Israel Start-Up Nation continues to reinforce roster with Zabel, hunts for Van Avermaet

Zabel latest in recent contract extensions as team builds balanced roster, with Van Avermaet the next target.

Photo: Getty Images

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Israel Start-Up Nation is slowly but surely reinforcing its roster as it sets its sights for the top of the WorldTour.

One man doesn’t make a team, and while Chris Froome’s imminent move to Israel Start-Up Nation for 2021 has been hogging the headlines in the past week, the team has also been extending a number of contracts with riders across disciplines. It was confirmed Monday that Rick Zabel, son of sprint legend Erik, has renewed his contract with the team through 2022.

“I am happy to be in the boat for a few more years with this special team,” said Zabel. “I like the story of the team and also I like the spirit on the team. We are kind of underdogs but we can achieve big things and we can do better than a lot of people would expect.”

The news comes in the wake of recent news that Matthias Brändle and Jenhte Biermans have also extended with Israel Start-Up Nation for two years. The team began its project of reinforcing its roster in June with extensions for veteran German Andre Greipel and rising time trialist Mads Würtz Schmidt.

Securing sprinter Zabel, young Belgian cobbles specialist Biermans, and experienced Austrian powerhouse Brändle is a sign that Israel Start-Up Nation looking to build a rounded squad intent on being more than just the team behind grand tour star Froome.

The team is also looking beyond pinning down its existing talents but also tapping up extra star riders. Ambitious team backer Sylvan Adams has expressed interest in signing Greg Van Avermaet to lead the team in the classics and add further heft to his rapidly-developing project.

The Belgian monument winner is currently on contract with CCC Team through 2021. However, with the team’s future in doubt as team boss Jim Ochowicz hunts a new title sponsor to replace CCC, who exit at the close of the season, Van Avermaet’s signature could be up for grabs by winter.

“Greg is one of the best classic riders ever, and certainly of his generation. He can compete with Peter Sagan. I have a lot of respect for Van Avermaet and he will continue to win wherever he draws,” Adams told Sporza.

“Of course, there is interest. You cannot say anything else about such a rider. But I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors.”

Although Van Avermaet has expressed his desire to stay true to long-term boss Ochowicz if the team can be rescued, the ambitious and wealthy Israel Start-Up Nation setup could be a tempting proposition for the 35-year-old star.

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