In the spring of 2014, two cyclists met at the summit of Nes-Harim, the legendary climb near Jerusalem that draws hundreds of cyclists from the Israeli bicycle community every weekend.
The older of the two, Ron Baron, is an Israeli businessman. The younger, Ran Margaliot, who was barely 25 at the time, had just seen his professional career as a cyclist come to an end, ending his dream of becoming the first Israeli cyclist to compete in the greatest race of all – the Tour de France. These two men had a vision of generating a revolution in this underdeveloped sport in Israel, which at the time, provided few opportunities for aspiring young cyclists.
Six months later, the pair launched a unique Israeli start up – Israel Cycling Academy – the first professional cycling team in Israel. ICA’s vision was to provide an opportunity for talented young cyclists to compete in the international arena and launch their professional careers. This team, Ran and Ron hoped, would provide inspiration, hope, and faith to future generations of Israelis.
Sylvan Adams, an Israeli-Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, soon joined the project as ICA co-owner with Ron, greatly accelerating ICA’s development. The team rose to the Pro-Continental rank internationally and began competing in more important races. Meanwhile, ICA also established an all-Israeli development (Devo) team, whose purpose was to serve as a greenhouse for U-23 local cyclists, to help them graduate to the parent professional team.
By the third year in ICA’s history, the team had already made impressive headway, exceeding its founders’ expectations. With a diverse roster of promising young cyclists from all over the world, ICA participated in hundreds of race days, winning dozens, while promoting several qualified Israelis from the Devo ranks to the Pro team.
In 2018, something truly astonishing happened, as Sylvan negotiated to bring the Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza (literally Big Start: the opening three stages of the three-week Grand Tour race) to Israel, the first Grand Tour to race outside of Europe. As a Pro-Conti team from the home nation, ICA received a wild card invitation to participate in cycling’s second most important race, beginning, in almost surreal fashion, on home soil. The slogan “from Jerusalem to Rome” was used to describe the team’s historic journey. The 2018 Giro began in Israel’s ancient national capital of Jerusalem, and on following days, traversed a large part of Israel‘s geography, from Haifa in the north all the way to Eilat in the south. The 2018 edition of the Giro finished symbolically three weeks later in Rome, allowing Guy Sagiv to become the first-ever Israeli to complete a Grand Tour. This Giro also placed Israel and Israel Cycling Academy firmly on the map of the world cycling scene, as nearly a billion TV viewers tuned in, making this the most successful Grande Partenza in the Giro’s then 101 year history. Additionally, a million Israelis came into the streets to watch and support the home team.
ICA began 2019 with the largest and most international roster amongst all professional teams, counting 30 riders from 18 countries. It was also the team’s most successful season to date, with ICA riders earning 29 victories.
But the best was yet to come, as for 2020, the team was granted a WorldTour license, providing automatic entry in the sport’s biggest races, including the iconic Tour de France. “Our destiny was to become a WorldTour team”, stated Sylvan Adams, the team’s co-owner. “We are now at the pinnacle of the sport and hope to prove that we firmly belong.”
There is also a name change, to Team Israel Start up Nation, as the team received an important sponsorship commitment from the Israeli non-profit incubator Start up Nation Central. Additionally, a new minority owner has also come on board, Kevin Lam, together with his Reinvent brand.
ISN signed for 2020 decorated and experienced riders such as Andre Greipel, Dan Martin, Nils Pollit, and Dani Navarro to its roster of 30 riders, which will include four Israeli riders.
New for 2020, the philanthropic investors have Increased their commitment to developing young Israeli talent by creating a new 15 rider Israel Cycling Academy Continental squad, a majority of whom are Israeli.
The team begins each year with a pre-season training camp in Israel, where new and returning riders and staff are (re-)introduced to the country, both on bikes and off, as we expose them to the diversity of Israel and the history of the Jewish People. There is an absolute requirement for each rider and staff member to conduct him or herself at highest level of sportsmanship, as they represent and act as ambassadors for the home nation.
Within Israel, we are using the bicycle to bridge the gap between social classes and religions in Israel, establishing several programs for children from disadvantaged communities across Israel. Specifically, ICA has founded cycling schools in various Youth Villages in Israel, as well as the first ever Arab Youth Cycling League in Shefa‘Amr, an Arab Israeli city in the north of the country. ICA also sponsors the local Schools League for Cycling Races, and has built a mentorship program for young coaches, to establish the next generation of professional cycling coaches in Israel.
The team ethos extends well beyond the sporting one, with ISN and ICA acting as Israeli ambassadors abroad, translating the exposure we receive as we race on six continents to promoting Israel as an exciting tourist destination. ISN and ICA are non-profits with ambassadorial, touristic, social, and sporting missions. We rely on the energy of our fan engagement and appreciate the warm support we receive all over the world.