Meet the Canadians racing for Israel Cycling Academy in 2021

This season WorldTour team Israel Start-Up Nation announced that its continental team, Israel Cycling Academy, would be refocused for 2021. Israel Cycling Academy will continue to work as a bridge to Israel Start-Up Nation, but it will now be a U23 continental team, recruiting young talent from around the world. Two Canadians, Robin Plamondon and Riley Pickrell, will compete on the team.

“The idea of focusing completely on a U23 team is that it will allow us to field strong teams in the biggest U23 races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and, hopefully, the Baby Giro,” says Zak Dempster, the head sports director of the continental team. “These races are critical for the development of young riders and it’s imperative we are there fighting for results – if we are to develop the next generation of WorldTour riders within our structure.”

RELATED: Israel Start-up Nation heads to Girona training camp

As expected, there are a number of Israeli cyclists on the team, but there are also cyclists from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Czech Republic. The Canadian presence isn’t surprising—Sylvan Adams, co-owner of Israel Start-Up Nation, and Paulo Saldanha, performance director at Israel Start-Up Nation, are both Canadian and make an effort to give opportunities to young Canadian talent. There are four Canadians racing for the WorldTour squad in 2021: Guillaume Boivin, Alex Cataford, James Piccoli and, new for 2021, Mike Woods.

RELATED: The two Canadians behind one of the world’s biggest cycling teams

We asked the two young Israel Cycling Academy U23 team members, Riley Pickrell (19) and Robin Plamondon (21), a few questions to get to know them better.

Riley Pickrell

Riley Pickrell Tour de l"abitibi
Riley Pickrell celebrates a stage win at the Tour de l’Abitibi in 2018

Where are you from? Where are you currently based?

I am from Victoria, British Columbia and currently based there however I am soon moving to Girona, Spain for the season.

How many years have you been cycling? How did you start?

2021 will be my seventh year riding competitively. I was taught how to ride by my parents when I was very young but moved into the competitive scene after jumping from ice hockey to speed skating, where some friends pointed me towards the track for the summer.

Do you have a favourite pro rider?

Don’t really have one, I’ve always appreciated pros who are happy to give some time back to the younger riders and youth clubs.

What’s your ideal order on a coffee ride?

I bare the ultimate cycling shame of not liking coffee. In a social event where I have to take coffee, I’ll have an espresso and carbonated water; otherwise I stick to hot chocolate or something cold.

What are your training goals this year?

I’m looking to get in the best shape for the season I can be, staying focused and doing my best in every training session will help me achieve that.

Zwift or cold outdoor ride?

I have a deep set hatred of the trainer, I will ride in a blizzard before I’d ride on the trainer. And I’ve done it. Just needed some nice thick gloves to stay warm.

Favourite mid-ride fuel?

Wes Ochitwa’s rice cakes are some of the best I’ve ever tasted, I love those. On the hot, hard summer rides I also love stopping at a gas station to fill up my bottle with slushy to get me home.

Best place to ride in Victoria?

I take every opportunity to ride the big loop (A 280-300km ride from Victoria to Port Renfrew to Duncan toVictoria) that I can. It’s a beautiful, relatively quiet ride which always brings good company and creates good memories.

Robin Plamondon

Where are you from? Where are you currently based?

I am from Montréal, but I will be based in Girona, Spain for 2021 like I was in 2020.

How many years have you been cycling? How did you start?

I have been cycling for 11 years and I got into it with the Club Cycliste Espoirs Laval. The club’s wonderful environment and its dedicated coach played a major role in my development.

What’s your ideal order on a coffee ride?

I like to order crepes.

What are your training goals this year?

For this year, I hope to become an overall stronger rider while learning what my qualities are as a racer through a diversified calendar.

Zwift or cold outdoor ride?

I prefer to do short workouts or races on zwift and doing endurance outside.

Favourite mid-ride fuel?

Something with Nutella—bread or rice cakes.

Best place to ride in Montreal?

In Montréal, for me, there are 3 key spots:
– Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for easy riding and sprints
-Mont Royal pro tour for endurance and intervals
-Westmount for going as hard as you can

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