Two cycling fanatics from Quebec are behind one of the biggest teams in the world, Sylvan Adams and Jean Bélanger. The bike, it seems, proved to be the best test for business together. “This was part of it, the riding, that proved we needed to be compatible. Riding together,” Adams said on Thursday, at the team’s press conference at the training camp in Spain.
“Jean is not only passionate about being on this board, but just as the same for Ron Baron and I, we all ride together.” Adams and Baron founded the team seven years ago, but with Bélanger’s recent partnership, the team is ready to achieve even more in 2022.
The season is about to begin, and it’s an exciting one for Israel-Premier Tech. The WorldTour squad formerly known as Israel Start-Up Nation announced on Jan. 6 that it would be officially teaming up with the Rivière-du-Loup, Que.-based company, making a very Canadian-influenced team even moreso.
In the off-season, Israel-Premier tech announced the signing of Hugo Houle from Astana, bringing the team’s Canadian rider tally to five cyclists. As well, one of Canada’s greatest cyclists, Steve Bauer, would be joining the team as a directeur sportif.
“This is a big step in the evolution of our young team,” Adams said. “Premier Tech is a national company operating in 30 countries, and this is a real validation for us to associate with such a forward-looking, technologically advanced international company. So It’s a real honour and privilege. I believe it validates the effort we have been putting into this wonderful team. It will help us take us to the next level.”
The deal between Premier Tech and the team has been in the works for a while. Rumours began swirling this past fall once it was known that the Canadian company would not be re-aligning themself with the Kazakhstan-based team, Astana. When Hugo Houle announced he’d be coming over to Adams and Ron Baron’s team, it seemed the partnership was well on its way.
In November 2021, at the team’s bonding camp in Israel, Adams and Bélanger continued talks. Bélanger, however, left early and Adams said the extent of the partnership was yet to be determined. After the camp, the two of them clearly came to an agreement on goals for 2022.
“We want to become a more winning team and a more successful team but still to be more than a cycling team,” Adams said. “We have a number of social activities and we have a social mission. We draw on an ancient Jewish imperative of tikkun olam, which is trying to improve the world. I want this team to be a model, an exemplary model, in our sport to try and build bridges and create the highest spirit of sportsmanship and openness as we try to succeed in winning races.”
Bélanger and Adams are both friends from Quebec and cyclists themselves, but on top of that, share similar philosophies.
“For Premier Tech, cycling has been very important for us, it’s a real passion, not just for me but for our company,” Bélanger said. He’s excited to be part of the team, but recognizes that his involvement is part of a longer plan to bring the team to the next level, which for Israel-Premier Tech, means Grand Tour and Classics wins.
Premier Tech has been involved in the WorldTour for five years, so the partnership with Adams and Baron could be seen as a natural evolution, but it took some time. Adams has known Bélanger for some time, and they’ve kept in touch during both of their careers in cycling. “When Jean decided to get more involved in cycling, we had kept in touch and had numerous discussions about the future,” Adams said.
The two seem to have common goals, which is helpful. “Friendship and cycling, and our compassion,” Bélanger said. Although the two have a contract for four years, the intention is to continue into the indefinite future. His many employees seem to be excited by the merger as well. “I have received quite a few emails from friends and colleagues that love the new jersey, and you know, the colour blue is very important for Premier Tech, so we love the design.”
Adams said the discussions took time because they both wanted to get it right. “Jean is a studious and serious person, and he doesn’t just jump into things,” Adams said. “So when we began those discussions, it took more time. Because he wanted to make sure that the next move would be a permanent one. Even though, you know, he knew me, and we had common Canadian and Quebec roots, he wanted to do it right.”
The team has come a long way since its inception. “We have common goals, common passion,” Adams said. “Obviously this team has a solid and profound foundation with Israel, but it has a solid foundation with Canada. We have five out of the six WorldTour riders, and of course Steve Bauer. The discussions may have taken a bit more time than Sylvan wanted, but you know, sometimes, you have to give time for things to come together, and enable that the partnership will last much longer than the initial agreement here. I am really, really excited to be joining Israel Premier Tech.”