The Israel Cycling Academy‘s Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv made history last week as the first Israelis to start a Grand Tour, now the pressure is on to become the first Israelis to finish the Giro d’Italia in Rome.
The team’s decision to pick two Israeli riders was a surprise in light of the recruits they brought on board the team this year, and after the team’s own pronouncement that just one Israeli rider would make the Giro roster. But this team has always done things differently, and bringing two Israelis and pledging their teammates’ support to help them make it to the finish is part of the team’s development mission.
“To be honest, I was a little bit surprised, yeah, because all season they were talking about only one Israeli,” said Sagiv, the 23-year-old Israeli time trial champion. “But I know we’ve both had good seasons so far and they had a hard decision to make. Eventually they chose both of us. I think it was the right decision. I was surprised, but I think it’s the right decision.”
The team’s five Israeli riders have been under stress for months since the team received its Giro wildcard invitation. The pressure to make the team and by doing so make history was intense, according to both Sagiv and Niv, and there was only a brief moment to enjoy that accomplishment before the reality of starting a Grand Tour set in.
“I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the moment I got the message,” Sagiv said of the daunting task he’s undertaking. “It was a quite intense few months. But that’s decided and now I need to start the suffering. But I wanted it and that’s my job, yeah? It’s all good. It’s a good pressure.”
Rock Star Treatment
Sagiv was the first of the two riders to start the opening time trial in Jerusalem, and in his Israeli national champion’s kit he drew massive support from the large crowds along the route. The reaction among spectators toward the ‘Two Guys,’ as they are now affectionately known in Israel, is usually reserved for cycling names like Froome, Dumoulin or Sagan.
Giro or bust
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