En route to the Tour: Oct. 7 survivors join Israeli cycling team in Florence
From left: Oct. 7 survivors Sharon Shevo and Avida Bachar and Israel Premier Tech co-owner Sylvan Adams prepare to board a flight to Italy for the Tour de France, at Ben Gurion Airport, June 26, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

The Israel-Premier Tech team will race the Tour de France for the fifth time.

By Amelie Botbol
June 26, 2024

Two survivors of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre took off in a private jet from Tel Aviv for Italy on Wednesday to meet up with the Israeli team competing in the world’s most prestigious cycling race.

The 111th edition of the Tour de France will be the Israel-Premier Tech (IPT) team’s fifth time competing in the event. Twenty-two teams will take part in the 2,174-mile, 21-stage race, which starts in Florence on June 29 and ends in Nice on July 21 (for the first time, it will not end in Paris, due to preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics in the French capital).

Joining the riders are amateur cyclists Avida Bachar, from Kibbutz Be’eri, who lost his son, wife and one of his legs in the Hamas invasion, and Sharon Shevo, also from Kibbutz Be’eri, who was wounded in the attack while riding his bicycle.

“At a time when we are in a difficult battle, it is of great importance for us to participate in the biggest race in the world with ‘Israel’ emblazoned on our uniforms,” said IPT co-owner Sylvan Adams. 

The team features riders Pascal Ackermann (Germany), Guillaume Boivin (Canada), Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark), Derek Gee (Canada), Hugo Houle (Canada), Krists Neilands (Latvia), Jake Stewart (Britain) and Stevie Williams (Britain). 

Israel-Premier Tech’s team for the 2024 Tour de France. Credit: Israel-Premier Tech.

“The Tour de France is the most important race in the world. It’s the dream of every biker and every team so for us it’s extremely important,” IPT CEO Ido Shavit told JNS. “We started 10 years ago as a small team. We kept improving over the years. We had some difficulties but we continued to do our best. We’ve had our best season ever.”

IPT has thus far recorded 16 stage victories across all competitions.

“For me as an Israeli right now, with everything happening, it’s very important to be on stage with the name ‘Israel’ on our chest,” Shavit also said.

In the last two editions of the Tour de France, IPT won three stages altogether. The team won two stages in 2022 and scored a spectacular win in 2023 in stage 9 at the Puy de Dome by Canadian IPT rider Michael Woods. 

While most of the focus will be on the race, events will be held in advance to commemorate the victims of Hamas’s terrorist onslaught and hear from the survivors.

“Be’eri is a village of cyclists in the ‘Gaza Envelope.’ We used to go to do races. There’s a lot of riders. And they were part of the cycling community,” Ron Baron, an investment manager who founded the IPT team in 2014, told JNS. “Many of them got killed, kidnapped, injured. Am Yisrael is a big family. We help each other,” he added.

From left: Oct. 7 survivors Sharon Shevo and Avida Bachar, IPT founder Ron Baron and co-owner Sylvan Adams at Ben-Gurion Airport, June 26, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

Adams had promised to take Bachar and Shevo to the Tour’s opening once they completed rehabilitation. During their stay in Florence, they will join training sessions and participate in several commemorations held by the Jewish community.

The survivors will also address the Italian crowd at Thursday’s annual Balagan Cafe cultural festival in the garden of the Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze synagogue.

On Wednesday night, the Israeli team will honor professional cyclist and two-time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali’s contribution to saving Italian Jews under Nazi occupation. In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Bartali (1914-2000) as a Righteous Among the Nations for risking his life to save Jews during the Holocaust.

“Biking is part of my life. Although I practice mountain bike, there’s no doubt that the Tour de France is an amazing athletic experience. They offered me [the chance] to come and I was glad to accept,” Bachar said.

Nearly nine months after losing his wife and son, he is struggling to cope.

“I’m trying to hold on. I work on my leg, I’m hoping to be independent again. Whether I want it or not, I’m part of this story and it’s my story, it’s my situation now,” he said.

Every year, Bachar goes on bike trips abroad with about a dozen of his friends, including Shevo. Before Oct. 7, they had visited Montenegro together, and in September they plan to ride in Austria.

Amelie Botbol with Oct. 7 survivors Avida Bachar (left) and Sharon Shevo, June 26, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

“For me, the Tour de France is a dream. I was there with my son eight years ago, it was amazing,” said Shevo, who was out training for the Epic Israel competition on the morning of Oct. 7 when he was ambushed by Hamas terrorists and wounded in the arm.

“We took a trip for his bar mitzvah. We saw the finish in the Alps,” he told JNS.  

“Biking has been my hobby for 20 years. After October 7, I underwent surgery, I was in the hospital for one month and in rehabilitation for eight months. I’m doing better, I still have limitations in my hand but I can still ride, even with one hand,” he said. 

Shevo was rescued by the Israel Defense Forces outside of Be’eri close to the site of the Supernova music festival. His son Shaked, an IDF officer, battled the terrorists for hours to protect the rest of the family. For five hours after he was brought to the hospital by the army, Shevo did not know whether his family had survived.

“On October 7, that terrible day, anyone who survived received the gift of life all over again. It could have easily been the end for me and my family,” he told JNS.

Kibbutz Be'eri
Kibbutz Be’eri after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Edi Israel/Flash90.

Earlier this week, Adams met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, where he presented the head of state with an official IPT jersey for the Tour de France.

“Especially now, we must stand on every stage, in every competition and on every track, and give everything we have,” said Herzog.

He thanked Adams for his leadership in Israel advocacy and sport, adding: “You’re showing the world the beautiful face of Israel on and off the track, and you’re doing so at a critical time. So, for this year’s Tour de France, as in previous years, we wish you ‘Bonne chance!’”

Israel-Premier Tech co-owner Sylvan Adams presents President Isaac Herzog with a team jersey at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, June 23, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

Adams himself is a cycling champion, having won the 65-69 Masters age category at August’s 2023 UCI Gran Fondo championship in Perth, Scotland, conquering the 87 kilometer (54 mile) route through rolling terrain. Days later, he won the 22 kilometer (13.67 mile) trial by more than a minute.

During a meeting this spring, Adams told JNS that efforts to disrupt the Tour de France over the Israeli team’s participation would be an “obtuse moral inversion” by haters of the Jewish state.

A BDS statement called to “block the roads to genocide.” It singled out Adams for his attempt to “sanitize” Israel’s military actions in the war, triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, through sport.

“These haters have it precisely backward: On Oct. 7, it was Hamas that began a genocidal campaign of murder, torture, rape, butchering, burning and desecration on an unimaginable scale and with heartless cruelty,” Adams told JNS.

“In response, we fight to defend the homeland, morally, with one arm tied behind our backs, as we go to great lengths, including additional losses of our brave young soldiers, in order to minimize civilian casualties,” he said.

Over the last decade, Adams has served as an unofficial ambassador for Israel around the globe, transcending the media narrative of a country engulfed in conflict.

He brought to Israel Lionel Messi and the Argentine national soccer team for an exhibition game, Madonna to the Eurovision Song Contest finals, and the French Super Cup, all in Tel Aviv. He was also responsible for organizing Israel’s hosting of the first three stages of the largest sporting event to ever grace Israel’s shores, the 2018 Giro d’Italia grand Tour road cycling race.

In December, Adams donated $100 million to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva to strengthen southern Israel. A month later, he initiated a global solidarity ride with the participation of hundreds of thousands of cyclists in over 40 cities around the world, calling for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The next month, Adams visited Gaza border communities, where he announced investments to build cycling and sports infrastructure in the region.

Baron told JNS that when he first embarked on the IPT journey, he had the “vision and dream to have an Israeli rider in the Tour de France, which no one thought could happen.

“What we are doing now—we are already four or five years in the Tour de France—we are going to Florence with the name ‘Israel.’ We are very proud of it, and we think that this diplomacy of promoting Israel through sports and through our great team is doing well for the riders, country and the world,” he said.

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