In the spring of 2014, two cyclists met on the summit of Nes-Harim, the legendary climb near Jerusalem, that draws hundreds of cyclists from the local Israeli bicycle community every weekend.
The older of the two, Ron Baron, was an Israeli businessman. The younger, Ran Margaliot, was barely 25, yet his professional career as a cyclist had come to an end a short time previously. This had ended his dream of being the first Israeli cyclist to compete in the greatest race of all – the Tour de France. They both had a vision of generating a revolution in this underdeveloped field of sport in Israel, that provided no opportunities to the young generation of cyclists.
Six months later, the pair had launched a unique Israeli start-up – Israel Cycling Academy – the first Israeli professional team in the world. ICA’s vision aimed at fulfilling a piece of Margaliot’s shattered dream and enabling talented young cyclists to compete in the international arena and launch their professional careers. This, they hoped, would provide inspiration, hope, and faith to a new generation.
Sylvan Adams, Canadian philanthropist, had joined the team, first as a sponsor and then as one of its owners, and greatly accelerating ICA’s development. The team rose to the second rank internationally and competes in increasingly important races. At the same time, an all-Israeli development team was established, serving as a greenhouse for U-23 local cyclists, where the goal is to meet the level of the Pro-Team and join it.
By 2017, the third year of Israel Cycling Academy’s brief history, the team had already made impressive headway, exceeding its founders’ expectations. With promising young cyclists from all over the world, the team participated in hundreds of race days, won dozens of them, and promoted those Israeli cyclists who met the uncompromising standards of this most demanding field of sport.
In 2018, Giro D’Italia Big Start (the starting stages of the race) took place in Israel and was named “From Jerusalem to Rome”. For the first time ever, a Grand Tour started outside of Europe. This had put Israel, and Israel Cycling Academy on the map of the world cycling scene. ICA was invited to participate in this Giro D’Italia, allowing a first Israeli rider (Guy Sagiv), to finish a UCI Grand Tour for the first time ever.
2019 sees the biggest roster, with 30 riders from 18 nationalities and most challenging season to date, with 2020 Tour de France as a goal.
Israel Cycling Academy views itself as Israel’s ambassador to the world and utilizes the great exposure it receives during races to promote Israel as a tourist destination in general, and for cycling enthusiasts in particular.
And not only that – ICA owners have a clear goal of developing the cycling scene is Israel, and the efforts are being aimed at the younger ages. ICA sees this sport as a bridge to gap between social classes and religions in Israel, launching several programs for kids in a low socio-economic area in Israel.
ICA had established cycling schools in various Youth Villages in Israel, as well as an Arab Youth Cycling League, for the first time in Shefa-‘Amr, an Arab city in the Northern district of Israel. We are giving sponsorship to the local Schools’ League for Cycling Races and built the ICA’s mentorship program for young coaches, to establish the next generation of professional cycling coaches in Israel.
Hundreds of professional teams currently compete around the world. Not one of them, however, is like Israel Cycling Academy, and not necessarily because of its athletic prowess. ICA is the only team whose budget is based mainly on philanthropy, and although it is an Israeli team, it is open to all cyclists regardless of religion or nationality and invest heavily in the next generation of young cyclists.