Two riders on the Israel Cycling Academy team are set to make history next week at the Giro d’Italia as the first Israeli riders to start a grand tour.
Guy Sagiv and Guy Niv were named to the team’s eight-man Giro roster to take the start in Jerusalem on May 4.
Team officials admitted that making a statement by bringing two Israeli riders to the Giro was just as important as naming the strongest possible squad to the Italian grand tour. [related title=”More Giro d’Italia news” align=”left” tag=”Giro-d’Italia”]
“Bringing them to a grand tour already is definitely risky,” said team manager Kjell Carlström. “We could have gone with a stronger team to the Giro, but we know that … they will do everything to make it through.”
Sagiv, 23, and Niv, 24, will be the crowd favorites when the Giro clicks into gear next weekend. The pair will be flag-bearers to the ambitious Israeli Cycling Academy project that’s quickly risen within the international peloton just four years after its founding.
“Israel Cycling Academy has made changing the landscape of cycling in Israel its main priority,” Carlström said. “That is who we are and we all support this goal. It’s the reason this team was founded.”
The three-day “Big Start” in Israel also marks the first time that one of cycling’s three grand tours will start beyond Europe. The project isn’t without its detractors, but officials are hopeful the focus will remain on cycling despite recent political upheaval in the region.
Sagiv is a third-year pro and looked to have the best chances of earning a spot on the Giro roster. The bigger surprise was Niv, who only switched to road racing from mountain biking a little more than a year ago.
“I was so relieved to get selected. I was so stressed waiting the last 24 hours,” Niv said. “I am very proud that the team is putting their trust in me. Selecting Sagiv and me shows Israel and the world that Israel is truly becoming a cycling country with riders taking the sport seriously and achieving their dreams. But beyond this, I believe that I can make it to the last stage in Rome. I see myself in the finish line there.”
Behind the Israelis, the team will bring some solid performers with plenty of experience on the international stage. The team’s goals are centered on a stage victory.
Ben Hermans, Ruben Plaza, and Kristian Sbaragli will be the team’s best chances for a win. Sbaragli won a stage at the Vuelta a España while Plaza, who recently won a stage and the overall at the Vuelta a Castilla y León in Spain, has won stages at the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour de France.
Other riders include Guillaume Boivin, Zak Dempster, and Krists Neilands.