The new Continental Team the Israel Cycling Academy will make its world premiere in Israel: The team will take part in the Gran Fondo Arava on Saturday, March 7, as the final preparation for its first international racing season.

The new team of 15 riders – about half of them Israelis – was formed to foster the most prominent young talents in Israel and to give them the opportunity to reach the top ranks of cycling with the Israel Start-Up Nation team, competing this year in the WorldTour and riding the Tour de France.

New team manager Aviad Izrael, and the team have been preparing for the new season with a training camp in Spain, and the riders will return to Israel for the Gran Fondo Arava 2020. “The race in Israel will be the final preparation for the European racing season,” he said.

The Gran Fondo Arava 2020 will host the 130km competition with around 500 riders, most of them from Israel, but with others primarily from the US and Europe. The race encourages cyclists from all around the world to enjoy cycling in the beautiful desert area of Israel, with the intoxicating views of the Middle Arava.

This year there will be two main races. The Gran Fondo, a competitive and non-competitive heat of 130 km, with a circuit route, will begin and end in the Sapir Center in the Middle Arava and will include the traditional climb of Scorpions Pass, the Great Crater, Zin Valley and the “Peace Road.” There is also a Mini Fondo, 56 km long and suitable for hobby cyclists, families and teens over 14 years old.

On Saturday, 7.3.20, the International Gran Fondo Arava will see hundreds of cyclists including Israel pro riders start on a 130 km circuit route, which will begin and end at the Sapir Center in the Middle Arava. It also includes a gravel segment of approximately 7 km, as a tribute to the Strada Bianchi race in Italy and other world road bike events, incorporating challenging segments within their cycling routes.

The Israel Cycling Academy team Continental Team was established as part of the “Academy” vision to develop Israeli cycling and inspire the young generation of cyclists in Israel that the sky is the limit for them.

Starting as a Continental ranked team, in the five years since its inception the first Israeli professional team has jumped to heights no one could have predicted: From its historical participation in the Giro d’Italia which started in Jerusalem to the appearance of Israeli cyclists in the world’s most important races as the newly-named Israel Start-Up Nation in the WorldTour ranks.

Things have now gone full circle with this new Continental team bearing the Israel Cycling Academy name. “The Continental Team is basically our commitment to foster the next generation,” said Izrael.

Israel Start-Up Nation’s CEO Chen Tal: “This is a long-term project that provides encouragement for all cyclists in the country, and moves to break the glass ceiling that for 70 years saw our cyclists unsuccessful in breaking into the international cycling teams, until the Israel Cycling Academy was established and changed the map.”

Most of the Israelis in the Continental Team are soldiers who live in Israel and spend about 90 days abroad in training and competitions. All are 100% committed to cycling, training between 15-25 hours per week, and adhering to strict nutrition, physical therapy, mental training and more. “At the end of the day during a race, the team has to support the cyclist professionally and help him recover quickly and the cyclist has to deal with the race only,” says Aviad.

The International Gran Fondo Arava will be held on March 6-7 (Friday-Saturday), as part of the Gran Fondo Arava International Cycling Festival 2020, for road cyclists. It is an initiative of the Gran Fondo Israel Company, established by Harel Nahmani and Hanan Peretz, leaders in the event’s field, and sponsored by the Middle Arava Regional Council in cooperation with the Israeli Cycling Association, the Ministry of Tourism in Israel, the Ministry of Culture and the Sport in Israel, The Hapoel Center, and the  National Road Safety Authority in Israel, which is teaming up with the race organizers for the campaign to keep road cyclists safety on the roads of Israel.