By Jason Pearlman
American cycling fans fondly remember the movie “Breaking Away.” The 1979 film brought European cycling to small-town America, where cycling-obsessed Dave introduced us to Italian racing, French culture, and the awkwardness of practicing an obscure foreign sport in working-class Indiana. Campy and lighthearted, the movie none the less gave cycling one of its first cultural footholds in America.
Eventually, American cycling culture grew beyond the film. In the 1980s, CBS Television brought European racing to North American viewers, causing a few young Americans to hit the road with dreams of becoming the next Greg Lemond.
Helping solidify American cycling in Europe, and vice versa, was 7Eleven, America’s first pro team. 7Eleven included fans of Canadian, Norwegian, Mexican, and British riders, while CBS presented Irish, Belgian, and Colombian riders to this new American audience. Indeed, American cycling fans’ thirst for exposure to international cycling could now be satiated by Slurpees and Cafe de Colombia as much as by Italian pasta and French baguettes. Cycling’s internationalization has continued to grow. It was only a matter of time before Israel would join this growing party.
Israel entered the sport from an obscure corner of the world. Cycling fans wouldn’t imagine drinking Goldstar instead of Leffe, eating hummus instead of steak frites, or screaming “Yalla!” instead of “Allez!”
Yet, Israeli competitive cycling does exist. Israel Cycling Academy’s inception three years ago as the country’s first pro team vaulted Israeli cycling onto the world scene. From an inaugural season at the domestic level to a stellar pro continental debut two years later, the team has cemented Israeli cycling onto the world map. Just as 7Eleven introduced American fans to foreign riders, ICA presents fans with a roster of Israeli and international riders. Alongside upstart Israeli pros, the squad includes Estonian vikings, Czech locomotives, Dutch tough men, Canadian hard men, can-do Mexicans, fast Aussies and Kiwis, American muscle, Latvian cobble crushers, Spanish stars, and a cool Namibian. And the party’s just beginning; joining ICA in 2018 will be a Belgian beast, a Spanish vet, a Colombian phenom, an Italian speedster, and a Turkish time trial machine. This team can sprint, climb, time trial, attack, and win with the best of them. They can even Tweet in the middle of riding an Olympic time trial!
They also have a voracious appetite for race leader and national championship jerseys!
Cycling in the USA has come a long way since those early days. American parents in the 1980s couldn’t imagine their children choosing cycling over baseball, yet American riders are now amongst the world’s best. While the sport was once dominated by a handful of western European countries, now an Englishman dominates the Grand Tours, a Slovakian owns the rainbow stripes, and African riders drive the peloton.
Writing the next chapter is Israel, courtesy of an Israeli-based, internationally-represented team showcasing talent, experience, and leadership. ICA fans have enjoyed following this upstart team and just as Dave was inspired by European cycling in small town Indiana in 1979, ICA now gives inspiration to a new generation of fans, riders, and racers all over the world.