Israel Start-Up Nation are the first team to hold an organised training camp since the coronavirus outbreak.
Israel are the first country to allow a professional cycling team to hold a training camp, albeit with strict rules, with the WorldTour outfit undertaking three days of intensive riding in the north of the Middle Eastern country.
More than 12 riders performed sprint and climbing drills while adhering to social distancing. All non-training activities such as team meetings had to be held outdoors, with masseurs and soigneurs wearing masks while treating riders.
Everyone attending the training camp had to sign a statement declaring a clean bill of health, with their body temperatures tested regularly and meals delivered in boxes and eaten with strict social distancing enforced.
“This is a testament to the forward-looking and astute Israeli management of this pandemic and our nation’s relatively low number of cases,” said team owner Sylvan Adams.
“The team is doing its utmost to protect us, so I feel pretty safe,” said rider Guy Niv. His teammate Itamar Einhorn added: “Everything is much stricter. You bring your own set of bottles to the ride, and nobody else will touch them but you.”
“It is priceless,” Niv continued. “Being able to train together, race together to a sprint, or working on high speeds. This is something you can’t train alone or on home trainers. It enables you to reach levels that you can never reach otherwise.”
Omer Goldstein, another rider, said: “The first group ride yesterday, I felt such a high it was unbelievable: it gave me a crazy boost of energy.”
Management have also noted that their riders’ motivation for training is at a level they’ve never seen before, especially as riders tackled the Hermon, the highest climb in Israel, during their training.
Although, one coach said it will be difficult to get a full team training camp organised and they may end up splitting the team into several squads geographically, depending on which races they are selected for.
“I have never seen this kind of motivation in training before. The riders are just ecstatic. I guess that what happens after 2 months of Corona lockdown,” said team manager Aviad Izrael.
“There are several hurdles to overcome before the season restarts and restrictions of movement between countries are the most crucial,” coach Kjell Carlstrom added. “It may be difficult to have a full team training camps as we have riders living all over the world. We may need to build several squads based on areas and which races they are selected to – and keep them together. For sure, it will be very complicated and challenging.”
2020 is Israel Start-Up Nation’s first in the WorldTour, having stepped up from the Pro-Continental ranks last year after taking over Katusha-Alpecin’s licence.
Now, the squad look towards their first-ever participation in the Tour de France, a first for an Israeli team, and if they take homegrown riders, the first for an Israeli cyclist.