One year after its historic inaugural participation in the United Arab Emirates Tour, which was followed by the peace accord between the UAE and Israel, Team Israel Start-Up Nation will begin its second UAE Tour on Sunday.
Featuring a squad of seven riders, including Israeli champion Omer Goldstein, Andre Greipel, and Alex Dowsett, the UAE Tour will see the much-anticipated debut of Chris Froome in Team Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) uniform.
“It is with much anticipation that I will be kicking off my 2021 season in Dubai at the UAE Tour,” said Froome, who will compete in the race following three months of rehab and training in California. “It will be my first race with Israel Start-Up Nation and the start of a new and exciting adventure for me. I look forward to racing with my new teammates and testing out my legs after a productive winter.”
“Last year I noted that our Israeli team was warmly welcomed in the UAE,” said the team’s co-owner Sylvan Adams, who was part of an intimate group invited to witness the signing of the Abraham Peace Accords at the White House. “Emiratis stood in line to get our riders’ autographs and souvenir bidons with the word ‘Israel’ emblazoned on them,” he recalled.
Adams, who accompanies his team again this year at the UAE Tour, added: “I truly believe that sports interactions, such as ISN’s racing in the UAE Tour, were building blocks, bridging these new, very warm relations with our neighbors. Happy to be back.”
Making his second appearance in the race will be Israeli Omer Goldstein, this time as national champion, a title he won for the first time in November. “Racing is one thing,” said Goldstein, “but if we, as a team, can also contribute to the positive relations between people or countries, then it is even better.”
The UAE Tour consists of four flat stages, one individual time trial, and two mountain stages.
“We aim for the highest results,” said Rik Verbrugghe, the team’s Sports Manager, “but it is hard to put a number on that. We want to show that [Andre] Greipel is still in the highest ranks amongst sprinters and that [Ben] Hermans and [Chris] Froome are strong climbers.”
Andre Greipel will be competing in the UAE Tour for the fourth time in his career. “For Israel Start-Up Nation, there are multiple opportunities, as we are heading there with a great lead-out train for the flat stages, and with multiple strong climbers. I think we will be able to put out a strong showing at this race,” he noted.
Commenting on Chris Froome’s debut, ISN Team Manager Kjell Carlström said, “Seeing as it’s Chris’s first race following a good and successful period of training and rehab, we expect him to use the UAE Tour as a building block to further develop his shape towards the bigger objectives that are waiting down the line.”
The team’s performance manager, Paulo Saldanha, has been monitoring and directing Froome’s training closely since he joined ISN, with a focus on rebalancing his key cycling muscles. Saldanha, who also used his PowerWatts Online app to monitor and test Froome’s progress, said that “the UAE Tour will be a great opportunity to get Chris back to his race rhythm and speed. Above and beyond helping and supporting his team through the race, the racer will be a good test of his newly balanced musculature.”
Team rider Alex Dowsett commented, “I am looking forward to racing with Chris Froome. The last time Chris and I rode together was in 2011, when we were both on the Team Sky C-team, so this is surely going to be lots of fun.”