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Michael Woods on Israel-Premier Tech: ‘This is Canada’s team’

Canadian accent grows stronger with new co-sponsor and five of the six of Canada's men's WorldTour riders now on the team.

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The Israeli imprint remains strong at the rebranded Israel-Premier Tech team for 2022, but there’s a growing Canadian accent within the team.

So much so that Michael Woods says it feels like coming home.

“They’re really putting Canadian cycling on the map,” Woods said. “Now with Premier Tech coming on board, it really does feel like this is Canada’s team.”

With five of the six Canadian men’s WorldTour pros now on the team, the squad’s Canadian imprint is expanding for 2022.

In fact, there’s never been a team at the top level of cycling with so much Canadian influence.

“If you’re a Canadian back home, you have a team to root for,” Woods said.

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Team owner Sylvan Adams now resides in Israel, but he was born and raised in Canada where he managed his family’s multi-billion-dollar real estate portfolio.

Behind the scenes, the team’s lead trainer Paolo Saldanha also hails from Canada. New co-sponsor PremierTech is a leading company in Québec while Steve Bauer, one of Canada’s most successful men’s road cyclists, joins as a sport director for 2022.

The team already had strong Canadian links dating back to the team’s earliest days. Guillaume Boivin joined in 2016, with Benjamin Perry coming on the next season. Alexander Cataford signed in 2019, and in 2020, James Piccoli moved up and Perry exited.

Woods joined in 2021, and Hugo Houle comes on board this year, giving the team five of the six Canadians in the men’s WorldTour. Antoine Duchesne rides for Groupama-FDJ.

“I feel fortunate to be on this team,” Woods said in a team presentation Thursday. “When I joined last year, it really felt like I was coming home.”

Adams and Saldanha provided key support for Woods when he was transitioning from middle-distance running to cycling a decade ago.

Woods jumped at the chance to rejoin the pair after the team moved to WorldTour status in 2020.

“Now that we have five Canadian riders in the WorldTour on this team, I think we are going to set the bar high, and lead by example,” Woods said. “When you have Canadians having success at the highest level, it will inspire others to do well. This is now the peak of Canadian cycling, but it’s only going to get better. I hope will inspire more riders to move up the ranks in Canada.”

Canadian links key to new Premier Tech partnership

Israel Start-Up Nation
Premier Tech CEO Jean Bélanger attended a team camp in November that opened negotiations to join as co-sponsor of the team for 2022. (Photo: Andrew Hood/VeloNews)

Those strong Canadian roots helped ease the way for the arrival of Premier Tech as the team’s new co-sponsor for 2022.

The company’s CEO Jean Bélanger was already heavily involved in backing Canadian cycling, and linked up with Astana for five years in the WorldTour. When that deal soured last summer, Bélanger was looking for new partners to remain in the WorldTour.

Also read: Premier Tech joins as co-sponsor for 2022

Talks with Qhubeka-NextHash and other teams did not come to fruition, and it was Bélanger’s longtime friendship and association with Adams that helped open the door for a partnership that begins with a four-year deal for Premier Tech to join the team.

Bélanger attended the team’s November camp in Israel to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the team was run and organized. He liked what he saw, and he and Adams hammered out a deal over the ensuing weeks.

“We had to move away from the former team, and that’s something we did not like to do,” Bélanger said. “The team has a solid Israeli base, but it is also very rock solid with Canada. … Our partnership is for the foreseeable future. It’s now four years, but that’s only the start.”

Officials did not reveal if Bélanger bought an ownership interest in the team.

Jean Bélanger, left, joins new partners Sylvan Adams, center, and Ron Baron on a four-year deal. (Photo: Noa Arnon/IPT)

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