Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) just announced a partnership with Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), a Tel Aviv-based nonprofit that connects international companies with Israeli innovation.

Under the name “Israel Start-Up Nation,” the team will compete on cycling’s biggest stage as a new entrant in the World Tour.

As a result, it will become the first-ever Israeli team to compete in the Tour de France, the world’s third most-watched sporting event after the quadrennial summer Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup, showcasing Israeli innovation to billions of television viewers.

Participation in the Tour de France represents significant progress made by ICA in five years.

The 2017 season was the team’s first in the second-tier Pro Continental ranks. In 2018, the team raced in its first Grand Tour—the historic Giro d’Italia, which started in Jerusalem. ICA raced again in the Giro d’Italia in 2019. This same season, the team stepped up its racing performance and recorded 29 wins.

“Israel Start-Up Nation” carries 30 riders from 16 nationalities. The team will include four Israeli riders: Itamar Einhorn, Omer Goldstein, Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv. In order to be challenged on the World Tour, it has also signed some of the sport’s most experienced riders, including Andre Greipel, Dan Martin and Dani Navarro.

The team is owned by Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams and Israeli businessman Ron Baron. Taking a minority interest this year is Kevin Lam, a Canadian, via his company, Reinvent.com.

View of the Israel Cycling Academy during presentation of the competing teams in the 101st Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem on May 3, 2018, ahead of the opening of the competition on May 4. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“The dream of competing in the Tour de France, almost unthinkable when we launched the team, is coming true: a professional team with world-class Israeli riders alongside the finest international talents, racing with pride in one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events,” said Adams. “Around 3.5 billion viewers in hundreds of countries will see the Israeli flag and hear the message that this is a country bringing unrivaled innovation to the world.

“By partnering with Start-Up Nation Central, we are showcasing the Israeli-tech ecosystem on a global stage, sending a clear message that this is a country with so much to offer,” he added. “I have no doubt that cutting-edge Israeli technology will give our team a competitive advantage as we race against the very best in world cycling.”

Professor Eugene Kandel, CEO of SNC, noted that with a population of about 9 million people, Israel has the most start-ups and highest venture investment per capita in the world. “This is a potential force multiplier that the Israel Cycling Academy can tap into,” he said.

ICA was founded in December 2014 in Jerusalem as Israel’s first professional cycling team with a vision to help young cyclists achieve the highest level of the sport. Riders also act as the nation’s “ambassadors,” demonstrating a vision of peace through athletics.

Riders will continue to serve as Peres Center for Peace and Innovation “Peace Ambassadors,” a title they were bestowed in 2018. The center’s logo will appear on uniforms to help spread a message of coexistence.

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