Spotlight on Israel Cycling Federation
Shani Bloch and Shlomi Haimy flew the flag high for Israel at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Bloch, a 37-year-old mother of three was the first ever female cyclist from Israel to compete at the Olympics. She finished a commendable 48th in the women’s road race.
Shlomi Haimy became the first ever Israeli mountain biker at the Games and astounded more than a few by completing the first lap of the men’s race in the lead group of five before suffering two flat tyres and finishing 29th.
It was the first time in 56 years that Israel had anyone competing at the Olympic Games cycling events. And it was not down to pure chance.
In the last three years, guided by its President Dr Yoni Yarom and CEO Yaron Dor, the Israel Cycling Federation (ICF) has developed our sport at all levels and across different disciplines. A few facts and figures:
- Budget: 1.1 million Euros (up 46% from 0.75 million Euros in 2013)
- License holders: 2500 (up 250% from 1000 in 2013)
- Events on the UCI calendar: 12 - four road and eight mountain bike - (up from five - for mountain bike only - in 2013)
- UCI teams: two - one road, one MTB– (up from zero in 2014)
- Social media exposure: over 8000 followers on Facebook (a rise of 30% in 12 months).
Israel’s first UCI Continental Team, Cycling Academy Team, was established in 2015. Last season its members won stages in the Tour Azerbaijan and the Tour de Berlin. Founders Ron Baron and former pro cyclist Ran Margalio aim to step it up to UCI Professional Continental Team level in 2017.
Teamisgav Giant MTB Team, based in northern Israel, is a development project for U23 and Junior riders.
Cycling for all
Since its inception in 2010, the ICF’s Bikes4All project has established more than 100 new cycling clubs for youth across the country. Many clubs operate in underprivileged communities, with the project bringing together Jewish and Arab children in a friendly environment. The project is co-funded by the ICF, the Ministry for Sports and Culture and local government as well as private sponsors and donors.
The ICF has a Women’s Cycling Coordinator on its staff, and runs special programmes, co-funded by the National Project Advancing Women’s Sports in Israel, for the development of women’s cycling. Initiatives include;
- a team of 11-16-year-old girls from different clubs who can train together once a month and attend an annual girls-only training camp,
- opportunities for the best to race in Europe at U17 level
- a high-performance programme for U23 and Elite women road and mountain bike riders.
With road and mountain bike now well established in the country, the ICF is looking to develop other cycling disciplines. The country’s first cycling track is set to open at the Tel Aviv Olympic Sports Complex in 2018, thanks to a donation from Margaret and Sylvan Adams and from the Tel Aviv Foundation. Funding is also being sought to construct Israel’s first BMX tracks and a strategy is being developed to introduce and popularise both track and BMX.