In the spring of 2014, two cyclists met on the summit of Nes-Harim, the legendary climb near Jerusalem that draws hundreds of cyclists from the local Israeli bicycle community every weekend.
The older of the two, Ron Baron, was an Israeli businessman. The younger, Ran Margaliot, was barely 25, yet his professional career as a cyclist had come to an end a short time previously. This had ended his dream of being the first Israeli cyclist to compete in the greatest race of all – the Tour de France. They both had a vision of generating a revolution in this underdeveloped field of sport in Israel that back then provided few opportunities to the young generation of 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 aimed at enabling talented young cyclists to compete in the international arena and launch their professional careers. This, Ran and Ron they hoped, would provide inspiration, hope, and faith to a new generation.
Sylvan Adams, an Israeli-Canadian philanthropist, soon joined the team as a co-owner, greatly accelerating ICA’s development. The team rose to Pro-Continental rank internationally and began competing in more important races. Meanwhile, at the same time, an all-Israeli development team was established, serving as a greenhouse for U-23 local cyclists, to help them reach the level of the Pro-Team before and joining it.
By 2017, the third year in Israel Cycling Academy’s brief history, the team had already made impressive headway, exceeding its founders’ expectations. With promising young cyclists from all over the world, the team had participated in hundreds of race days, winning dozens of them, and promoting several Israeli cyclists who met the demanding standards of this sport.
In 2018, the Giro D’Italia Big Start (the starting stages of the race) took place in Israel, the first Grand Tour start outside Europe. ICA was invited to participate in this Giro D’Italia, allowing Guy Sagiv to become the first-ever Israeli to finish a Grand Tour. The slogan “From Jerusalem to Rome” was used to dub the team’s journey.
This race put Israel and Israel Cycling Academy on the map of the world cycling scene. 2019 sees ICA with its biggest roster ever, and the largest and most international in the world, with 30 riders from 18 countries representing the team. It is also the team’s most challenging season to date, with qualifying for the 2020 Tour de France by finishing among the two best Pro Continental teams the primary goal.
But the climax was yet to come. During December 2019 the team moved to the WorldTour Level by taking over the UCI license from Team Katusha- Alpecin, which stopped its activity at the end of 2019, and also by taking over seven Katusha riders.
In order to compete at the highest level, the team also has signed such outstanding and experienced riders including Andre Greipel, Dan Martin and Dani Navarro.
“Our destiny was to be a WorldTour”, commented Sylvan Adams, the team’s co-owner.
Under the new name of Israel Start-Up Nation, the team has joined the highest ranks of professional cycling and will compete in the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.
The new WorldTour Team has 30 riders from various countries and nationalities, as well as four Israeli riders – the first ever to be on a WorldTour Team.
In addition, not forgetting our commitment to invest in young Israeli riders (and managers), a new Continental Team had been established, still carrying on the name of Israel Cycling Academy. Half of the riders are young and talented Israeli riders.
Israel Cycling Academy views itself as an Israeli ambassador to the world and utilizes the exposure it receives during races to promote Israel as a tourist destination in general, and for cycling enthusiasts in particular.
And beyond that – ICA has a clear mission of developing the cycling scene in Israel, and their efforts are aimed at young riders. ICA sees this sport as a way to bridge the gap between social classes and religions in Israel, and has launched several programs for children in disadvantaged communities across Israel.
ICA has established cycling schools in various Youth Villages, as well as the first ever Arab Youth Cycling League in Shefa-‘Amr, an Arab city in the Northern District of Israel. ICA also sponsors the local Schools’ League for Cycling Races and built a mentorship program for young coaches, to establish the next generation of professional cycling coaches in Israel.
Hundreds of professional cycling teams currently compete around the world. Not one of them, however, is like Israel Cycling Academy. ICA is one of the only team whose budget is based primarly on philanthropy, and although it is an Israeli team, it is open to all cyclists regardless of religion or nationality and invest heavily in the next generation of young cyclists.