Racing for Change – Victory in Rwanda:

“My goal is to make it onto the national team. I hope this win was seen by the Federation.”

It was only a matter of time before the women from the Bugesera Cycling Team would claim their first victory under the Racing for Change banner. Aline Uwera, a junior rider for the team, won the Kibugabuga Race close to the capital, Kigali, this weekend.

The race weekend of December 18 and 19 will go into the books as one of the highlights of the Racing for Change program in Rwanda. Approximately a year and a half ago, Israel Start-Up Nation committed to helping the local community in Bugesera to improve their cycling culture, and today showed another mark of success.

‘I will prove I can win more’

“What a special feeling to be on the podium”, the sixteen-year-old Uwera said. “Being [from the] Bugesera Cycling Team, we had numerous disadvantages to our competitors – one other team had eight riders and we only had three – but we worked together as a team and I managed to win the junior race.”

Racing for Change trainer, Innocent Niyireba, said he was super proud of Uwera. “Winning while racing against a team with many more members than Bugesera this weekend is great. She showed her strength in a fabulous way.”

Niyireba mentioned that for the next race, he expects even better results. “We will allow talents from our district to race with us. Next time, when we also have eight riders on the road, we will be even more competitive.”

Uwera herself hopes to win again in the future. “This victory is very motivating. Since I have been training with the Israeli instructors from the Racing for Change program, I got stronger. I want to reach the national team of Rwanda. I hope the [Rwanda Cycling] Federation saw this race, and I want to prove to them again that I am capable of winning races.”

Israeli trainer Tal Alon, who led the Racing for Change training camp in Bugesera earlier this year, expressed her happiness as well. “This is a great result. The women were very committed during the camp to learning as much as they could. After that week, we kept on working together. We can see from their numbers that they are improving, so it was only a matter of time for them to achieve great results in races.”

Israel Start-Up Nation and Racing for Change

Racing for Change in Bugesera started in early 2020 when the team got to visit the women’s team in Rwanda for the first time. This year, Israel Start-Up Nation went back two times. During the last visit, the team organized a professional training camp and donated over fifty bikes. Since then, the Bugesera district can join rides organized by the Bugesera Cycling Team on a weekly basis.

In December, ISN will release a documentary about the training camp. In February, ahead of Israel Start-Up Nation’s participation in the Tour du Rwanda, the team will come back to Bugesera for another training camp. Uwera’s victory today was proof of commitment to Racing for Change from both ISN and the women of the Bugesera Cycling Team.

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Puncher’s finish in Rwanda, Piccoli keeps GC-ambitions alive

Canadian GC-contender James Piccoli is, after stage 5, still in the mix for overall victory in the Tour du Rwanda.

The stage with the final climb to Kimironko Market, one of the busiest markets in Rwanda, has only been won by true punchers in the past editions of the race. It’s short, steep, and usually doesn’t result in big time gaps between GC-contenders.

ISN, chasing with the strong Omer Lahav and Guy Sagiv, closed down the gap with the break-away far before the final climb. James Piccoli, five seconds down on the yellow jersey, finished together with his competitors. The climb to Kimironko doesn’t particularly suit him as a rider, but the Canadian did finish seventh.

He barely lost time on his direct competitors. He is actually one second closer to the yellow jersey after today.

Friday’s stage is most likely going to be crucial for the GC, as well as Saturday’s short individual time trial. Sunday’s final stage resulted in time gaps over the last few editions of the Tour, so the race is definitely not decided yet.

#RacingForChange #YallaISN #TdRwanda2021
Photos: Sjors Beukeboom and Jean Chris Kitoko

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Lahav and Goldstein on the up, Piccoli strong again in stage 4 in Rwanda

If you rapidly grow a bike culture in a country that was not so cycling-minded a decade ago, talent rises up fast.

Edo Goldstein and Omer Lahav are two examples of riders who have developed rapidly over the last few years and are now showing their skills in the Tour du Rwanda.

Sports director Lionel Marie was impressed by the two Israeli youngsters in the first three stages in Rwanda and again complimented them after stage 4. “They just never give up and they are fully committed.”

Compliments for conti-team staff

“Omer and I were here last year, and if I compare the Omer from 2020 with the Omer in 2021, I see a huge development,” Marie said.

He continued: “Edo Goldstein shows great potential here in Rwanda too. He learns quickly and is an important force in the team for our ambitions for the general classification.”

The way the two continental boys ride here shows how important it is for a WorldTour-team to have a continental team, according to Marie.

“Our continental-riders are developing rapidly. Big compliments to our continental-team-staff for their work.”

No threats for Piccoli in stage 4

Stage 4 in the Tour du Rwanda was relatively short at only 120 kilometers. Positioning for the short, final climb was a big objective, and the two Israelis brought team leader James Piccoli exactly where he had to be.

Piccoli himself finished solidly in the bunch, finishing twelfth. The breakaway made it all the way to the finish line; however, no one in the front group was a real threat for the GC.


— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Piccoli punches to podium in Rwanda, moves up in GC

James Piccoli finished strong after a long, wet and exhausting stage in the Tour du Rwanda and leaves all options open for the GC.

Stage three in the Tour du Rwanda was all about the elevation. In the queen’s stage, almost 4,000 meters of climbing elevation had to be covered over 170 kilometers.

An early alarm at 4:55 am, a two-hour transfer to the start, and pouring rain in the first kilometers of racing resulted in a not so exciting start of the queen’s stage. Luckily, the weather improved and halfway into the race there were only low-hanging clouds in the Rwandan valleys, ensuring incredible views over the ‘country of a thousand hills.’

However, on the final climb it was pouring down as it only can in Africa. Streams, some sort of small rivers of water, were flowing down the final climb. Piccoli, Israel Start-Up Nation’s nominee for the general classification in Africa, did not mind.

According to the Canadian, the final climb was not steep enough to really make a difference. He therefore waited for the final stretch, and: third in the sprint.

He named that result a true team effort. “The help of Edo Goldstein and Omer Lahav during the race and towards to final climb was fantastic. Throughout the day, Stormi-Norman (Vahtra) helped us in the wet descents. Guy Sagiv went so fast upon the most challenging hill of the day that I had to tell him to slow down.”

“The team’s confidence has grown after today,” Piccoli concluded. “We are looking forward to the next stages.”

Photos: Jean Chris Kitoko & Sjors Beukeboom.

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Vahtra sprints to fourth in the second stage of Tour du Rwanda

Estonian national road race champion Norman Vahtra nearly delivered Israel Start-Up Nation the first spot on the podium in the Tour du Rwanda.

Vahtra barely manages to click out of his pedals after the finish when he falls down on his handlebars. For minutes he keeps his head down, gasping for air. “I was on the limit in the final”, he says when he arrives at the team van.

“The beginning of the race was easier than I expected. However, the second half was significantly harder,” Vahtra said.

“We caught the breakaway pretty early, and then riders started attacking again. In the last kilometers I was just holding on.”

Vahtra: “Then, with a kilometer to go, there was time to rest. I could recover a little bit and sprint.”

He finished second in the bunch sprint. However, two riders broke away in the last kilometers.

Tomorrow is the longest stage in the Tour du Rwanda, with plenty of elevation.

Photos: Sjors Beukeboom and Jean Chris Kitoko

#RacingForChange #YallaISN #TdRwanda2021

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Opening stage in Rwanda: Israel Start-Up Nation creates hard race and starts the hunt for GC

After a few days of social projects, including embracing the only women’s team in Rwanda (see video below) and visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Sunday the second of May marked the first stage of the Tour du Rwanda.

The girls from the cycling club of Kibungo, who Israel Start-Up Nation pledged to support with the cycling equipment needed to chase their dreams, came over to watch the race and saw that Israeli continental riders Edo Goldstein and Omer Lahav had perfectly adapted to racing with the WorldTour team.

It is always a special feeling to race on Rwandan roads. The fans, the views, and the type of racing make the Tour du Rwanda different from any other race.

With teams consisting of only five riders, and a peloton of just 75 riders in total, the stages in the Tour du Rwanda are very difficult to control. The race features very aggressive racing, from the gun, and requires an attentive racing attitude.

Israel Start-Up Nation, who had participated in the Tour du Rwanda since it was a continental team, has experience with racing on Rwandan roads. The team took responsibility, chased down a break-away, and finished with four of the five riders solidly in the bunch.

With seven stages to go, James Piccoli is in a promising position for a good result in the GC.

Photos: Sjors Beukeboom & Jean Chris Kitoko

#YallaISN #RacingForChange #TdRwanda2021

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

#RacingForChange: our visit to the only women’s cycling club in Rwanda

Israel Start-Up Nation embraced this inspiring group of cyclists from Kibungo, supports with HJC Sports, Selle Italia, Maxxis Bike tires and Orange Sealed, and will continue to help them to chase their dreams.

Video: Noam Chojnowski & Sjors Beukeboom

#RacingForChange #YallaISN #SelleItalia #Maxxis #Maxxisbike #Maxxistires #orangesealed #hjcsports.

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

Israel Start-Up Nation in Rwanda: NOT ONLY RACING

  • The team launched a support-cycling project in the Rwandan village of Kibungo, in Bugesera District

  • ISN’s sponsors tune in for social project: lots of equipment donated

  • Team owners Adams and Baron also in Rwanda: ‘We are connected’

Friday: April 30. Bugesera, Rwanda. 

The Israel Start-Up Nation team, accompanied by team owners, Sylvan Adams and Ron Baron, and the Israeli Ambassador in Rwanda Ron Adam, visited Kibungo in Bugesera District, Rwanda to launch and pledge the support of the team to a cycling project in the village.

Israel Start-Up Nation is racing in the Tour du Rwanda for the fourth time in its history, this time also on a mission to explore ways of tightening the bonds between the team from Israel and Rwanda.

In the opening part of today’s visit, the team, its owners, and Ambassador Adam, arrived to the village of Kibungo to launch their inaugural project under the banner of “Racing for Change”, which will be a cycling project in the village.

At the center of this initiative is the women’s cycling club of Bugesera, who the team has started supporting with Israel Cycling Academy team kits, and equipment donated by the team’s various sponsors, including HJC Helmets, Orange Seal, Selle Italia, Maxxis, and more. The team mechanics also contributed by fixing bikes brought by school children. There are additional plans to develop this project by sending a coach from Israel to help instruct the team for a period of time.

During the visit to the village, the team and its owners met the girls who are part of the cycling club and visited the school and the community center.

“We hope this team will be a model for other communities in Africa,” said team co-owner Sylvan Adams. He also opened the door for Rwandan riders to join Israel Start-Up Nation, saying “There are great talents in this country. To me, the greatest thing will be to see a rider from Rwanda racing for us.”

Team co-owner Ron Baron says that Rwanda is a country Israel Start-Up Nation feels a special connection to. “The two countries, Israel and Rwanda, enjoy warm ties and we are proud to be here. I hope this project will be a seed to further develop and grow.”

Sports director Cherie Pridham, the first woman to direct a men’s WorldTour cycling team and the DS leading ISN in the Tour du Rwanda, attended the visit to Bugasera and witnessed the commencement of the team’s support of the Bugasera girls’ cycling club – the only girls’ club in the country. “I truly believe that there is a great potential here for the girls to take on cycling and [I’m] excited to take part of it,” she said. “To me, it is especially extraordinary as this country gave women so many opportunities.” Pridham met the girls and spent time talking and even riding with them and  the school kids as did the team’s riders. “It was really exciting to visit the village and witness the passion for cycling” said Israeli rider Guy Sagiv.

The team mechanics and riders joined with equipment that they brought with them and worked on fixing and maintaining many bikes. The team presented full kits to the girls’ club, gifted bikes to the community center and committed to occasionally sending expert male and females riders and coaches from Israel to support and develop cycling in the village, as well as offering scholarships to the best students. The project is supported not only by the team but also its sponsors and partners, including Vini Fantini, Maxxis, Orange Seal, HJC Helmets, Jinga, and many more.

About Israel Start-Up Nation:

Israel’s first professional cycling team was established in 2015 as “Israel Cycling Academy,” including riders from Israel and abroad. The team began to compete at a higher level when Sylvan Adams joined as a co-owner alongside Ron Baron. In 2018, Adams was the driving force behind bringing the prestigious Giro d’Italia to begin in Israel – one of cycling’s three Grand Tour races. This also saw the team compete in its first Grand Tour, with Guy Sagiv becoming the first Israeli to finish such a race. The team competed again in the Giro d’Italia in 2019, with Israeli Guy Niv completing the race. Later in 2019, the team took another historic step, joining the WorldTour (the highest level of professional cycling) for the first time under the name Israel Start-Up Nation, securing its place in the 2020 Tour de France. The team also secured its first Grand Tour stage victories in 2020, in both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. This year, the team has bolstered its roster with many top riders including four-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome.

Photos: Sjors Beukeboom

#YallaISN #TDRwanda2021

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com

ISN back to Rwanda: Five adventurers prepare for aggressive racing at altitude

  • Sports director Cherie Pridham to lead ISN in Rwanda
  • ISN starts with majority of Israeli riders
  • Team owners Adams and Baron also in Rwanda: ‘We are connected’

Israel Start-Up Nation is coming to the Tour du Rwanda for the fourth time in its history. The five selected riders are predominantly Israeli and will be directed by sports director Cherie Pridham, the first female sports director in the WorldTour.

Team co-owners Ron Baron and Sylvan Adams also made their way to Rwanda, intending to join the team as they visit the genocide memorial and initiate a new, social cycling project that will be revealed on Friday the 30th of April. 

Ron Baron says that Rwanda is a country Israel Start-Up Nation feels a special connected to. “The two countries, Israel and Rwanda, enjoy warm ties and we are proud to be here.”

Sylvan Adams agrees with Baron and adds: “To see Israel Start-Up Nation competing for the fourth time here in Rwanda, this year with a predominantly Israeli team, is exciting.”

Sports director Cherie Pridham is happy to be on the African continent, leading the pentad of riders in the Tour du Rwanda. “It is especially extraordinary as this country gave women so many opportunities.”

Pridham will be joined at the helm by sports director Lionel Marie, both of whom are pleased to see that the majority of riders in the line-up are Israeli – a first for the team.

More than just racing

The Israeli representation on @TeamIsraelSUN at Tour du Rwanda starts with Israeli ITT-champion Guy Sagiv, who is joined by Israeli under-23 road race champion Omer Lahav, and the young, rising talent of Edo Goldstein. The latter two are part of the Israel Cycling Academy continental team.

James Piccoli will be ISN’s man hunting for a good result in the general classification. Estonian national champion Norman Vahtra has his eyes on the sprinting stages.

The co-owners, sports directors and staff members will, just like in years past, visit a youth school, a local cycling club, and the genocide museum in Kigali during its visit to Rwanda.

Lahav: ‘Plenty of elevation in Rwanda’

The postponed edition of the race itself features, as usual, plenty of climbing. In addition, racing in Rwanda means competition at high altitude, making the race even harder.

The Tour du Rwanda starts off relatively easy, with an opening stage of 116 kilometers (1,300 meters of elevation), and the second stage of 120 kilometers (2,411 meters of elevation). On paper, the third day of racing in Rwanda is the most challenging with a distance of 171.6 kilometers and 3,280 meters of climbing.

Stages four to eight are all quite similar (chances for climbers and punchers). The seventh day of racing, however, is where the individual time trial brings us to the infamous “Wall of Kigali”.

Lahav remembers the climb from last year. “The cobbles, the fans, and the sound, they all make this climb special. For me, this wall is the icon for Rwandan cycling.”

“It is not only the Wall of Kigali that can hurt though”, he continues, also “there is barely any meter flat in the Tour du Rwanda. The elevation and the altitude make this race super difficult. The local riders, who are perfectly adapted to the circumstances, always race super aggressively, supported by their fellow countrymen.”

Ambitious team ready for unpredictable racing

Goldstein says that the team is motivated to make the best of the race. “Personally, my preparation has been good and I am looking forward to racing on African roads. Last but not least, we have the necessary experience in the team to know what to expect from this race. Therefore, I think that Israel Start-Up Nation can be ambitious.”

In general, the Tour du Rwanda features unpredictable racing. Riding aggressively and attentively is essential. “We cannot lose focus for a single second in Rwanda,” says Pridham. “Big groups can go, and take huge advantages. We will work hard for GC but also look for opportunities and try for a stage win.”

Her colleague Lionel Marie agrees and says: “I hope to see a strong Israel Start-Up Nation in the Tour du Rwanda. An ISN that races smart, and is patient. That’s important in a race like this.”

Israel Start-Up Nation’s line up for the Tour du Rwanda (02/05 – 09/05):

  • Omer Lahav
  • Edo Goldstein
  • Guy Sagiv
  • James Piccoli
  • Norman Vahtra

Sports directors: Cherie Pridham, Lionel Marie

Photos: Sjors Beukeboom

#YallaISN #TDRwanda2021

— Sjors Beukeboom to israelcyclingacademy.com