Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams is playing the sports card to try to change the image of Israel as mired in conflict and to promote its normalization with the Arab world.
His latest coup came with the announcement that Chris Froome would at the end of this season join his Israel Start-Up Nation, the first Israeli squad set to compete in the Tour de France.
“Everybody pays attention to the winner – and what we have started will hopefully be amplified by Chris’ presence,” Adams says.
“Chris is a gentleman. Polite to a fault. Very softly spoken. But none of that should be mistaken for a lack of heart and a burning desire to win.
“He’s on the scale of a Michael Jordan or a Lionel Messi. His desire to win is powerful and overwhelming. He is one of the greatest talents in the sport.”
“Chris wants to be the greatest Tour de France rider of all time,” says Adams. “And he also has a secondary goal, by the way, which is to win 11 Grand Tours.
“If he wins two more Tours he would be up to nine – just two away the great Eddy Merckx’s 11 Grand Tour wins. And I believe Merckx is considered to be the greatest cyclist of all time. So this could make a good case for Chris to be the greatest.”
To boost the team that will carry the weight of Froome’s expectations, Israel Start-Up Nation will make additions. Adams is the “self-appointed ambassador of Israel” and is determined to change the way the country is viewed and put them on the cycling map.
“I stole a page from British cycling,” he said. “Britain went from being a non entity in cycling to being the greatest nation on Earth, and I’m hoping that tiny Israel can imitate the UK’s success and we can have some champions.”