The capture of Goldstein completes the construction of the strongest and most expensive roster since the ICA was established. Now he aims to take the circuit by storm, with the declared goal to “win stages in the world’s largest competitions”.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment since I started riding a bike, aged eight-years old,” said Goldstein, who is the fifth Israeli and now, at 21, the youngest rider on the team.
“But, for me, the dream is just beginning. I hope to stand on podiums in the Academy uniform. It will take very hard work from me and maybe quite a bit of time but I got the chance and now I have to prove that I deserve it.”
Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams, who, together with businessman Ron Baron, is behind the first professional Israeli cycling team, said: “I cannot wait for the start of the new academy race season.
“We have established a much expanded and strong team that includes a series of experienced international cyclists with proven track records, including victories at the world’s greatest races.
“They join our talented young group who have already gained experience in many races, as well as the Israelis promoted from the development team.”
The ICA are targeting success at the three largest World Tour races and they are hoping to take part in the historic Giro d’Italia that will launch in Jerusalem in May.
“We believe we will be there with a very strong team that will make history as the first Israeli group in a Grand Tour,” said Baron, the Israeli owner and founder of the group.
Baron is excited by the progress of Goldstein and added: “Omer and the Israelis are the reason for the establishment of Academy.
“The aim was to provide an opportunity for Israeli cyclists to fulfil their dreams and compete in the world’s greatest races. Therefore, it is symbolic to me that Omer is the rider who completes the upgraded team.”
The new ICA roster was built with considerable financial investment by its owners and the recruitment of additional sponsors. The team’s budget has almost doubled and stands at more than five million euros. It reflects the dramatic rise in the squad’s quality and success since its establishment three years ago with a relatively small budget of less than one million euros. The ICA have won an impressive eight races but the Giro challenge demanded major investment.
World-renowned cyclists such as Ben Hermans of Belgium and Ruben Plaza of Spain — a stage winner in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España — have signed in recent months. The team is also joined by outstanding riders from Colombia, Norway, Italy, and Australia. The revamped squad also features a former track world champion and four national champions, led by Turkey’s Ahmet Örken, whose joining the Israeli team has won wide support at home and abroad despite tense relations between Israel and Turkey.
With riders from 16 countries, the ICA is among the most internationally diverse teams in the peloton while at the same time maintaining its character as one of the youngest players in the world.
“We have undoubtedly built the strongest and most balanced team we have ever had to aim for a stage win in every tour we race, but we also made sure to maintain and even strengthen our identity as an Israeli team,” said team manager Ran Margaliot.
“Even with an unprecedented schedule of about 240 race days, at least one Israeli will represent us in every race.”
Goldstein is considered one of the most talented riders who has grown up in Israel in recent years but his path to earning a professional contract has been fraught with ups and downs. Crashing hard into a support car at the 2015 World Championships, he went through long months of rehabilitation before returning to the peloton.
The following year, as a stagiaire with ICA, he finished in the top 10 at the Tour of Rwanda twice, revealing his vast potential. But after joining the Academy development team, he and the team management were divided over his professional conduct, which ultimately led to his release.
Nonetheless, the ICA hierarchy helped him join the Basque team Ampo. Success was immediate. Goldstein turned out to be an outstanding rider, helping his friends win and even claiming a victory himself. “Parting with the ICA was a kind of blow to my head for me,” admitted Goldstein.
“I realised that if I did not take control and live as a professional in every detail, I would lose my career. I am almost happy today that this crisis has come. It helped me understand what was required of me as a professional.”
Margaliot said: “Omer proved very mature and took the opportunity with both hands. We are convinced he is coming to us more willing and mature to begin a career as a professional rider. We will give him races and a chance to develop patiently.”