The Canadian who brought the Giro d’italia’s grande partenza to Israel
In 2015, Guillaume Boivin won the Canadian national title and caught the eye of a small upstart team in Israel. The next year, he signed with the Israel Cycling Academy with the help of Canadian-israeli real-estate mogul Sylvan Adams, who had moved to Tel Aviv in December 2015. Behind the scenes, bigger things were taking place and in no small part thanks to the involvement of Adams. Sylvan Adams was born in Quebec City and lived for most of his life in Montreal. His father Marcel, a Holocaust survivor, founded the family’s realestate company, Iberville Developments Ltd., in 1958. After Sylvan retired, he moved to Israel. Since then, he’s found fulfilment within the world of professional cycling. Today, he’s the co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy. He’s also helped to build the Middle East’s first velodrome in Tel Aviv and played a prominent role in bringing the Giro d’italia’s 2018 grande partenza to Jerusalem. His team received a wild card invitation to the Italian Grand Tour.
“This combines two of my loves,” Adams said. “I moved to Israel because I love the place. My second love is cycling, so the idea of combining the two and bringing the sport of cycling’s second-biggest event to my adopted country, of course, was a thing of tremendous satisfaction.”
Adams began riding in his late 30s and has found considerable success coached by Paulo Saldanha, who also works with Michael Woods. Adams’s palmarès includes six Canadian masters titles, two masters track world championships, four masters Pan Am gold medals, four titles at the Maccabiah Games and 17 Quebec provincial titles on the road and track. His first foray into professional cycling came with financial support to Steve Bauer’s Spidertech team, which folded in 2012. Adams has also quietly supported local Montreal teams. When he was in the process of moving to Israel, he met the managers of the Israel Cycling Academy and agreed to become a co-owner. He helped the team rise to uci pro continental status.
Adams initiated conversations with rcs, the organizer of the Giro, to get the team invited to the Grand Tour. The idea of starting the race in Israel was also something he mentioned when he met with Giro race director Mauro Vegni two years ago. “It was a kind of out-of-the-box idea I proposed to him. It wasn’t particularly well-received. This is, after all, the first time a Grand Tour has ventured outside of Europe,” Adams said.
The proposal became reality. I n September, rcs confirmed that the 2018 Giro would start in Jerusalem on May 4. The full route was revealed in November, including the finish in Rome on May 27. “This was a theme we brought to them, and we suggested that it would be symbolically very fitting to trace a route from Jerusalem to Rome,” Adams said about the route proposal. “It sends a message of peace and fraternity.”
Adams even brought the message to the Vatican. “I got an audience with the Pope. I brought with me a letter from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu inviting His Holiness to bless the beginning of our race. The idea is he blesses the race at both ends,” Adams said, hoping Pope Francis could connect with the race on its final day in Rome. “It takes the story off the sports page and onto the front page of the newspaper.”
The theme of peace and unity is mirrored by the Israel Cycling Academy, which brings together riders from many countries, including Sweden, Mexico, Italy, the U.S. and Latvia to name some. Boivin and Benjamin Perry are from Canada. Adams hopes to see riders from both his nations on the start line in Jerusalem, but added that the decision will be up to team management. Regardless of whether a Canadian rider is at the grande partenza, Adams will be in the background working to make the event a success. “I hope we put on a Giro big start that will be remembered for years to come,” he said.
“I got an audience with the Pope.”