Israel Cycling Team (Facebook) (Facebook)

In the latest sign of warming relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, members of the Startup Nation cycling team are participating in a race from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

By United with Israel Staff

Israel’s national cycling team, called “Israel Start Up Nation,” is competing for the first time in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cycling Tour, starting Sunday. The team received a “warm reception” in Dubai, the first stop of the track.

The competition goes from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, a 148-kilometer ride through all seven UAE states, and will take seven days to complete. It is one of the largest sporting events in the Middle East.

“Competing in the UAE in the team uniform is an inspiring moment,” Israeli cyclist Omer Goldstein said in an official statement. “Until recently, it would have seemed like an unrealistic dream.”

Goldstein said he was surprised by the warm reception the Israeli team received, noting that many locals asked to take selfies with team members, dressed in the Israeli flag colors of blue and white.

“This is the victory of sports over politics,” he said.

Sylvan Adams, the team’s billionaire co-owner, spoke about the “historic occasion” of the Israeli team racing through Arab nations.

“We hope to make a diplomatic statement that Israel is a normal county and normalize our image, basically building up normalized relations from the ground up on a people to people basis,” he said. “Eventually, when the politicians get ready to sign our grand peace deal, we will already have had normalized relations for quite awhile. Rather than doing it from the top down, we’ll do it from the bottom up. We are creating the conditions to make this possible.”

The Israeli team is competing against several top international riders, including two world speed record holders, Matthias Brändle from Austria and British rider Alex Dowsett.

“I believe that we have a realistic chance [to win], even though this is a race at the very highest level, and we will be facing some of the top sprinters in the world,” Goldstein said.

The Israel Start-Up Nation/Israel Cycling Academy Facebook page posted a video of the team, with a welcoming “Hello UAE 🇦🇪 TOUR !” in English, Arabic and Hebrew.