Israel Start-Up Nation: Chris Froome a great like Lionel Messi, says boss Sylvan Adams

Sylvan Adams
Sylvan Adams is the co-owner of Israel Start-Up Nation, Chris Froome’s new team

A big sporting name switching to another team is nothing unusual – but Chris Froome’s departure from Team Ineos to Israel Start-Up Nation is one of the more bizarre transfers of recent times.

Froome has gone to a team who, up until a takeover of Katusha last October, were in pro cycling’s second division – ineligible to compete in races such as the Tour de France. Think Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona to play in the English Championship, and you’ll get the idea.

There’s more to this than meets the eye, though. This is a story of a country keen to make a big impact in the sport and a cycling-mad billionaire “very excited” at the prospect of Froome – four times the Tour de France winner – surpassing Eddy Merckx to become the greatest rider of all-time.

That billionaire is Israeli-Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams, Israel Start-Up Nation’s co-owner. “Everybody pays attention to the winner – and what we have started will hopefully be amplified by Chris’ presence,” Adams says.

“And he’s a very nice fella – I’d like to have a beer with him.”

Why did Froome leave Ineos?

Ineos, known as Team Sky until last year, have been a dominant force in cycling over the past decade. They have the biggest budget and the top names, and have won seven of the past eight Tours de France.

Froome, whose abilities as an endurance athlete won him the race in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, had seemed perfectly suited to the team.

There’s little doubt that the environment at Ineos had been harmonious and geared towards his substantial success for many years. But in the months leading up to Thursday’s announcement that the team would not renew his contract, relations were a little more fractured.

Behind the scenes, there were feelings that Froome’s camp lacked the grace expected in negotiations, given the support the team had shown him during his rehabilitation following his crash a year ago during a practice ride at the Criterium de Dauphine. He sustained multiple injuries, including a broken leg.

Froome was also believed to have been frustrated with the team for not reprimanding last year’s Tour winner Egan Bernal over comments made in April. The Colombian told reporters that, if he was in a winning position at this year’s Tour, he would not move over to let Froome lead the team. Insiders felt the quote was fair enough, given the high status of both riders.

Had things been handled differently in recent weeks, Froome could well have seen out his career at Ineos.

Sylvan Adams
Adams is world masters champion himself after falling on love with cycling later in life

Israel Start-Up what?

Still, it’s happened now. Froome’s deal with Israel Start-Up Nation is likely to make him world cycling’s top earner, personal sponsorship deals permitting, at around 5m euros a year.

That multi-year deal was made possible by the team’s billionaire owners – property developer Adams and investment banker Ron Baron. They are spending to establish Israel Start-Up Nation as a main player on the World Tour. They also want to upset cycling’s established order. Just as Sir Dave Brailsford did a decade ago with Sky.

They became approved as a World Tour team by the UCI, cycling’s governing body, last October after Israel Cycling Academy completed a takeover of Katusha. The new team took on Katusha’s World Tour licence following the deal. Now they have big plans with Froome on board.

“Chris is a gentleman,” says Adams from his home in Tel Aviv. “Polite to a fault. Very softly spoken. But none of that should be mistaken for a lack of heart and a burning desire to win.

“He’s on the scale of a Michael Jordan or a Lionel Messi. His desire to win is powerful and overwhelming. He is one of the greatest talents in the sport.”

Adams’ excitement comes from a deep passion for cycling, having only discovered his own talent for the sport when he took it up in his forties.

The 61-year-old went on win a world masters title in 2015 and 2017, having won six titles in Canada before his move to Israel in 2015.

Much has been achieved since. A velodrome has been constructed in Tel Aviv, and Israel hosted the first three stages of the 2018 Giro d’Italia. Now Adams has the second most decorated cyclist in Tour history to power him to glory.

Froome has won 4 Tour de france (7 stages), 2 vueltas espana (6 stages) and 1 giro d'italia (2 stages)

What’s in it for Froome?

In April, Froome said his focus for the remainder of his career was on trying to win more Tours de France than any other rider.

Back in April, Froome announced his focus for the remainder of his career is to try to win more Tours than any other rider. Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault have all won five. Froome needs two more victories to pass them.

This is the big reason for him to sign with Israel Start-Up Nation: He will be the sole focus of the team’s primary aim – to win the Tour de France. Ineos only guarantee to give their full backing to whichever rider is in better form going into the decisive part of a Grand Tour race.

At Ineos, Froome was having to share the status of team leader with Bernal and 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas. His unease had been growing across this year.

“Chris wants to be the greatest Tour de France rider of all time,” says Adams. “And he also has a secondary goal, by the way, which is to win 11 Grand Tours.

“If he wins two more Tours he would be up to nine – just two away the great Eddy Merckx’s 11 Grand Tour wins. And I believe Merckx is considered to be the greatest cyclist of all time. So this could make a good case for Chris to be the greatest.”

Froome is signing up with someone who knows his stuff. Adams is a real cycling fan – following all the three-week races and the spring classics. He even attends training camps and rides with the squad.

Octopus curry and lots of rice – what does Chris Froome eat?

What is the team’s ambition?

To boost the team that will carry the weight of Froome’s expectations, Israel Start-Up Nation will make additions. They already boast some quality riders, though – Ireland’s combative Dan Martin and British former hour record holder Alex Dowsett, who became part of the team following the Katusha takeover.

Adams is the “self-appointed ambassador of Israel” and is determined to change the way the country is viewed and put them on the cycling map.

“I stole a page from British cycling,” he said. “Britain went from being a non entity in cycling to being the greatest nation on Earth, and I’m hoping that tiny Israel can imitate the UK’s success and we can have some champions.”

He’s stolen more than a page. He’s stolen the best rider.

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Chris Froome: Tour de France champion on his race diet

British defending champion Chris Froome reveals what he will be eating during the 21-stage, 3,329km Tour de France course to fuel his bid for a fifth title – plus the meal he most looks forward to during his downtime.

READ MORE: Inside Froome’s ‘spectacular’ Giro d’Italia win

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Chris Froome: ‘The unlikely hero who changed everything’

Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins

July 2012, and Bradley Wiggins emerges over the crest of a hill with one of his domestiques in Peyragudes in the French Pyrenees – a first Tour de France victory for a Briton all but assured.

It was the beginning of his planets aligning so spectacularly he would end the summer dripping in Olympic gold and heading for a knighthood.

Perhaps cruelly, the domestiques, who shelter the lead rider to save his energy as they hike through the mountains, are always ignored – even if they are there physically at the finish, they just peel off the road and head for the ice bath alone.

Except this domestique was getting bored and twitchy as they headed towards the line, gesticulating to a rapidly fading Wiggins to hurry up as the race leader started to melt in yellow.

Christopher Froome was his name – a sort of a wirey, less expressive version of Wiggins, without the sideburns.

A decade and seven Grand Tour career victories (all for Team Sky) later, Froome has his own story to tell – a story that might lack the style of the mod who went up a mountain and came down a knight, but which has the substance of a classic, overcoming-the-odds tale.

He might look and sound a bit like an up-to-date version of snooker’s ‘Mr Interesting’, Steve Davis, but he possesses the flair of football legend Diego Maradona, the ruthlessness of Formula 1 great Michael Schumacher and the tenacity of tennis star Rafael Nadal in that lanky frame.

It’s why his departure from Team Ineos – formerly Team Sky – after they decided not to renew is contract feels like the end of era.

Chris Froome crashes in Salzburg
Froome acquired the nickname ‘Crash Froome’ in the early days

Early promise

No-one knows the glittering story of British Cycling better than Sir Dave Brailsford, who led riders to so many gold medals across three Olympic Games, and who then took on his life’s ambition – to win the Tour de France with Team Sky.

He signed Froome for this new team, but he was not simply plucked from the golden generation being bred at Manchester’s velodrome in the early noughties.

“I was in a team managers’ meeting [at the 2006 Road World Championships in Austria], and he walked in, rain-sodden, representing himself,” says Brailsford.

Across the room stood a gangly, awkward 21-year-old lad from Kenya, who had travelled to Austria alone to compete in a time trial – only after he ‘borrowed’ a laptop from the guy who looked after Kenyan cycling and entered himself into the race without telling him.

No-one even noticed him, let alone gave him a chance – until he walked into the same room as Brailsford that day in Salzburg. Froome subsequently crashed three seconds into his time trial, hitting a race delegate when hesitating at a fork in the road.

“For somebody with the background he had, he caught our eye. That told us a lot about the tenacity of the guy, and the desire. There’s a character in there,” adds Brailsford.

David Kinjah
David Kinjah was Froome’s first coach when they rode together in Nairobi

Crash Froome’s unlikely background

Ah yes, that background. On the face of it, a white, privileged, boarding school educated man from Africa could breeze protected into the sanitised, optimised world of elite sport, couldn’t he?

As a form of escapism from a family imploding and parents heading for divorce, Froome would ride for as long as the Kenyan countryside would take him.

He was a young man who was largely alone but who spent much of his time riding with a cycling club formed in the Nairobi slums.

Eventually, after an adolescence spent doing 5am time trials for fun and drafting lorries down motorways to get home more quickly, he began to earn his own form of privilege.

That’s why Brailsford saw the one thing any budding cyclist or endurance athlete needs to get a look-in: a good engine, the heart and lungs.

Whether born with it, or developed during mile after mile in the Kenyan sun, Froome can put out a massive amount of power through the sheer speed and the high cadence of his pedalling.

“My technique was terrible,” said Froome during his time on the rise. “I gained the nickname ‘Crash Froome’.”

By his own admission, it’s still not a great technique – arms stuck outwards like a cartoon character, head bobbing around. You can easily spot him nestled in the kaleidoscope of the peloton.

Froome has won 4 Tour de france (7 stages), 2 vueltas espana (6 stages) and 1 giro d'italia (2 stages)
Froome wants two more Tour victories to make it six and take him ahead of greats Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault

Never, ever give up

To win three-week Grand Tour races you need to be fast and able to climb mountains, which are almost opposing skills.

Several of the greats – Miguel Indurain, for example – are unbeatable time trialists who hang on in the mountains, or vice versa. But when he’s on top form, Froome can win a speed contest or a hike up to a mountain summit by a country mile.

Awe-inspiring as his physical, combative style can be to watch, it’s the moments of raw tenacity which endure.

On the way to his second Tour win in 2015, Froome had a pint of urine thrown into his face. Hard to take for any of us, but how about when you are at the very nadir of your physical suffering and being hunted down by your fiercest rivals who are pleading with the gods for you to fail?

Tour win number three in 2016 wasn’t any easier. In fact, it was comical. Late into stage 12 he was found by TV cameras jogging without a bicycle up a path to the iconic Mont Ventoux. Surrounded by jubilant fans, Froome had crashed into a motorbike so severely his own bike was unrideable and the road was too remote for him to be reached with a replacement for several minutes.

Chris Froome running towards Mont Ventoux without his bike in 2016
Froome jogs up towards Mont Ventoux, the team unable to reach him with a replacement bike

Then there’s the moment he clawed back a usually unassailable three-minute-and-22-second deficit in one incredible mountain climb on the Jafferau to win the 2018 Giro d’Italia – mouths of everyone in the sport agape of how much power he was able to put through his pedals, and for so long. The raid even included avoiding another crashed motorbike, this time in a dark Alpine tunnel.

And do we include last year’s horrific, life-threatening crash in a Tour warm-up race, in which he sustained the kind of injuries that would have ended most riders’ careers? Yes, we do.

It’s also worth mentioning that “adverse analytical finding” he was eventually cleared of in 2019 for using asthma medication – purely because it opened up a debate to the wider public around legal drug use in a sport where the athletes induce their own asthmatic conditions through sheer effort and overuse of their respiratory systems.

But the wider world is still learning to trust again after what could have been a century of doping in cycling, and still learning what it is like for athletes such as Froome – who spend six hours a day on a bike pushing their bodies that little bit harder every time to get it in peak condition.

A legacy in full swing

Dave Brailsford and Chris Froome
Sir Dave Brailsford (left) signed Froome to Team Sky in 2009

Froome isn’t going anywhere away from the sport. We will still see those arms at almost 90 degrees, sawing away at the climbs in September.

But there will be a vacuum without his presence at Team Ineos, and things are already different now.

Ineos are a world-beating cycling outfit whose primary modus operandi is to be the best and get results in a global sport. They have to pick the world’s best riders, not the best Britons.

Colombia’s 23-year-old superstar Egan Bernal will try to retain his Tour title for Ineos this year, as some of the older, chiefly British, guard of that early Sky/Ineos set-up reach the twilight of their careers.

But back in 2009, when Froome joined Sky, it all seemed so unlikely. He wasn’t fashionable, he just wanted to compete in a European sport suffering from a drugs overdose and a serious bout of elitism.

He also had to fit into the philosophy of a team based in Manchester made up of people who ‘didn’t know about that kind of cycling’, representing a country that had forgotten how to ride.

But he did it. And so did we. We are riding again – many of us inspired by Froome himself.

Even Wiggins, history’s poster boy, would acknowledge that.

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Chris Froome to leave Ineos after team decide not to renew contract

Chris Froome
Froome signed for Ineos (formerly Sky) in 2009

Britain’s most successful road cyclist Chris Froome is to leave Team Ineos at the end of the season after they decided not to renew his contract.

He will join Israel Start-Up Nation for next season as sole team leader.

After 10 years and four Tour de France titles won with Ineos (formerly Team Sky), Froome, 35, said: “We have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories.”

Froome will compete for Ineos at this year’s Tour, which begins on 29 August.

Ineos general manager Sir Dave Brailsford said he and Froome “shared many memorable moments over the years, but I do believe this is the right decision for the team and for Chris”.

One main reason for Froome’s departure was understood to be his growing unease at having to battle another two riders at Ineos for the Tour’s famous yellow jersey – 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and last year’s victor Egan Bernal.

Ineos’ policy is not to focus all their backing on one rider until late into a three-week Grand Tour, after establishing who the strongest contender is.

Brailsford added: “Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career – which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point.

“A move away from Team Ineos can give him that certainty. At the same time, it will also give other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking.”

Froome said: “It has been a phenomenal decade with the team. I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Ineos.”

Kenya-born Froome joined Team Sky from their beginnings in 2009, first serving as Sir Bradley Wiggins’ strongest domestique – powering him to Britain’s first Tour de France victory in 2012.

After finishing second in that race himself, Froome went on to become Britain’s most road successful cyclist, with four Tour de France wins, in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Froome, who grew up in Nairobi and latterly Johannesburg, South Africa, also won the Giro d’Italia in 2018, following an astonishing comeback ride, and the Vuelta a Espana twice – in 2011, after being awarded the title retrospectively following a positive dope test for Juan Jose Cobo, and in 2017.

Octopus curry and lots of rice – what does Chris Froome eat?

His Ineos contract ends in December and he has raced very little since a crash just over a year ago before a stage during the Criterium de Dauphine race, in which he suffered a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs.

Israel Start-Up Nation are a team created from the pro-continental Israel Cycling Academy and now defunct Katusha squad.

Owner Sylvan Adams, a Israeli-Canadian property developer, has put substantial funds into the new team and made several strong signings, including Ireland’s Dan Martin and Britain’s former hour record holder Alex Dowsett.

But getting Froome is a huge statement and could change the balance of power in the peloton for the first time in an era where Team Sky/Ineos have dominated cycling’s highest profile races, the Grand Tours.

“My dream is to win more Tours than anyone,” Froome told L’Equipe in April. “It would be the perfect scenario, but I know there is still a lot of work to make it come true.”

Froome needs two more victories to make it six, which would take him ahead of Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault.

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Isle of Wight to host Tour of Britain final stage in 2022

Tour of Britain 2019

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Getty Images

Image caption

The 2019 event started in Glasgow and finished in Manchester

The UK’s biggest cycle race, the Tour of Britain, will finish on the Isle of Wight in September 2022.

An agreement between the race’s organisers and Isle of Wight Council that its final stage will be held there was signed in Ryde on Saturday.

The council’s leader Dave Stewart said the stage was “just what is needed to help boost the local economy”.

The authority previously said hosting the stage would cost about £340,000 but could generate as much as £4m.

Mr Stewart said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the stunning landscapes of the Island to an international audience, attracting spectators locally and from afar to enjoy world-class cycling.

“Just as the Isle of Wight is synonymous with sailing, so too I hope we can become a Mecca for all things cycling with Tour of Britain and other exciting cycling events in the pipeline.”

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Alex Whitehead/

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This year’s Tour of Britain has been cancelled because of coronavirus

Hugh Roberts, the managing director of race organisers SweetSpot Group, said: “We are delighted to be officially confirming in two years’ time we will be bringing the world’s best cyclists to the Isle of Wight for the final stage of the Tour of Britain, in what I am sure will be one of our most memorable stages.”

This year’s Tour of Britain, which was due to take place in September, has been cancelled because of coronavirus.

The 2019 event, from Glasgow to Manchester, was won by Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel.

The race has previously attracted world-class riders including Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas and is broadcast in 190 countries worldwide.

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