Sylvan Adams

Original Article Published on the JNS

“The team has the name Israel on its jersey. It is important that they will know what Israel looks like—the culture, the people, the history, the food. It will give them a nice taste of what it looks like and feels like to be here,” said Guy Niv, a cyclist with Team Israel Start-Up Nation.

Guy Niv

When Team Israel Start-Up Nation cyclist Guy Niv connects with his fellow riders, it usually requires flying from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Europe or some other far-off destination for a training ride or a race. This past Friday, Niv had a different airport experience—he greeted his fellow riders at Ben-Gurion they arrived for their first full-team visit to Israel since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent opening of the gates to tourism in the country.

“It is super-nice to welcome everyone to Israel—and to go to training from home with no flights, no packing,” he declared.

The 27-year-old, who lives in Atzmon in Israel’s north, said “my girlfriend took me to the airport to meet the team.” Niv spoke with JNS from the team bus as they headed to Jerusalem for a packed weekend of festivities that will include some riding, but mostly touring, bonding, meet-and-greets with Israelis and a Sunday reception for the team at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Israel Start-Up Nation—its first professional cycling team—was established in 2015 and includes riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when Sylvan Adams joined as a co-owner alongside Ron Baron. The team has competed in its first Grand Tour, joined the WorldTour (the highest level of professional cycling) and secured a spot in the 2020 Tour de France. In 2021, Israeli rider Itamar Einhorn defeated ex-world champion Peter Sagan to claim the first WorldTour victory by an Israeli.

Adams is impressed with his team and not at all disappointed that they won’t spend the majority of their time on intensive rides. “This will be a more relaxed camp—more of a tourism and bonding camp—and will permit the team to experience some of the marvels of Israel,” he said. Israel Start-Up Nation is currently ranked in the top 10 in the world for the first time in its history and enjoyed 17 victories this season.

Riding legend Chris Froome, 36, who has won the Tour de France four times in addition to other prestigious bike races, is looking forward to being in Israel and doing some riding.

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froom greets some of his younger fans during a stop outside of Jerusalem by members of Team Israel Start-Up Nation. Source: Twitter.

Back in the country since his last race in Spain, Niv recounted that he hiked in the desert with friends and celebrated his brother’s recent marriage, and now looks forward to spending time with his teammates. Now, it’s back to training-related events. He reported that there will only be two or three team rides; he and his Israeli teammates are scheduled to lead one in the Golan Heights.

Niv sees this trip as an important opportunity for his fellow riders to truly experience Israel. “The team has the name Israel on its jersey. It is important that they will know what Israel looks like—the culture, the people, the history, the food. It will give them a nice taste of what it looks like and feels like to be here.”

He noted that while his fellow riders are “athletes, not politicians,” they are often asked about the situation in Israel. “The best way for them to answer is to be here a bit and see. They will have a chance to form their own opinions.”

Israeli teammate Itamar Einhorn, 24, said he sees a benefit in bringing the team to Israel: “I’m always excited to show our riders what the country has to offer.”

Cyclists with Team Start-Up Nation Israel tour Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Credit: Noa Arnon/Cycling Academy LTD.

‘I didn’t expect so many fans’

The team has already met and interacted with hundreds of devoted fans. On their first morning of ISN Homecoming Camp in Israel, fans met riders, got autographs and posed for selfies as they rode from Jerusalem to the summit of Nes Harim in the Judean hills, the largest meet-up destination for cyclists in Israel, and hosted a morning coffee stop at the Bar Bahar restaurant in the Jerusalem Forest in Bar Giora.

“I didn’t expect so many fans and riders,” acknowledged Froome. Later in the day on Saturday, they took a walking tour of the Old City and the Western Wall.

At the Sunday event, Israeli President Isaac Herzog enthusiastically greeted the riders, saying: “We welcome the team whole-heartedly, and we bless you that you are representing Jerusalem and Israel in the world of cycling. This team shows incredible professionalism, and we are honored to have you all here. We are very proud that you are formatting into a world-class team, and we believe that you will only continue to get better and get more results next year.”

Herzog shared his enthusiasm for the delegation’s visit on Twitter: “Thrilled to welcome back to Israel the incredible cyclists of @TeamIsraelSUN, including world legend @chrisfroome, after a season with a top-ten team ranking and 17 international wins! Enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Israel at lightning speed!”

Cyclists with Team Start-Up Israel meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Credit: Noa Arnon/Cycling Academy LTD.

‘We try to use the sport to build bridges’

Adams has been involved with many high-profile events in Israel designed to showcase the land and its people. They include bringing Madonna to the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel in 2010 and donating $5 million to SpaceIL, the organization working to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon.

He said he is pleased that the riders have the opportunity to visit Israel and that Israeli supporters get to spend time with them. “It’s very important for us to bring the team here to introduce the riders to our home country to make them understand what Israel is as we are ambassadors for the nation. We don’t have a brand sponsor like other teams; our brand is Israel, and we carry the name everywhere we go. Another mission of ours is to help make the world a better place, and we try to use the sport to build bridges and to make new friends around the world.”

Prior to the trip, Froome reported, “I am very much looking forward to finally being able to visit Israel. Throughout this year, I have really felt the heart-warming support from the Israeli fans, and I can’t wait to meet them in person and thank them for all their support.”

He made it a point to emphasize that he likes what he has seen so far: “I have so enjoyed being in Israel these last few days and would really like to come back with my family next year. In this team, one of our biggest visions is to inspire the new generation of Israeli cyclists. When we met our young fans, it was clear to see how they were all dreaming of becoming professional riders. You could their eyes sparkle when they met the team and to witness that vision of ours being realized right now is such a joy.”

The team started its schedule with a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem on Sunday. Members visited Tel Aviv on Monday. They plan to meet with young riders to talk about cycling and racing at several schools once back up north. Additionally, the team will be presented at the Expo on Thursday, one day before the 2021  Ironman 70.3 Tiberias competition and its 2,000 competitors on Nov. 12.

Israel Start-Up Nation announced that Israeli riders Niv, Einhorn, Omer Goldstein and Guy Sagiv will stay with the team next year, maintaining an important Israeli presence on the team.

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Original Article Published On The JNS

The famed race, which each year covers 3,413 kilometers (2,121 miles) over 21 stages in 23 days, featured eight riders wearing the Israel Start-Up Nation jersey.

When Belgian professional road and cyclo-cross racer Wout van Aert took the 21st and final stage of the Tour de France and Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar won the overall 2021 Tour de France on Sunday, there weren’t many Israeli riders in sight. Even without Israeli riders winning the race, this year’s Tour de France was an unprecedented victory for the Jewish state.

The famed race, which each year covers 3,413 kilometers (2,121 miles) over 21 stages in 23 days, featured eight riders wearing the Israel Start-Up Nation jersey. The Israel team, which included two Canadians, five Europeans and Israeli-born Omer Goldstein, put Israel and Israel cycling on the map in perpetuity.

Israel’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov was on hand at the finish line in Paris to greet the riders and show just how much Israel cycling matters.

“We are so proud to see an Israeli team carry the Israeli flag at one of the largest sporting events in the world,” he said. “Thanks to the partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, the team is promoting our brand of tourism to Israel throughout the race. Events of this kind are the biggest generators of tourism in the world, so it was important for me to come and learn about what is needed, and how it will be possible to bring major international sporting events to Israel on the day the skies open.”

Thanks in large part to the visionary leadership and financial backing of the team’s co-owner, Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, the world is beginning to take note of Israel as a bike-racing country and as a tourist destination. In May 2018, Adams, known for bringing positive attention through such stunts as bringing Madonna to Israel for the Eurovision song competition, arranged to have Israel host the three-week Giro d’Italia bike race.

Israel Start-Up Nation rider leads the peloton at the Tour de France in front of the Arc de Triomphe, July 2021. Credit: Courtesy.

Adams is proud of Israel Start-Up Nation’s performance at this year’s Tour De France. “ISN’s second Tour represented another building block in the team’s growth. For the first time, we were on the podium, with Michael Woods earning the iconic polka-dot climber’s jersey,” he said. “We also had our share of bad luck, with terrible crashes destroying our GC hopes on the first day.

“But the team held strong and was cheered all along the roads of France, with shouts of Israel, Israel, Allez [Go!]! Also, allez Start-Up Nation in recognition of the team moniker and allez Chris Froome, in respect of our great four-time Tour winner. We have put the ‘Start-Up Nation’ on the world map. And a special mention of our Israeli Omer Goldstein for racing like a consummate pro, despite being in his first Tour de France.”

‘Quick to change focus and fight for new goals’

Israel Start-Up Nation boasted several noteworthy accomplishments throughout the three-week race, while also facing some challenges. It finished in the top 10 on nine stages and the top five on three occasions. Canadian Michael Woods took the KOM (red polka-dot leaders’ jersey with blue snowcapped mountains and the words “RIDE ON” at the base) after a big push on Stage 14. Woods finished both third and fifth during the Tour de France, while teammate Dan Martin of Ireland made the top five with an impressive performance on the final mountain stage.

Sports manager Rik Verbrugghe says the riders should be proud of the way they fought to overcome a difficult start to the race. On the first day, seven out of eight on the Israeli team were involved in several crashes. One was caused by a fan who stepped onto the course to unfurl a banner. “We had a challenging beginning, but we never lost morale, and the guys were quick to change focus and fight for new goals,” he said.

Canadian-Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams (center) poses with other members of Team Israel Start-Up Nation, July 2021. Credit: Courtesy.

The Tour concluded three weeks later in Paris with the traditional finish on the Champs-Élysées. The Israeli team finished with a strong performance as André Greipel of Germany sprinted to fifth place. The final stage—Stage 21, 67 flat miles (108 kilometers) from Chatou to Paris at the Champs-Élysées—concluded with Israel riders Omer Goldstein in fifth place, Rick Zabel 23rd and Guillaume Bovin 29th.

Greipel had recently announced that this would be his final Tour de France. His teammates, mindful of what this race means to him, positioned him near the front for the sprint and at the end.

“This was an emotional day, knowing that I would take on my last Tour de France stage. In the sprint, due to the new finish, everybody gambled a bit in the headwind, and I guess I gambled a bit too much,” reported Greipel, who vocalized wishing he finished even higher in the pack. “I would have liked a better result, so there is some disappointment now but also relief as I could finish another Tour de France.”

Goldstein spoke more succinctly and playfully at the finish line. “It was the hardest and most enjoyable race of my life. What do I want now? To rest, and leave the bike … ”

This year’s Israel Start-Up Nation consisted of Guillaume Boivin, Chris Froome, Omer Goldstein, André Greipel, Reto Hollenstein, Dan Martin, Michael Woods and Rick Zabel.

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Israel will be thrust into the international limelight when it hosts the final round of the inaugural UCI Track Champions League in December.

While Israelis were rushing for shelter in mid-May as thousands of rockets were raining down on them from Hamas in Gaza, Canadian-Israeli businessman and philanthropist Sylvan Adams was in Paris at a press conference featuring international biking-race organizers. He was helping promote and unveil plans to bring elite male and female riders to Tel Aviv at the end of the year for a new indoor cycling competition showcasing the world’s top track cyclists.

The Sylvan Adams Velodrome in Tel Aviv will serve as host to the final round of the inaugural UCI Track Champions League on Dec. 11. The other events will take place at velodromes in Spain, France, Lithuania and England between Nov. 6 and Dec. 4.

Adams, who made aliyah five years ago from Montreal, has been at the forefront of presenting Israel in a positive light in front of international audiences. In addition to bringing the UCI event to the Sylvan Adams National Velodrome, which will also host the 2022 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, he has brought the prestigious Giro d’Italia bike race to Israel in 2018 and is also co-owner of the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team. He brought soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and the national teams of Argentina and Uruguay, to Israel in November 2019, in addition to legendary singer Madonna to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.

Sylvan Adams. Credit: Courtesy.

Details of the innovative new bike-racing series were announced via a live digital event streamed from Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines near Paris and Bath in the United Kingdom. Discussing the details of the upcoming competition were president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)—cycling’s world governing body—David Lappartient; Eurosport & Discovery Global Sports Rights & Sports Marketing Solutions president Andrew Georgiou; and François Ribeiro, the head of Eurosport Events. They were joined by ambassadors and track-cycling legends Kristina Vogel and Sir Chris Hoy MBE, plus key figures including businessman and, of course, Adams.

Adams praised his cycling colleagues from England, noting that “we are taking a page from Britain to become a preeminent cycling country.” He says he is hoping to use the indoor velodrome event “to offer an opportunity to bridge from the road-cycling experience.”

The 62-year-old billionaire then turned his attention to Israel, saying: “I am glad the Grand Finale will be in Tel Aviv; it is a very rich opportunity. I think of Israelis as winners. We win with anything we put our minds to.”

‘We already have developed some real track talents’

The elite competition will feature many of the world’s highest-profile riders. Many will be participating in the event only a few months after competing in the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. The event is designed to build the global profile of track cycling beyond the four-year Olympic cycle.

The 36 male and 36 female riders vying for victory in the League’s Sprint and Endurance categories will be motivated by prizes totaling more than €500,000 (nearly $615,000).

Lappartient reports that “the launch of the UCI Track Champions League marks an important milestone in the history of track cycling—one of cycling’s historic disciplines and one that has been part of the Olympic Games since the first modern Games in 1896. I am very much looking forward to seeing this inaugural edition of the UCI Track Champions League take place in these iconic venues revealed today and to seeing the first four men’s and women’s winners of the 2021 UCI Track Champions League, celebrated in December in Israel.”

Adams notes that “our velodrome—the first such facility in the Middle East—is just over a year old, and we already have developed some real track talents, both men and women, who will get the opportunity to race against the world’s best on their home track. In a way, this will be our coming-out party to the rest of the track-cycling world, which will get to see our world-class facility, as the event is going to be beamed into living-room TVs around the globe by Eurosport.”

He topped his enthusiasm with a resounding message: “Looking forward to welcoming everyone to the great, exciting city of Tel Aviv.”

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When Israeli Guy Niv took his bar mitzvah trip with his father to watch the Tour de France, he never imagined that he would be back 13 years later as a rider. Niv, who is now with Team Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN), is the first Israeli to complete the most well-known cycling race in the world. He recently joined the team in Girona, Spain, for a training camp and returned soon after to Israel just before Ben-Gurion International Airport shut down for a week due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Niv, who started riding as a hobby at age 10, hopes to inspire young children’s interest in biking. Despite some uncertainty about the upcoming racing season due to COVID-19, he notes, “I am really excited for the new season and to see new faces, including big names, and to work with and learn from them. My motivation is very high.”

As for his participation in general, “it was a dream come true,” he says, keeping it all in perspective. “At the end of the day, it is a bike ride. It doesn’t change who you are and what you give to the world.”

Team Israel Start-Up Nation will compete at the World Tour level—the highest level of professional cycling—for just the second season. The team recently signed four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who is currently completing rehabilitation from a serious bike injury in California. Froome, 35 a Kenyan-born British cyclist, made clear in a recent virtual press conference that he is very committed to the team and to Israel.

Guy Niv. Credit: Bettini Photo.

As he reports, “This is very much a long-term commitment for me. I have committed to the end of my career. I’m in to give everything I can to help the team in every way possible, as well as improve myself and get back to the top.”

Froome will now be teammates with fellow star-rider Dan Martin, who finished fourth overall in the 2020 Vuelta a Espana (one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, alongside the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia). Martin notes that he is pleased to be riding with Froome, saying “I am happy to see how the team has been strengthened; it gives me confidence. I know how much I can learn from Chris and the others. We can become a stronger team together. It’s a team effort.”

‘True sportsmanship and determination’

The team owes much of its success to the dedication and passion of team co-owner, Canadian-Israeli billionaire, Sylvan Adams. An avid and accomplished biker who won the 2017 World Masters Championship in Manchester, England, he is co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy, and the visionary and funder behind the Sylvan Adams Velodrome—the first velodrome in Israel and the Middle East.

The velodrome, a cycle-racing track and a Tel Aviv architectural wonder located near the Hadar Yosef Athletic Stadium, was inaugurated in 2018. That happened just before Israel hosted the 101st Giro d’Italia bike race—the first time it ever took place outside of Europe. Adams reportedly donated $80 million for the race, in which 175 people cycled throughout Israel, including the final leg from Beersheva to Eilat.

Adams, who made aliyah five years ago from Montreal, has been at the forefront of showcasing Israel in a positive light in front of an international audience. In addition to bringing the Giro D’Italia to Israel, Adams brought soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and the national teams of Argentina and Uruguay, to Israel in November 2019 for a friendly soccer exhibition. Adams is proud of Israel and practical, always leveraging the popularity of these high-profile visitors to Israel and the extensive TV viewership around these events. “Messi has 230 million followers on social media,” notes Adams.

Chris Froome and Sylvan Adams. Credit: Brian Hodes/Velo Images.

In 2018, Adams donated $5 million to SpaceIL, the nonprofit that nearly landed the first Israeli spacecraft (“Beresheet”) on the moon. And in 2019, he helped bring Madonna to Israel to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest, noting that she has “300 million music fans.”

Adams likes to say that he is engaged in “diplomacy, not politics.”

He adds, “The camera doesn’t lie. We are reaching out to show the true face of Israel.”

While his generosity is seen across many projects that promote Israel, cycling remains his true passion. And he feels strongly that Israel Start-Up Nation is “not just a cycling team, but a mission.”

In fact, he sees ISN as “the only team in the world which is the Team of the Jewish people.”

Adams adds that the project has two goals—promoting cycling in Israel and “promoting the home country.” As he elaborates, “we are representing our home country around the world with true sportsmanship and determination.”

‘We respect our cultural traditions’

The team members, who come from all over the world and are mainly not Jewish, serve as ambassadors for Israel. Adams strives to bring team members to see Israel, though this year’s January training camp was relocated to Spain due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

Froome looks forward to his next visit to Israel. “My only experience with Israel was at the Giro d’Italia 2018, and that blew me away. It was not at all what I expected.”

When team members come to Israel, they travel to such important sites as Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Yad Vashem and the bars, restaurants and beaches of Tel Aviv. “We let them see Israel, we don’t preach,” says Adams, who is confident that cyclists will speak accurately and positively about Israel as they are interviewed by media around the world.

The riders even get a taste of Israel and Jewish culture on the road; Adams takes pride in having team Shabbat dinners all around the world. “At our training camps, we do Kiddush in front of the whole team. This is in our DNA. We respect our cultural traditions. Even at the Tour de France, Guy made Kiddush, as we have as a people for 3,000 years.”

Team Israel Start-Up Nation training in Spain. Credit: Noa Arnon.

When Canadian rider, Guillaume Boivin, told family and friends in 2015 that he was planning to visit Israel, they were nervous. “I was struck by how welcoming and comfortable it was,” reports Boivan, the first rider recruited by Adams. “Tel Aviv is a fantastic city, and everyone was willing to help.”

Boivin continues to be an ambassador for Israel and hopes that his teammates will have the same experience he has had. “I think everyone should witness Israel—not just hear stories—and experience what the team means to the owners and creators.”

Adams hopes to bring new team members to Israel in the next few weeks before traveling to Dubai for the seven-day United Emirates Tour bike race from Feb. 21-27. If the pandemic cooperates, then Froome will make his debut there—in the United Arab Emirates following the recent signing of the Abraham Accords with Israel—on the world stage representing the Blue and White.

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