Academy deal a ‘dream’ for ace Goldstein

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BY STAN ROSE

CY­CLING OMER Goldstein ex­pressed de­lighted after sign­ing a two-year con­tract with the am­bi­tious Is­rael Cy­cling Academy.

The cap­ture of Goldstein com­pletes the con­struc­tion of the strong­est and most ex­pen­sive ros­ter since the ICA was es­tab­lished. Now he aims to take the cir­cuit by storm, with the de­clared goal to “win stages in the world’s largest com­pe­ti­tions”.

“I’ve dreamed about this mo­ment since I started rid­ing a bike, aged eightyears old,” said Goldstein, who is the fifth Is­raeli and now, at 21, the youngest rider on the team.

“But, for me, the dream is just be­gin­ning. I hope to stand on podi­ums in the Academy uni­form. It will take very hard work from me and maybe quite a bit of time but I got the chance and now I have to prove that I de­serve it.”

Is­raeli-Cana­dian phi­lan­thropist Sylvan Adams, who, to­gether with busi­ness­man Ron Baron, is be­hind the first pro­fes­sional Is­raeli cy­cling team, said: “I can­not wait for the start of the new academy race sea­son.

“We have es­tab­lished a much ex­panded and strong team that in­cludes a se­ries of ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional cy­clists with proven track records, in­clud­ing vic­to­ries at the world’s great­est races.

“They join our tal­ented young group who have al­ready gained ex­pe­ri­ence in many races, as well as the Is­raelis pro­moted from the de­vel­op­ment team.”

The ICA are tar­get­ing suc­cess at the three largest World Tour races and they are hop­ing to take part in the his­toric Giro d’Italia that will launch in Jerusalem in May.

“We be­lieve we will be there with a very strong team that will make his- tory as the first Is­raeli group in a Grand Tour,” said Baron, the Is­raeli owner and founder of the group.

Baron is ex­cited by the progress of Goldstein and added: “Omer and the Is­raelis are the rea­son for the es­tab­lish­ment of Academy.

“The aim was to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for Is­raeli cy­clists to ful­fil their dreams and com­pete in the world’s great­est races. There­fore, it is sym­bolic to me that Omer is the rider who com­pletes the up­graded team.”

The new ICA ros­ter was built with con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment by its own­ers and the re­cruit­ment of ad­di­tional spon­sors. The team’s bud­get has al­most dou­bled and stands at more than five mil­lion eu­ros. It re­flects the dra­matic rise in the squad’s qual­ity and suc­cess since its es­tab­lish­ment three years ago with a rel­a­tively small bud­get of less than one mil­lion eu­ros. The ICA have won an im­pres­sive eight races but the Giro chal­lenge de­manded ma­jor in­vest­ment.

World-renowned cy­clists such as Ben Her­mans of Bel­gium and Ruben Plaza of Spain — a stage win­ner in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Es­paña — have signed in re­cent months. The team is also joined by out­stand­ing rid­ers from Colom­bia, Nor­way, Italy, and Aus­tralia. The re­vamped squad also fea­tures a for­mer track world cham­pion and four na­tional cham­pi­ons, led by Tur­key’s Ah­met Örken, whose join­ing the Is­raeli team has won wide sup­port at home and abroad de­spite tense re­la­tions be­tween Is­rael and Tur­key.

With rid­ers from 16 coun­tries, the ICA is among the most in­ter­na­tion­ally di­verse teams in the pelo­ton while at the same time main­tain­ing its char­ac­ter as one of the youngest play­ers in the world.

“We have un­doubt­edly built the strong­est and most bal­anced team we have ever had to aim for a stage win in ev­ery tour we race, but we also made sure to main­tain and even strengthen our iden­tity as an Is­raeli team,” said team man­ager Ran Mar­galiot.

“Even with an un­prece­dented sched­ule of about 240 race days, at least one Is­raeli will rep­re­sent us in ev­ery race.”

Goldstein is con­sid­ered one of the most tal­ented rid­ers who has grown up in Is­rael in re­cent years but his path to earn­ing a pro­fes­sional con­tract has been fraught with ups and downs. Crash­ing hard into a sup­port car at the 2015 World Cham­pi­onships, he went through long months of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion be­fore re­turn­ing to the pelo­ton.

The fol­low­ing year, as a sta­giaire with ICA, he fin­ished in the top 10 at the Tour of Rwanda twice, re­veal­ing his vast po­ten­tial. But after join­ing the Academy de­vel­op­ment team, he and the team man­age­ment were di­vided over his pro­fes­sional con­duct, which ul­ti­mately led to his re­lease.

Nonethe­less, the ICA hi­er­ar­chy helped him join the Basque team Ampo. Suc­cess was im­me­di­ate. Goldstein turned out to be an out­stand­ing rider, help­ing his friends win and even claim­ing a vic­tory him­self. “Part­ing with the ICA was a kind of blow to my head for me,” ad­mit­ted Goldstein.

“I re­alised that if I did not take con­trol and live as a pro­fes­sional in ev­ery de­tail, I would lose my ca­reer. I am al­most happy to­day that this cri­sis has come. It helped me un­der­stand what was re­quired of me as a pro­fes­sional.”

Mar­galiot said: “Omer proved very ma­ture and took the op­por­tu­nity with both hands. We are con­vinced he is com­ing to us more will­ing and ma­ture to be­gin a ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional rider. We will give him races and a chance to de­velop pa­tiently.”

We are ready to make his­tory on World Tour

Omer Goldstein

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