Israeli Tour de France team invites October 7 survivors to race start

Injured soldier Oded Gelbstein, who was wounded in the Gaza Strip in November and is being treated in Italy, was also present


Sharon Shevo and Avida Bachar, after they took part in a short ride in the streets of Florence, posing at the entrance of the Tour's fan zone in Piazza di Santa Croce (photo by Amelie Botbo)

Founded in 2014 by Ron Baron and co-owned by Sylvan Adams, Israel-Premier Tech (IPT) is competing in its fifth Tour de France. Adams is a strong believer in diplomacy through sports. "It’s our fifth participation in the Tour and I'm very proud that we are one of three teams carrying the name of countries and not a commercial brand. We wear 'Israel,' it's my brand as a self-appointed ambassador of the state. During a broadcast, the word 'Israel' can come up 150 times. What an amazing way to present our misunderstood country.”

As part of his effort to fulfil the Jewish mission of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), Adams invited October 7 survivors Avida Bachar and Sharon Shevo to fly on his private jet to Florence. Bachar’s wife Dana and 15-year-old son Carmel were murdered in their home by Hamas terrorists. Avida lost his right leg in the attack. Shevo was ambushed while he was training on his bicycle on October 7 and nearly lost his arm.

The survivors addressed the Jewish community of Florence during Thursday’s Balagan Café cultural festival in the garden of the Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze (“the Great Synagogue of Florence”).

They also took part in a training session with the team on Friday during which they met the 40 professionals accompanying the riders. On Saturday, the pair attended the Grand Depart.

“It’s a dream come true to get to know the team backstage, hear about their routine and see the entire setup and the staff. I rode with them on my mountain bike a couple of kilometers,” said Bachar, who had not ridden a bicycle for that long since October 7.

When he and Shevo returned to the team’s hotel, they received a warm welcome to chants of ‘Gibor Yisrael’ (Heroes of Israel).

Adams also invited IDF soldier Oded Gelbstein, who was wounded in the Gaza Strip in November and is being treated in Italy. “Being injured was shocking to me. Everything I have experienced since then has been extraordinary. Being here today is unbelievable,” Gelbstein told the JC.

“It confirms my hopes that the life ahead of me will be beautiful, this wound will be a tool for me. It will not make me weaker, it will make me strong,” he added.

At the Grand Depart, Bachar, Shevo and Goldstein displayed posters of Kibbutz Be’eri residents kidnapped on October 7, and called for the immediate release of the remaining 120 hostages.

Joining them in Florence was a group of young cyclists from Kibbutz Nahal-Oz who survived Hamas’s massacre. They were led by former IPT cyclist and the first Israeli to compete in the Tour de France, Guy Niv. “This event was part of me for many years,” Niv, who made history participating in the Tour in 2020 for IPT, told the JC. “My fingers are crossed for us to win some stages. We are looking forward to them raising the Israeli flag high,” he added.

Ron Baron told the JC: “It was my dream to bring Israeli riders to the Tour de France. Now I dare to dream to win stages and even maybe one day the event with the name 'Israel' emblazoned on our jerseys.”

Ahead of the first stage of the Tour de France, a hilly 206km ride through the heart of Florence to Rimini, Israel-Premier Tech rider Derek Gee said: “It’s great to be representing the team, I'm ready to race my first Tour. The goal is to win a stage,”

The opening stage took place in 35 degree heat and included long climbs lasting up to 16 minutes to peaks reaching over 900 meters. “It’s a more aggressive start than we are used to,” IPT sports director Dror Pekatch said.

IPT features riders Gee, Pascal Ackermann (Germany), Guillaume Boivin (Canada), Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark), Hugo Houle (Canada), Krists Neilands (Latvia), Jake Stewart (Britain) and Stevie Williams (Britain). "It's a lot of excitement. We have a super strong team so I hope we get a few stages - get one and then get greedy!” Jake Stewart told the JC.

“It’s been a good preparation for us, we had a good training camp, the first part of the season has been very good for the team and for myself” said Williams. “If there is any race we can build on that, it’s definitely the Tour de France.”

The Tour consists of 21 stages spanning 2,174 miles over three weeks, ending in Nice on 21 July.

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