Road

Froome’s arrival triggers change at Israel Start-Up Nation

More support riders, new sponsors likely in wake of blockbuster transfer.

The blockbuster transfer of Chris Froome to Israel Start-Up Nation does more than rocket the team’s profile. It’s also triggering behind-the-scenes moves that will play out in the coming weeks and months ahead of Froome’s arrival in 2021.

Team co-owner Sylvan Adams told VeloNews that Froome will have the support he needs to challenge for the yellow jersey next season and beyond. And to do that, Adams confirmed that the team is looking at bringing on new riders to assure that Froome can take on the likes of Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma next summer.

“We will make a number of moves to support Chris Froome,” Adams told VeloNews. “To win the Tour de France, you need to be surrounded by a very good team. We’ve already made a number of moves within our team for next season, and not just the arrival of Chris.”

Adams would not reveal names, but sources told VeloNews that the team is talking to several high-profile WorldTour riders to join for 2021 to help bolster the team’s firepower for grand tours. Israel Start-Up Nation already packs several veteran riders, but only Dan Martin and Ben Hermans have contracts for 2021 among its current slate of experienced grand tour-level support riders.

Big changes are in store for Froome’s arrival next season. Right now, only 12 riders of the team’s current 30-rider roster have contracts for 2021. And only four of them — Martin, André Greipel, Mads Wurtz Schmidt, and Matthias Brändle — have raced the Tour before. Several riders who came across with the Katusha merger are expected to be exiting as well, so there’s plenty of room to build up a Froome support system.

Adams, a Canadian-Israeli billionaire who underwrites much of the team’s budget, also confirmed that new sponsors could be coming on board as part of the Froome move. Adams would not comment on sources telling VeloNews a new co-sponsor is constructing a new “Fortress Froome” for another assault on the Tour in 2021.

Adams also refused to reveal details of Froome’s open-ended contract, which assures clear captaincy at the team as well as that he will end his racing career with the team. At Ineos, Froome boasts one of the highest contracts in the peloton, with an estimated $5 million annual salary.

“We have no new sponsors to announce right now, but we are certainly open to it,” Adams said during a telephone interview. “Our payroll is going up significantly. I would say we will be ‘mid-pack’ and have a respectable budget for a WorldTour team. We are not at the Ineos level.”

Adams also confirmed the team will be shopping around for bike sponsors going into 2021. Its current deal with Factor is only for 2020, and Adams said the team wants to find a long-term partner to help support the team’s ambitions.

“We have a one-year contract with Factor. There is a possibility that we will be talking to other bike sponsors,” Adams said. “There’s nothing wrong with Factor bikes at all, it’s just that we just increased our payroll significantly and we are looking for a good deal for 2021, be that Factor or someone else.”

The Froome deal, which was hammered out of the past several weeks in a series of telephone calls and video chats, takes the ambitious Adams and his Israel Start-Up Nation team to an even higher level.

When Adams bought into the team in 2017, it was a relatively low-budget development squad intent on building bridges between Europe and Israel’s nascent cycling scene. With Adams’ enthusiasm and deeper pockets, he jump-started the program, and in 2017, the team bumped up to the Professional Continental level. Adams’ next big coup was luring RCS Sport and the Giro d’Italia to Israel for three stages to open the 2018 edition, the same year Froome won.

Adams met Froome in Israel that year for the first time, but the real conversations about his exit from Ineos didn’t begin until much more recently.

Adams, 61, came into the sport intent on developing Israeli cycling and acting as what he calls himself as an “unofficial ambassador” to promote Israel. After building Israel’s first covered velodrome in 2019, Adams orchestrated a merger with Katusha to enter the WorldTour in 2020. The arrival of Froome not only catapults the team’s profile to the top of the peloton, but it also confirms Adams emergence as one of the sport’s most dynamic owners.

Some wonder if Froome’s best years might already behind him, but Adams is convinced that Froome will keep on winning. Adams, whose team will make its Tour debut this year racing against Froome, promises to deliver world-class team to support him in 2021.

“We are going into this hoping and quite frankly expecting Chris Froome to make history with our team,” Adams said. “This summer, he will be chasing a fifth Tour [win], and thereafter a sixth or maybe more. Not only am I a positive person, this expectation is based on his determination and talent. I am certain we will win the Tour de France with Chris Froome and we will make history with this team.”

So far, Adams has gotten everything he’s wanted in cycling since his arrival. If he can deliver the Tour with Froome in 2021, it will cap what’s already been a remarkable rise in the world peloton.

Israel Start-Up Nation co-owner Sylvan Adams, left, meets Chris Froome during the 2018 Giro d’Italia. Photo: ISN/Gilad Adin