Take 5: An interview with Yoav Bear, Israeli time trial veteran
Team Cycling Academy
The first-ever Israeli cycling team is making its international stage debut at the 2015 USA Pro Challenge. Like many of the teams this year, the squad of 13 cyclists from Israel and Europe is young — and ready to turn heads. Here’s a look at the team roster.
Guy Sagiv — Israel, road and sprint specialist
Antonio Angulo Sampedro — Spain, small group riding
Bartosz Warchol — Poland, hill specialist
Ľuboš Malovec — Slovakia, all-around rider
Guy Gabay — Israel, road specialist
Daniel Turek — Czech Republic, hill and time trial specialist
Patryk Talaga — Poland, small group riding
Migdał Wojciech — Poland, all-around rider
Mário Daško — Slovakia, hill specialist
Emanuel Piaskowy — Poland, hill specialist
Ido Zilberstein — Israel, sprint specialist
Yoav Bear — Israel, time trial specialist
Ben Einhorn — all-around rider
Yoav Bear is ready for a second chance at professional cycling.
For the past six years, the 24-year-old Israeli rider has battled the ups and downs of racing in Europe. Competition there is cutthroat: Teams come and go, sponsors cut ties unexpectedly and only cyclists with enough time on the circuit (and enough sponsor cash in the bank) find the support they need to climb the ranks. In many ways, it’s like baseball in the U.S. — only a small percentage ever makes it to the show.
Bear raced with amateur teams consistently until the end of last season, when he decided to try his hand at university instead. But, he couldn’t get out that easily. Shortly after he returned to Tel Aviv, he was approached by a former pro, Ran Margaliot. The manager had an enticing proposition for the former mountain biker turned time trial specialist: Give cycling one more shot with his country’s first pro team, Cycling Academy. It even had backing from Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan.
Bear could hardly say no. Since then, the team has traveled Europe to compete in several smaller races, including the Tour of Slovakia and Tour of Croatia earlier this summer. They notched several stage and jersey wins at both, building an early reputation as a very young, very competitive team on the rise.
Now, it’s onto the big leagues. Bear and a team of 12 cyclists from Israel, Poland, Slovakia and across Europe arrived in Colorado on Aug. 13 for their first taste of cycling on the international stage. As one of the oldest riders on the roster, Bear brings much-needed experience and composure to the team. He knows just how intimidating a multi-day stage race can be and is ready for anything the course has in store — never mind that this is his first time on U.S. soil.
Shortly after arriving in Steamboat Springs for Stage 1, the Summit Daily sports desk talked with him about the Breckenridge time trial, Rocky Mountain altitudes and why the Academy is here to stay.
Summit Daily News: First things first: You just arrived in Steamboat at 2,100 meters (6,900 feet). How are your lungs and legs feeling?
Yoav Bear: Right now, I’m feeling OK. We’ve had very good preparation in the Italian Alps, staying at altitude, and, since then, we’ve had around 12 days of racing in Europe. We had some altitude there, too. Most of the (Pro Challenge) stages are looking pretty hard. This race is known for the hardest climbs and the highest altitudes, and that will make it more difficult. The climbs will make the difference in this race.
SDN: You struggled to find a foothold in the European cycling scene. What convinced you to give it one more try with Cycling Academy?
YB: I was racing in the amateur ranks in Spain, France, across Europe, and it’s a hard sport to get a living. You’re always searching for a new professional contract. I decided to go to university to study, find a profession, and then (Team Cycling Academy manager) Ran came to me. We knew each other from racing on the national team in Israel, and we thought it was a great idea to give young riders exposure on the international stage.
Now, we have cyclists from Israel and Czechoslovakia and Poland, and we all have the opportunity to race on the biggest stage. Cycling is a very old-school sport. Riders from developed countries in Europe, they grew up in the local clubs, then they go to a better club, then they get a pro contract.
In Israel, it’s a different situation. If you win a race there, no one sees it. You have to travel to Europe, live alone or with friends — not with your family — and you spend a big amount of money in the beginning. It’s hard to really get into this sport from a country like Israel.
SDN: Those barriers aside, what’s the competition like in Israel? Is it fierce, or is it still pretty new and untested?
YB: It’s kind of new, but the level goes up every year. You really see the difference in the level from year to year. Every time, there is something different to raise the level, such as riders going to Europe and then coming back, and, when they come back, they ride at a higher level. When our riders bring this back to Israel, the riders with the Academy, we will have the knowledge of what it’s like in the big races. I think we’ll really catch up with the rest of the world in a few years.
SDN: You’re a time trial specialist. What’s the trick to training for a time trial like the one in Breckenridge, with very steep climbs over a short course?
YB: Again, because of the altitude, it is going to be very different. I haven’t seen yet the course live — I’ve only seen the graph on the website. So, I assume that after riding the course the morning of the race, I will know it better; but, like any other race, the key to success is to make a pace. This one is very quick because of the uphill and downhill, but I’ll figure that out.
SDN: This is Cycling Academy’s first appearance at a major international race. No matter how you place, what do you hope this does for the team and cycling in Israel?
YB: It’s a little bit hard to think ahead to that. We had live coverage in Eurosport in Europe and the Tour of Abidjan (in Russia), with riders in breakaway in almost every stage. One of our riders even won a stage. The level is very high, so that’s what we’re aiming for is to show everyone we can be with the leaders the entire time. Races can always be unexpected. I really just hope to help the team as I did in the last two races in Europe, so I’m here mainly for the team.
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