “big start” of the 2018 edition.

Though the start of 2018 the Italian grand tour might have rubbed some people the wrong way, organizationally the three days of racing in Jerusalem and around Israel went off without any major glitches.

The Israeli start was also an important milestone for RCS. It was the first major race promoter to successfully bring a grand tour beyond the borders of Europe. That mostly positive experience last May could lay the groundwork for even more exotic locales in the future for the Italian grand tour.

Adams, who moved from Canada to make Israel his permanent home a few years ago, called the Israeli “big start” an unqualified success, and said the impact of hosting the Italian grand tour continues to reverberate around Israel’s burgeoning cycling community.

Adams even laughed that he’s become a “mini-celebrity” inside Israel after being known as the “man who brought the Giro to Israel.” He often gets stopped by fans for selfies.

“The ‘big start’ exceeded my expectations,” Adams said in a telephone interview from Israel. “What really impressed me was what happened inside Israel. People really turned on to the Giro and we have a growing sport here with cycling.”

Israel Cycling Academy
Israel Cycling Academy riders met in Israel ahead of the 2019 season. Photo courtesy Israel Cycling Academy

This week, Adams is hosting ICA’s newest riders at his home in Tel Aviv before holding an early season training camp to get a taste of what Israel is like. The team will regroup in Europe for the start of the 2019 racing season.

After becoming the first Israeli team to race in a grand tour in 2018, the team’s ambitions change in 2019. Adams grew the roster to 30 riders this season, the largest among the WorldTour and Professional Continental ranks.

The UCI has big changes in store for 2020, and they may help ICA. UCI will reorganize the Pro Continental division, offering guaranteed grand tour starts for two top teams, based on points. Adams said his team will be focused on scoring more points and building the depth and quality of the team to be ready for the opportunity.

“With our team infrastructure, we are a WorldTour operating at the Pro-Conti level,” he said. “This is a long-term project and our ultimate goal is to race the Tour.”

Adams admits that he doesn’t expect a Tour invitation to be in the cards for 2019.

The team is laying the groundwork for a Tour start in the near future. Adams has set up links with a French development squad to improve its relations with the country and ideally build a bridge to ASO officials. ICA has also quietly signed some French riders to the team for 2019.

“We’ve made a few strategic moves for this season,” Adams said. “By the time we make it to the Tour de France, we hope to be appreciated by the fans. Our ambition is to be in the Tour by 2020.”

That’s the rough plan: the Tour in two years and a return trip to the Giro this summer. Adams and the team will find out soon enough as the Giro invitations are set to be revealed soon.