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On Friday the Israeli team announced it had signed Piccoli, 28, to join the squad for next season, which marks the squad’s first year in pro cycling’s WorldTour ranks.
“After Piccoli’s great season we are sure he can still progress and be a very valuable team member for ICA’s first year in the WorldTour,” Kjell Carlstrom, the squad’s pro manager, said in a release. “James has some great climbing legs, but his qualities goes beyond that and can prove to be a versatile rider.”
Piccoli, a Canadian who was born in Montreal, was the breakout star of the 2019 North American domestic road scene, scoring top results throughout the season as a member of the Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling team. In March he won a stage and finished second overall at the Tour of Taiwan. In April he was second overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race, before he won a stage and took the overall at the Tour of the Gila in May.
Piccoli’s most impressive ride came in August at the Tour of Utah, where he won the opening prologue and then rode his way into second place overall after a battle with eventual winner Ben Hermans. The former rivals will now be teammates, as the Belgian is signed through the 2021 season with Israel Cycling Academy, whose roster also boasts multi-time Tour de France stage winner Dan Martin.
“I had a lot of teams interested in signing me,” said Piccoli in a release. “But I chose ICA because of their belief in me and the amazing staff that they have. They really believe that I can be a great rider one day, and offered me an environment where I can adjust to European racing while helping the team out as best I can.”
Piccoli envisions his role to be one of support with the occasional chance to ride for himself.
“I’m a climber/GC rider so I will probably be the last guy to help Dan and Ben in the hard races,” Piccoli said. “And I’ll also look to take my shot at the win in target races when I can.”
Just two years shy of 30, Piccoli’s rise in the sport has come later than most. Unlike most pros who start racing during their junior years, Piccoli didn’t start pinning on numbers until college.”
“I started cycling for fun with my dad when I was young, just riding around town and to coffee shops,” he recalled. “I started racing in my early 20s, while I was in university studying mechanical engineering. After a bumpy couple of years, I finally found a good home at Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling, and that’s when I really started to learn my craft and improve.”
Now Piccoli will get a chance to hone those skills further while racing against the world’s best.