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Non-profit Israeli team aims for grand tour debut

After only two years of racing, Israel's non-profit pro team, the Cycling Academy Team, is ready to move up to the Pro Continental level

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After only two years of racing, Israel’s non-profit pro team, the Cycling Academy Team, is ready to move up to the Pro Continental level following a successful spring campaign with stage wins in the Tour de Beauce, Tour of Hungary, and seven national championship titles.

Ron Baron, owner and founder of the Academy, notes the diversity that his team brings to the world of professional cycling. The team is comprised of riders from Namibia, Canada, USA, Estonia, Czech Republic, and Mexico and “…just like Israel, the team is a melting-pot. As far as I know, we are also the only non-profit organization in the world of professional cycling,” says Baron.

The Academy’s new board of directors member, Sylvan Adams, has decided that after the recent success of the team it is time to “step up to the higher league.” The team is planning to move to the Pro Continental ranks in 2017.

The team endeavors to compete in the Tour of California and the classics in 2017, as well as a grand tour debut in 2018. One of the Academy’s main goals is to support the development of Israeli riders, who represent the majority of team riders.

American rider, Chris Butler, answered a few questions about the dynamics and goals of the growing team.

What is the team dynamic like? (especially considering that next year the team will be Pro Continental)

“The team is probably one of the most diverse teams in the peloton, We have six Israelis then nine riders all from different countries and continents. But the diversity really unites us, we all are racing in European countries far from home. Everyone speaks English perfectly, and the team atmosphere is great. We all love being around together at the races, training camps or the team house in Italy, we are all such good friends that it makes racing for one another so rewarding.”

What are the team goals for next year and what are your individual goals for the future?

“The team goals are to be pro-conti in 2017 and ride a grand tour on 2018; they said this from day one in the training camp last October when it was just a small team. These are lofty goals, but everyone is doing the maximum to make this possible. The team gives opportunities to Israeli riders, and wants to see them towards the top of the sport and hopefully we will get a lot of firsts when some of these guys down the road.

“But we want to show that Israel is a big supporter of cultural, artistic, and athletic advancement of their own and others. I spent over a month there in December, and I can’t put into words the communal love the Israeli culture has for one another, they are such a supportive, tight-knit set of people that are always giving a helping hand. For me personally, I want to continue to have success in Europe, I definitely want to win a stage or GC in an 2.1 or HC stage race next year in Europe, which is quite rare for Americans, but I have my eye on a few good chances.”

How have the successful races for the team this past spring such as the Tour of Hungary and Tour de Beauce had an impact on the team while getting ready to move up the ranks?

“Those are great 2.2’s [UCI stage races], and to get a ton of results in Beauce and in Europe shows we are ready to bump it up to another level. Guillaume [Boivin], [Dan] Craven, and I are a little bit older and have done some of these bigger races with some results and then we have some really good looking young guys (Mihkel Raim, Daniel Turek, Luis Lemus) as well as some really hungry riders, so it’s pretty cool they are ‘taking’ this team to the top as a unit which is pretty special, because ‘group success’ tastes so much sweeter than individual glory.”

Butler won the Bob Cook Memorial Mount Evans Hill Climb this past Saturday, July 23. He finished with a 40-second lead over second-place finisher Fortunato Ferrara.