Cyclist Guy Niv and his “Team Israel Start-Up Nation” took off at the Tour de France on Saturday, making them the first Israeli and Israeli team to participate in the prestigious cycling competition now in its 107th edition.

The contest kicked off in the southern French Riviera town of Nice. It will see 22 teams try and make their way across 2,156 miles to the finish line in Paris.

The tour was originally meant to take place at the end of June but was postponed by two months due to the COVID-19 situation in France.

Israel’s team is comprised of Niv and seven other cyclists from different countries: Andre Greipel (Germany), Ben Hermans (Belgium), Hugo Hofstetter (France), Dan Martin (Ireland), Krists Neilands (Latvia), Nils Politt (Germany) and Tom Van Asbroeck (Belgium).

Niv, 26, previously participated in the 2018 Giro d’Italia that started off in Jerusalem and the 2019 race in Italy, coming in at 113th place in the latter.

Ahead of the Tour de France, Niv posted on Instagram: “It really is a dream come true! Just wanna say that I’m overwhelmed by all the messages and wishes. Thank you all for this amazing support!”

Sylvan Adams, co-owner of the Israeli team, also wrote ahead of the contest’s first day: “This is a special moment for our Israel Start-Up Nation team, as we embark on our first competition around ‘la grande boucle’ in cycling’s biggest race. I’m looking forward to the journey and seeing the riders finish in grand style in Paris in three weeks.”

This article first appeared in Israel21C.

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