The first Arab Muslim rider to join Israel Cycling Academy El Mehdi Chokri (Facebook) (Facebook)

“Our doors are open to all,” said Israel Cycling Academy Continental team co-owner Ron Baron.

By United with Israel Staff

The eclectic 16-member Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) Continental team launched its first racing season on Thursday, featuring seven skillful Israelis together with international riders, including Chokri Elmehdi, 23, from Morocco – the first Arab Muslim to join them.

Others hail from Canada, Eritrea, Australia, Colombia, and the Czech Republic.

“We are proud to have Chokri with us. Our doors are open to all,” team co-owner Ron Baron said in a statement.

The team’s primary goal is to “help young Israeli riders bridge the gap from the national to the international level,” team manager Aviad Israel said. “Half of the team is Israeli riders, combined with talented riders from different countries helping each other to achieve both personal and team goals.”

Although Chokri “fits right into the team in several ways, things haven’t quite come together for him,” said ICA Team Sport Director Zak Dempster. “We can support him and provide him with the right racing for his development stage and see if he can make it. Also, we want as diverse a team as possible with young people from all cultures and beliefs to race together purely in the name of sport.”

Chokri has a list of accomplishments under his wheels. From 2014 to 2016 he was with the UCI’s World Cycling Centre, which gave him valuable international experience. Presently the Moroccan time trial champion, he rode for the Continental-ranked Dimension Data for Qhubeka team from 2017 to 2019. He came in second in GC (general classification) in the Coupe des Nations de l’Espoir Blue Line in 2018 and in the Tour de Cote d’Ivoire-Tour de la Reconciliation 2016.

The ICA team, whose members range in age from 19 to 31, combines new riders with those still trying to establish themselves and seasoned riders who can mentor the younger ones while leading the team to triumph.

“I joined ICA to be a professional cyclist [and] to fulfill my biggest dream: Racing in WorldTour and TDF [Tour de France]!” Chokri said.

The team will make its Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) debut at the Youngster Coast Challenge in Belgium on March 20.