Israel Cycling Academy becomes Israel Start-Up Nation

The Israeli team steps up to WorldTour level in 2020, with ambitions of having an Israeli rider complete the Tour de France.

Israel Cycling Academy has changed its name to Israel Start-Up Nation as it steps up to WorldTour for the first time in 2020.

The squad was confirmed Tuesday as a WorldTour team – the first Israeli team to race in top tier-cycling. The team launched its new name and team kit at an event in Tel Aviv, Wednesday.

Israel Start-Up Nation was born from the merger between former WorldTour team Katusha-Alpecin and Israel Cycling Academy, who raced at Pro Continental level in 2019. The team is heavily backed by Israeli-Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams.

“We will have our Israel name at the Tour de France, being seen by 2.6 billion people with our blue and white colors,” Adams told AFP.

The team, which formed in 2014, has a squad including riders from 18 countries, and intends for at least one of its Tour de France team to be Israeli.

“I hope we will see an Israeli complete the Tour de France, which will be an historic event,” said Adams.

Guy Niv, an Israeli member of the team, said appearing in the Tour was a “childhood dream.”

“It is a great honor and privilege for me to ride in an Israeli team, that represents the country I come from, to show the world different sides of Israel,” said Niv.

He added that the team wants to go to the Tour to race, not just participate, saying it wasn’t “enough for us just to be there. We want to step forward.”

Adams’s backing of the team is part of his wider efforts to promote sport in Israel and showcase the nation to the world. As part of the millions he has invested in his efforts, he has played a role in bringing the opening stages of the 2018 Giro d’Italia to the country. He also brought Lionel Messi-led Argentina to play a friendly soccer match in Tel Aviv last month.

Adams believes that sport can be a fast-track to improving Israel’s standing in the region. Only two Arab countries recognize Israel, in protest at the country’s treatment of the Palestinians.

In his bid to use sport to build bonds between Gulf states, Adams has invited other Middle Eastern countries to use the Tel Aviv velodrome.

“I have made a public invitation to our neighbors: ‘since you don’t have such a facility, send us your youth – we will train together, we will create youth programs, we will help you develop your national teams,'” Adams said.