Rider Interview: It’s not everyone who can say Chris Froome has been their lead-out man. Ed Hood caught up with Israel Start-Up Nation’s sprint winner Itamar Einhorn to hear of his recent podium places and how he got started in the cycling game.
Second on stage 2 CRO Race
I was thinking that Israel Start-Up Nation hadn’t had that great a season but when I checked the UCi wins statistics, 16 victories isn’t bad at all, Dan Martin’s Giro stage is perhaps the most notable but there was one recently which caught our eye.
Israeli rider, Itamar Einhorn took Stage Four of the UCi 2.1 Okolo Slovenska – the Tour of Slovakia – ahead of notable fastmen Peter Sagan and Cees Bol. To our knowledge the highest level victory ever achieved by an Israeli rider? The 24 year-old from the Israeli city of Modi’ in took time to chat to PEZ a few days after the biggest win of his career. Then last week he took second on stage 2 of the Tour of Croatia to Jumbo-Visma’s Olav Kooij.
PEZ: Congratulations on the win, Itamar – tell us about it.
Itamar Einhorn: Thank you, it was from a small, select group of 26 riders, the first hour of racing was intense and everyone in the group could see that Deceuninck weren’t well represented so my team, DSM, Bora and Bike Exchange all drove hard and we got a gap which we knew wasn’t coming back – nine minutes eventually. It wasn’t an easy move to get into but I had two team mates with me, Chris Froome and Krists Neilands who both did a great job for me in the last five kilometres – it was Chris who put me on Sagan’s wheel with two K to. Sagan had three team mates for his lead out but I came off his wheel to take the win.
PEZ: Tell us about your beginnings in cycling, is it a big sport in Israel?
Cycling is big at amateur level, a lot of people ride bikes, my brother – he’s four years older than me – was into it and I followed him, riding MTB first then getting into road riding in 2013.
PEZ: You had a nice result as a junior in the 2014 Polish UCi 2.1 stage race, La Coupe du President de la-Ville de Grudziadz.
Yes, that was with the Israeli junior national team, I was sixth on GC with a second place on a stage. My motivation was good but I didn’t have the knowledge or support and feel I could have done better.
PEZ: Verandas Willems amateur squad in Belgium for 2016.
I was actually with them as a junior from 2014, Jo Van Gossum who was the owner/management had connections with Israeli riders in the past – Ran Margaliot the Israeli former professional rider was one.
PEZ: Season 2017 saw you with the Israel Cycling Academy?
The team started at Pro Continental level, it was a good development team and a good environment to gain experience. I rode some big races with them in 2017, the Coppa Agostoni, the Coppa Bernocchi and the Memorial Pantani, I didn’t finish them but did my job for the team and it was good to experience that level of competition.
PEZ: In 2018 you had some strong rides in the late season stage races in China.
I was with the Academy again that year, I won some amateur races in Spain that year but yes, I like the Tours of Taihu Lake and Hainan, they’re different from European races but the level is good with Pro Continental teams present.
PEZ: Season 2019 saw you spend some time with the French Cotes d’Armor team.
That arrangement was part of my contract with the Academy, another good experience; I had some good placings in French stage races like the Tour du Loire et Cher and Tour d’Eure-et-Loire.
PEZ: And 2019 was when you joined the WorldTour – a culture shock?
It’s not easy to get on a World Tour team but when I was given the opportunity I was excited and grabbed it with both hands. The level is very high but I’ve just taken it step by step.
PEZ: You started 2020 well with a podium in a stage of the Tour Columbia 2.1.
That was a good result for my confidence but then Covid came and ruined the party. When racing came back in August I was motivated and fit, I won a stage in the Polish, Course Cycliste de Solidarnosc, it was just a small race but it was a UCi race and another step forward, I was also third on GC, I learned to fight hard on the climbs to achieve that placing. I was disappointed that the Chinese stage races were cancelled but I kept my motivation and fitness by turning to the velodrome.
PEZ: You squeezed in top 10 in Scheldeprijs in October 2020, though, a nice result with all the fastest guys there.
I didn’t feel I did a great sprint that day but it showed me that I could competitive against the best sprinters.
PEZ: Tell us about your experiences on the track.
I rode the European Championships in November where I rode the scratch and omnium; I have the fitness on the track but not the tactics, yet. I was meant to ride the madison too but that didn’t come off, I think that when I gain more experience I can be competitive on the boards.
PEZ: Another Polish win at the start of this year; you beat big Alois Kankovsky [Elkov & Czech Republic] to that one, I know him, he’s not slow !
That was the UCi 1.2 Visegard GP and I was riding for the Israeli National Squad, it was a completely flat parcours and I still had the speed from the track in my legs.
PEZ: Your first Grand Tour, the 2021 Vuelta, they say you’re a different rider after your first one?
I really liked the experience, whilst it was challenging it’s given me depth, I recovered quickly and can follow the moves on the climbs better now. I went better than I thought I would and had a fifth place finish on Stage Eight and a seventh place on Stage 13. But after the second rest day I just didn’t have the same energy flow through my body and on Stage 17 to Covadonga, I had to abandon. But that’s part of the game and I definitely feel that I benefited from the experience.
PEZ: What is season 2022 about?
I want to keep winning, I would love to win a one day race in Belgium or France, that’s where the one day levels are at the highest. And I want to keep gathering UCi points for both my team and my nation, Israel missed out by just 20 points to qualify for the Worlds – and of course we want to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Road Race in Paris.