ISN parts ways with its biggest winner – 16 victories
The team’s manager: “It was our hardest decision“
Raim: “I was hoping to continue but now want to deliver for another team”
Tel Aviv. Dec 16th
For the past five years, MIHKEL RAIM has been a crucial part of Israel Cycling Academy and later Israel Start-Up Nation. With 16 victories, including two GC wins, 34 podium spots and no less than 78 top-10s, the ultimate winner known as “THE VIKING” has been one of the most important riders in the history of the team – and by far the team’s most decorated winner.
“I have so many good moments to look back on from over the years,” Räim says, reflecting on his immensely successful time in the white and blue outfit. “All the races, training camps and trips to Israel with these guys have been incredible. This group is really like a family to me. We all progressed and evolved together. Often, we were the underdogs, but it didn’t hold us back as we were so hungry for success. I especially felt good during the 2017-2018 season – the team really trusted me, and I delivered. Sometimes, I felt unstoppable on the bike. This adventure has truly been something special. I am left with so many good memories that I could write a whole book about them.”
However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And as the team is currently changing its focus ahead of the 2021 season, it has made a tough and painful decision to part ways with its biggest winner: the man from Estonia with the nickname “the Viking”.
“Personally, it’s really hard for me to say goodbye to one of my favorites riders. Miku is not only our most decorated rider but also a part of our soul. He’s a true winner with a great personality. Cycling is a cruel business though, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions. This one may be the hardest one yet,” explained the team’s co-owner Ron Baron.
After his outstanding run with the team, where he raised not only his arms in triumph but also awareness of Israeli cycling around the world, Räim hopes to have inspired the younger generation to follow in his footsteps.
General manager of the team, Kjell Carlström, is also full of admiration for Räim and, naturally, he hopes to see the versatile Estonian continue at a high level in the sport. “I have enormous admiration for Miku. You can always trust him to deliver. However, going into a more GC-oriented direction from 2021, we have had to make tough decisions and parting ways Miku was the toughest one to make. He’s a great rider who knows how to win races and I wish him the very best in the future.”
Mihkel: “It saddens me to leave and although I knew that this day would arrive, I was still hopeful to continue with the team. But I am looking forward and hoping to continue my career as I have so much experience, ability and hunger for more victories and success. I hope to find a team that will give me the chance to show how valuable I can be.
“What’s left now is to thank so many people who have believed in me – some even when I didn’t believe in myself. Especially Ron. He was crazy enough to believe that an Estonian rider could start winning races for an Israeli team. I just hope that I gave something back to Israeli cycling and to Israeli sport in general. I would be extremely happy if I have been a role model for just one person or if I inspired a young boy or girl to take up cycling.”
The past five years truly have been incredible. Thank you, Miku, for the memories, for the victories, for everything.
Pics: Bettini, Adam Lingworth, Brian Veloimages