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Hermans to stay with ISN for two more years: ‘I am far from done’

Israel Start-Up Nation has signed Ben Hermans for two more years. ISN’s all-rounder won numerous stage races in the blue and white colors of the Israeli team, including during this season, and has strong ambitions to continue winning bike races.

This marks the first time that Hermans gets the chance to stay longer than four years on one team. “Adding two more seasons will make it six years with Israel Start-Up Nation at the end of 2023. It is proof that I feel very comfortable on this team.”

The Belgian rider says he gets along well with his colleagues and the staff of Israel Start-Up Nation. “I like the atmosphere here, and I am very satisfied with the material we use from our sponsors. I really did not want to change teams in 2022.”

Hermans evolved into a winner at ISN

Kjell Carlström, ISN’s general manager, says that 35-year-old Hermans has grown into his role since he joined ISN in 2018. “He has found the place where he can perform really well.”

Carlström is right because at Israel Start-Up Nation Hermans evolved into a winner.

The climber and ITT specialist only had one GC victory before coming to ISN, and in the blue and white kit, Hermans won the Tour of Utah, the Arctic Race of Norway, and the Tour of Austria twice. He also won numerous stages in these three stage races.

This year alone Hermans won the Giro dell’Appennino after an impressive solo effort, the individual time trial in Poitou Charentes and the team time trial in Coppi e Bartali.

‘I am competitive, and far from done’

Hermans points out that he has shown that he is still competitive. “And I am far from done,” he adds. “I am ambitious, and I am sure I can find nice goals for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.”

Carlström: “We are looking forward to seeing Hermans continue to achieve great successes and to reach all the team’s and his individual goals.”

The Belgian concludes: “I am more than happy that, again, the team has shown confidence in me for two more years. I am motivated to make the most of it.”

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Ben Hermans seals overall victory in Arctic Race of Norway

Israel Start-Up Nation took its 14th victory of the season as Ben Hermans secured the overall win in Arctic Race of Norway after a nail-biting finish on the final day.

Starting out the stage with a gap of just four seconds down to the second place, nothing was settled before the riders would cross the finishing line for the final time in Harstad.

Early on the stage, a strong group of riders managed to distance the peloton and that scenario suited the ISN riders perfectly. With a breakaway up the road, the bonus seconds – which could put Hermans’ overall lead in jeopardy – would be taken out of the equation.

The main priority was to keep the overall lead and the team made sure to keep Hermans in a good position throughout the entire the stage.

As the peloton took on the last ascent towards the finishing line, it was certain that the break would make it all the way and take the bonus seconds. Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché – Wanty), who was second in the GC, attacked on the final part but Hermans dug deep to stay with the other favorites to ultimately seal the overall victory with a margin of just two seconds.

Today’s victory is also the first overall stage race win for Israel Start-Up Nation this season.

Ben Hermans: ”The last 500 meters were very steep and explosive and that’s not really my specialty but I still managed to finish at the front. It was a close call though. I expected that Eiking would attack at the end but I thought I could follow him. However, he went hard and I started to panic a little when he got a small gap. I was nervous after crossing the line until I got the confirmation. I’m really happy for my teammates. They all did such a good job again today. I’m so happy that all their hard work wasn’t for nothing.”

Sports director, Nicki Sørensen: “It went all the way down to the wire today. We knew that the other teams would need to put us under pressure early in the stage if they wanted to move up in the GC and they really tried to do so on the long climb at the beginning. However, our guys were ready and they did very well to close down all the dangerous moves.

 “In the end, the breakaway made it and that was really good for us as Eiking had a good day and won the sprint in the group of favorites and took two seconds back on Ben. It was a close one but that also just makes the victory even sweeter.”

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com

Hermans storms to victory on stage 3 of Arctic Race of Norway

Israel Start-Up Nation’s Ben Hermans took both the victory and the overall lead of Arctic Race of Norway after an impressive show of strength on the uphill finish on stage 3.

Having already have won on the challenging climb to Målselv in 2015, Hermans knew exactly how to approach Saturday’s queen stage and his ISN teammates made sure to put him in the best possible position to repeat the victorious performance from the past.

After catching the early breakaway on the final climb, ISN did an impeccable job to set up Hermans for glory. As agreed upon at the team meeting before the stage, Rick Zabel, Tom Van Asbroeck and Sebastian Berwick all hit the front in the final kilometers before Hermans took over the show and sprinted to victory.

With today’s win, Hermans is also the new leader of the race before tomorrow’s final stage from Gratangen to Harstad. However, with a gap of just four seconds down to second place, nothing is settled yet. It will require another strong performance by the ISN guys to secure the overall win.

Ben Hermans: “The breakaway was always under control so I had all five guys to help position me in to the final climb. I asked the guys to go full in order to tire out everybody else while I would just keep my own tempo. They did that perfectly. Rick went super-fast and Tom accelerated even more before Sebastian attacked. All the favorites I was a little scared off followed him but I never panicked. Seb really killed them with that move with two kilometers to go.

When I came back to the front I attacked right away. At the end, when I saw that they couldn’t attack me anymore, I knew they were finished and I thought it would be best to go for a long sprint. I was actually surprised that there was still someone, Eiking, who came up on my side but I managed to hold him off to take the win.

It would have been better to win with a bigger margin so the bonus seconds wouldn’t be in play tomorrow. Now, we have to be really attentive but luckily we also have some good sprinters who can go for the bonus seconds. It will definitely be another interesting stage and I hope to have a good day again tomorrow!”

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com

Hermans finishes top-20 overall in Dauphiné

Israel Start-Up Nation showed strong team spirit on the final stage of Critérium du Dauphiné, which ultimately saw Ben Hermans finishing 19th in the general classification.

Despite its length of 147 km, Sunday’s mountainous stage 9 had no less than six categorized climbs, including the feared Col de Joux Plane, which was crested just 17 km from the finish.

The ISN riders were very eager to make the morning break and they tried several times to get up the road. Early on, Mads Würtz Schmidt managed to get into a strong group but unfortunately, the Dane crashed on a descent and had to abandon the race. Würtz Schmidt suffered a concussion and was taken to hospital for observation and exams. He was later released to go home to rest.

After the crash, a big group of over 20 riders managed to distance the pack, and they quickly opened up a gap of five minutes. However, determined to do well today, ISN went to the front of the peloton to take control. Reto Hollenstein upped the pace significantly and took nearly two minutes of the gap off the break, bringing them within striking distance.

On Col de Joux Plane, Hermans played his card and attacked from the reduced peloton. Unfortunately, the group didn’t give the strong Belgian much of a leash. Ultimately, the early break made it all the way, while Hermans had to settle for 23rd place on the day and 19th overall.

Ben Hermans: “I believe I can be happy with this top-20. I had hoped for a little bit more, especially with the legs I had in the first six days, but during the weekend, I didn’t have the same high power. In any case, I’m happy with the result because if you look at top-20 overall there are only strong riders. Also, the team rode really well all week, always working together, which was great.”

Chris Froome: “For me personally, it was good to get some hard racing like this in the legs. This is exactly what I was missing and exactly what I need to help push me up to the next level. I definitely felt like I was settling into the race as the race went on, and as we got into the higher mountains, I definitely felt better today as well. I’m not up there with the front guys yet but if I look back just a month, to my last race in Romandie, there has definitely been a strong progression.”

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com

Top-10 for Hermans on stage 6 of Dauphiné

The Israel Start-Up Nation team leader, Ben Hermans, did well to stay with the top favorites and finish ninth on the uphill finish on stage 6 of Critérium du Dauphiné.

With a challenging second part of the course, including several hard climbs, Friday’s stage was the first of three difficult days in the mountains. Multiple riders wanted to make the early break, which made for a fast start. In fact, it took nearly 45 km of racing before a big group finally managed to get up the road.

Israeli champion Omer Goldstein was quick to join the move, letting his teammates sit back in the peloton concentrating on keeping Hermans in a good position for the climbs.

On the final ascent, the last remaining rider from the early breakaway got caught as the teams of the GC riders upped the pace, setting up their leaders for the uphill sprint. Having done recon of the climb not long ago, Hermans knew exactly what was coming and in the sprint, he put on a strong performance to take ninth place, which also saw him move up to 12th place in the general classification.

Ben Hermans: ”It was a fast day today, but until we hit the first climb, we didn’t suffer too much actually. From that point, the pace was quite hard though. Actually, from the top of Col de Porte, it was all out towards the finish. I’m really happy that I did a recon of this stage earlier. I knew every corner and that really helped me with positioning in the final.”

“Personally, I felt really good until the last four kilometers, when the others started attacking and accelerating but I think everybody was on the limit and when you suffer and see that everybody else is also suffering, it’s not too bad. In any case, I feel comfortable with the feelings I’ve got in my legs and the recovery I do. Every day, I feel that I recover really well so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Chris Froome: “Today was a much better measure for me. Up until now, it has been a very explosive style of racing but this was a more accurate measure of what I’ve been training for; the longer types of climbs. I still came in a couple of minutes down but I tried to stay there and support Ben for as long as possible. I’m certainly feeling better and better as the race progresses, which is what I was hoping for. If things keep progressing like this, I will be very happy. It has been a tough start to the week but these next few days are certainly more my type of terrain. This is what I have been preparing for.”

“It’s also been fantastic to feel the warm welcome by the fans alongside the road these last six days. Everywhere we go, I hear fans cheering for me and that really motivates me to keep working hard to come back to my former level.”

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com

Hermans moves up in the GC after stage 4 of Dauphiné

Israel Start-Up Nation’s team leader, Ben Hermans, did well against the clock on stage 4 of Critérium du Dauphiné, moving up to 17th place in the general classification.

Wednesday’s 16.4 km long individual time trial had several short ascents for the riders to overcome, meaning that it was crucial to save energy for the final part of the course.

Early on, Reto Hollenstein put in a strong performance as he crossed the line in fourth place, while Mads Würtz Schmidt came in 14 seconds down on his teammate not long after.

However, the best ISN time of the day was set by Hermans, who stopped the clock at 22:27 minutes, ultimately finishing in 23rd place, which saw him move up to 17th place in the GC going into the upcoming mountain stages.

Ben Hermans: “This was a nice course but a hard course. You had to do six efforts over the hills and if you didn’t have the legs for it, you would be done after the first three. I managed to recover well after each effort, which allowed me to go really deep all the way to the finish. I think I can be happy with my performance today, also looking at the GC. I hope to have good legs in the mountains.”

— MC to israelcyclingacademy.com

‘Omloopje’ in Budapest results in 8th place for Barbier and Hermans on the final podium

Was it a criterium or an omloop in the final stage of the Tour de Hongrie? The distance of 92 kilometers in the city center of Budapest suggested it was the first. However, the laps of 7.6 kilometers each were a bit too long to call it a crit.

And however you want to describe the ultimate stage in Hungary, it was a spectacle for both riders and spectators. On the flat, beautiful circuit, Israel Start-Up Nation was battling on two fronts.

Firstly: the mass sprint. With Rudy Barbier (still recovering from his crash in stage three) the team had a chance for the stage victory. Secondly: ISN had Ben Hermans, who was second in the general classification after his performance on the final climb yesterday.

Hermans indeed kept second place. Barbier got the team another top-10.

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com