You risk your life walking on the streets of Israel, but cycling is another matter completely. Death by cycling are commonplace in cities like Tel Aviv where buses and trucks speed out of control and reckless newcomers barely in their teens speed around on electric bikes (really like mopeds) and e-scooters. In April 2018 a Netanyahu strategist and very well known publicist Moti Morel was killed in Tel Aviv on his e-bike.
But risks aside, cyclists can also dream… in the 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.
They both had a vision of building a team dream of Israeli cyclists that could do the legendary Tour de France with an Israel Cycling Academy (ICA). This year they succeeded.
How Israel accelerated uphill with a team
Sylvan Adams, an Israeli-Canadian philanthropist, now part of the team as a co-owner, greatly accelerated 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 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. 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.
In addition to four Israeli riders (Itamar Einhorn, Omer Goldstein, Guy Niv, and Guy Sagiv), the roster includes Matteo Badiletti and Patrick Schelling (Switzerland); Rudy Barbier, Alexis Renard and Hugo Hofstetter (France); Jenthe Biermans and Ben Hermans (Belgium); Guillaume Bovin, Alexander Cataford and James Piccoli (Canada); Reto Hollenstein and Matthias Brändle (Austria); Davide Cimolai (Italy); Alex Dowsett (Great Britain); Andre Greipel, Rick Zabel and Nils Politt (Germany); Dan Martin (Ireland); Travis McCabe (USA); Daniel Navarro (Spain); Krists Neilands (Latvia); Mihkel Räim and Norman Vahtra (Estonia); Rory Sutherland (Australia); and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Denmark).
We root for the underdog and hope more teams from the Levant and Near Middle East will join in on the sport. Among the 19 qualifying teams is a team from the United Arab Emirates, opening a new space for healthy dialogue, sport and good dynamics among men who normally never get to meet face to face…meanwhile looking at the faces and then just checking the names… nah, just like big league baseball these guys don’t look like they are from the United Arab Emirates, but are strong legs, lean bodies for hire. They are hot though. Follow Team UAE on Instagram. And Team Israel (less hot) here.
The UAE cycling team is posted below.
… and if you are a cycling lover there is this one story about a guy from Lebanon… there is ALWAYS a good story from the Middle East. Believe us.