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Israel Start-Up Nation: Roster nearly full, confirms contact with Premier Tech, Chris Froome to stay put

ISN owner Sylvan Adams confirms Premier Tech talks and says four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome 'will retire as a rider from our team.'

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Israel Start-Up Nation is nearly full for 2022, but the team will keep one spot open in case there’s a top rider still on the market.

That’s according to ISN team owner Sylvan Adams, who also clarified the contract situation with star rider Chris Froome, and confirmed talks with Premier Tech about a possible sponsorship deal in the future.

“We are up to 30 riders, and we have room for one more,” Adams told VeloNews. “We are not under any rush or pressure to fill it, and we may not fill it at all, but if there is a good opportunity for us, we’ll keep the roster spot open.”

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After a solid 2021 season that saw the team punch into the top-10 in the WorldTour team rankings, there are a few key arrivals and departures for 2022 for the Israeli-backed team.

Dan Martin and André Greipel both retire, while Davide Cimolai and Alexis Renard join Cofidis. Hugo Hofstetter moves to Arkéa Samsic.

Incoming riders include, promising young Australian, Corbin Strong (SEG Racing Academy), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-NextHash), and Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle, both from Astana-Premier Tech.

Sylvan Adams confirms contact with Premier Tech

The arrival of the latter two only served to raise speculation about the possible arrival of Premier Tech, which split with Astana this summer and is actively on the market looking for a new WorldTour partner.

Adams confirmed there have been talks with the Canadian company, but did not want to give away any details.

“We are one of the teams that they have spoken with,” Adams confirmed. “That’s only natural. We are from the same part of the world as Premier Tech, and its CEO, Jean Bélanger, we know each other. We had discussions, but he’s taking his time.”

Adams said the arrival of Premier Tech as a co-sponsor would be a “great fit,” but added that nothing is finalized right now. Earlier this month, Premier Tech confirmed it had not yet linked up with a team for 2022.

“They haven’t made a decision yet for 2022,” Adams said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to let him take his time, and make the decision that’s right for him.”

Adams did not provide more details when VeloNews asked about Premier Tech’s interest in buying into ownership of its new WorldTour partner, adding he would not “negotiate in public. The specifics have to remain confidential.”

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On Thursday, BikeExchange general manager Brent Copeland confirmed to VeloNews that talks with Premier Tech fell through for a possible merger with the Australian team in part due to insistence on having a piece of ownership.

Australian magnate Gerry Ryan continues to own the team, and Copeland said new partners are on board for 2022 to assure the future of the long-running Australian team.

Talks between Premier Tech and Qhubeka-NextHash also collapsed, leaving the South African team in the lurch. The team missed the first round of deadlines for 2022 racing licenses, and team principal Douglas Ryder is making final-hour pitches to sponsors and is even asking the general public to direct any would-be partners his way in order to save the team for 2022.

“I’m sorry for Qhubeka, I like that team,” Adams said. “I like the origins of the team, and like us, they’re a regional team. In fact, I kind of modeled a little bit of our team around the ethos of Qhubeka, because they’re also from a non-traditional cycling region. In building our program, I admired what Doug Ryder built up. There is some uncertainty, and I hope they get through it and stay with us.”

Chris Froome and Sylvan Adams
Chris Froome and team backer Sylvan Adams, left, are both in it for the long haul. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

‘Chris Froome will retire as a rider from our team’

VeloNews also asked Adams to clarify the contract situation between the team and four-time Tour de France champion Froome.

There were reports in the Italian media this month suggesting that Froome’s contract with the team ended in 2022, something Adams was quick to point out as inaccurate.

“I don’t know where they got that information,” Adams said from Tel-Aviv. “I prefer to not talk about any elements of Chris Froome’s contract. It’s confidential information. A lot has been written about this, and a lot of it is wrong.

“I have never spoken in public about his contract,” Adams continued. “We have an understanding with Chris Froome that his last team will be Israel Start-Up Nation. Chris Froome will retire as a rider from our team. That was the understanding when he agreed to join our team.”

Adams, who was instrumental in helping 167 Afghans recently escape the clutches of the Taliban, will be meeting with team riders and staffers next week in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem in the team’s first visit to Israel since the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic.