Out Of The Box Team Finally Rise
Krists never really saw it coming. Not a win. Not a plan for a win, nothing of the sort.
And why would he? With just 20 km to go in the Tour of Azerbaijan, the peloton together, and an upcoming sprint with his teammate, sprinter, and winner of stage 1-Mihkel Raim just a short distance behind him, he (Neilands) was preparing for a most probable group sprint finish.
But then that “thing” took over. "It was an exciting instinct really " said the 22 year-old
Latvian. "I really did not think it would work…and when it happened and I went, I was still thinking that I may still need to help Mihkel in that sprint".
But in the team car, sports Director Kjell Carlstrom already saw the win coming in this supposedly “long shot solo breakaway”. All week Carlstrom was preaching and pushing his riders to be aggressive- to seize opportunities, and to break open the race when the opportunity presented itself. The team had already taken a win and two podiums… But the day before, they gambled and went for an attack on a climb to try to isolate the race leader. While it smashed the Peloton to pieces, his riders could not hold the pace on the last climb. "But I was happy" said Carlstrom. "That's exactly the team spirit and style we envisioned from the very first day this season. It just took time".
Indeed. The team had struggled somewhat in the first few months of its first pro-continental season, although it took on races of likes it had never experienced before: mainly the Belgian classics. "Even there we saw progress, and we knew we would benefit from the experience enormously" said Carlstrom.
At the Tour of Croatia the team’s ultra-aggressive approach was already at full throttle with 4 days in the breakaway. But in the Tour de Azerbaijan it really came together: A sprint win by Mihkel Raim in the first stage, and then taking 3rd and 2nd in the following stages.
And there was of course, the epitome of it all today, of which said Neilands "I really did not think I could hold them off the last 200 meters". Said the winner of his last-effort solo, "It was my greatest win".
And the team’s greatest win as well… And the greatest week… And the best day, as at GP LUGANO, Israel Cycling Academies other squad finished 4th and 10th, with a magnificent breakaway by Daniel Turek, who just barely missed the podium by a mere 2 seconds.
"We are definitely coming together now as a team" said Dutch rider Dennis Van Winden, who finished 7th overall in Azerbaijan. "We are out of the box, and a very hungry team. Although we got the win, we had a team meeting and discussion as to how we missed finishing 2nd and 3rd in the sprint for 2nd in the stage- That shows you what kind of team we are".
Israel Cycling Academy was founded in December 2014 in Jerusalem, as Israel’s first Professional cycling team, with a clear vision to help Israeli Cycling and bring young cyclists, especially Israelis, to the top levels of cycling.
The team recorded wins in races over 4 continents in the last 20 months, and is backed by sponsors like The Israel Ministry of Tourism, Cannondale, Hertz Israel, and Verge, as well as the Israeli-Canadian philanthropist Sylvan Adams- Israel Cycling Academy is now set to go Pro Continental for the 2017 season.