Company owner Jean Bélanger was with the Israeli team over the weekend at their ‘homecoming’ camp in Jerusalem along with new ISN signings Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle, as well as new directeur sportif Steve Bauer, all three of whom have made the move over from Astana for 2022.
The company partnered with the Kazakhstani squad for the 2021 season but has now left its role as co-sponsor following a disagreement over the future vision for the team.
In recent months, Bélanger has held talks with both BikeExchange and the embattled Qhubeka NextHash team, reportedly seeking around €8 million in exchange for a partnership role. However, with neither of those discussions coming to fruition, the company has now been linked with Israel Start-Up Nation as a potential ownership partner.
In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews in the Tel Aviv velodrome that carries his name, Adams confirmed that there had been positive talks between the two parties during the week but added that nothing has yet been agreed with Bélanger.
“Let’s just say that the subject may have come up,” Adams said. “Jean was here. I think he had a pretty good time, and he loves this sport. He got involved in this sport in a very big way and things didn’t work out for him at that other place.
“So, now he’s taking his time before he makes his ultimate move. We got along before, and we get along now, and the relationship is very warm. It would be very satisfying and very fitting in my opinion – with both of us being from Quebec – to join forces.
“So, we’ll see how it goes. When we have something to announce we’ll let you know.”
Though the signings of Fuglsang and Houle were announced almost a month ago in mid-October, the transfer of Bauer – a Canadian like Bélanger, Houle, and Adams – has yet to be officially confirmed by the team.
The former BMC DS told Cyclingnews that he was indeed on board for next season, joining the likes of Dirk Demol, Rik Verbrugghe and Nicki Sørensen on the staff.
“It actually came about a little bit naturally,” Bauer said. “It seems like a super-natural fit – for obvious reasons with both Sylvan and I having a connection when I had my own team in Spidertech. It seems a little bit like full circle coming back and directing some of the Canadians we helped develop.”
“It’s no secret that the Astana-Premier Tech partnership didn’t work out. Jean is looking for a new partner and it hasn’t worked out yet but, in the meantime, he’s always been speaking with Sylvan and Sylvan has been speaking with him. There’s likely a natural fit that those businessmen will have to work out for themselves, but I don’t want to have a further comment.”
Fuglsang, meanwhile, told Cyclingnews that Premier Tech is “probably also why we ended up [together] as a group”, but added that he felt it was more likely that Adams and ISN hired him, Houle, and Bauer independently of any connection with Premier Tech.
“I had talks with Jean from Premier Tech and agreed with him that I’d stick with him wherever he went, so let’s say if it went through with BikeExchange that I would probably be there,” he said.
“I can’t tell you if it was Premier Tech coming in here or if Sylvan took the whole group but I think it’s more like Sylvan said ‘Ok, I can use these guys and I will be happy to have them join the team’. And I have to say that ISN was one of the teams I was talking to back in August and they wanted to get me over.”
A women’s team and a race in Israel
Adams has multiple ongoing interests in and around cycling and other sports, from the WorldTour team and the Continental feeder team Israel Cycling Academy to velodromes in Israel and Canada, the Sylvan Adams Sports Institute in Tel Aviv, and his role in bringing the 2018 Giro d’Italia to Israel.
Speaking to Cyclingnews, he confirmed his interest in widening those horizons further still by one day starting a UCI race in Israel as well as creating a women’s team. However, those plans remain ideas for the moment, he said, citing a desire to bring in other backers before being able to realise either project.
“We’ve had some discussions on that,” Adams said about a possible Israeli race. “I see it in our future, and I think it would be very, very fitting, but it just has to work out. I see that, but all the pieces have to come together properly in terms of needing to get government support for this. I mean I can’t do everything in this country.
“I’d like to see some support for that, and I think there is positive feeling towards it now that we’ve shown what the Giro d’Italia can do. I’d love to see a race here and I think it could happen and will happen.”
Adams, who took up cycling at the age of 41 and has since won the Masters World Championships twice, was also positive about the potential to start an Israel Start-Up Nation or Israel Cycling Academy women’s team.
Once again, however, any future project would require additional outside investment, he said.
“Definitely. That’s also in our future. Again, I’d like to see some partners come in for a project like that. Right now, we are carrying a WorldTour team and a Conti team. It’d be nice to have somebody come in and give us some support towards a women’s team.
“It’s definitely in our future. I think women’s sports must be supported. They’re doing a great job, they’re improving the sport, and I like some of the things they’re doing in women’s cycling and for sure I’d like to see an ISN or an ICA women’s team at the Women’s WorldTour level as part of our umbrella of projects.
“Every one of these things costs money, and so does fielding a really good and competitive [WorldTour] team. So, you have to sort of prioritise, and the more we’re able to bring in partners, the more we will continue to reinvest and make these types of projects happen.”