Israel Start-Up Nation report from the Tour de France:
The historic first Tour de France for Israel Start-Up Nation has barely passed its third day and we’ve already achieved the first big moment for the team.
In a dramatic and exciting final sprint in the French city of Sisteron, the team’s French rider Hugo Hofstetter finished in a very respectable fourth place – a huge accomplishment for a team that is taking its first steps in the biggest race in the world.
“As a Frenchman I’m very proud, and I’m very happy for the team,” said the talented sprinter who, just like his team, is racing in his first Tour de France. He even “dared” to regret not achieving an even better result. “Maybe, if I had been on the other side, it would have been easier for me and I would have been in position to compete for first place,” he said with the disappointment of a sprinter who typically finds it difficult to settle for anything less than victory.
But, given the super-accelerators he overcame – winner Caleb Ewan and his deputy Sam Bennett – the result for the small Frenchman is particularly remarkable because he is not a powerful sprinter but one who competes in slightly more selective sprints.
This result is also an excellent foundation for moving the team forward. Start-Up Nation is counting on Hofstetter to tackle stages in upcoming races that suit him even better, like after ascents that heavy riders have a hard time getting through.
The result relieved some pressure from the team that is still suffering the price of injuries, especially Andre Greipel’s. The German would surely have competed for stage victory had he not been hampered by his knee, but even so he helped Hugo in the last kilometer and spoke with humility at the end. “I am very happy with [Hofstetter] and the team’s achievement. It’s great. But I am disappointed with myself that in my current situation all I can do is ride from point A to B without being a significant factor.”
The 198 km route that set the stage for a solid achievement for the team, was also an opportunity for other riders, such as the climber Israeli Guy Niv, to take the day with relative ease.
Guy Niv: “I am very happy with the achievement of Hugo and the team. This is a great result! Hope this is just the beginning. As for me, it was a very long and calm day. Except for the rain everything was pretty good today. Feels great. Everything peaked.”
As the sun went down on stage 3, the riders prepared for the following day, which awaited them with more challenges: 160 km ending high on a peak after a 7 km climb. But this is another story!
Photos: Noa Arnon and Bettini Photo