Impey joins Chris Froome at Israel Start-Up Nation as Tour de France road captain

Daniel Benson
·4-min read
 Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey celebrates winning the 2019 Tour Down Under
Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey celebrates winning the 2019 Tour Down Under

Daryl Impey has signed a two-year contract with Israel Start-Up Nation, with the South African set to join the team as Chris Froome's road captain at next year’s Tour de France.

As Cyclingnews reported last month, Impey had the choice between re-signing with his current team Mitchelton-Scott or moving to Israel Start-Up Nation, with the team on the lookout for experienced Grand Tour riders capable of supporting Froome at the Tour.

"I decided to make a fresh start. I feel like I need to step out of the comfort zone of Mitchelton-Scott. I had great success with the team, formed many strong friendships, and made amazing memories. I can't thank them enough for getting me this far in my career," Impey said in a press release issued by his future team.

Impey, 35, has been with Mitchelton Scott since 2012 and become one of their most loyal and successful riders. He has won a stage in the Tour de France, worn the yellow jersey, and claimed back-to-back titles in the Tour Down Under in 2018 and 2019. However, it’s his skills as a road captain and his versatile traits on the flats and in the mountains that attracted Israel Start-Up Nation. 

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Mitchelton-Scott have been holding out hope, even until last week, that Impey would re-sign and see out his career with them but the prospect of a new challenge tipped the South African towards a role on Froome’s new team.

"It certainly wasn't an easy decision – I gave it a great deal of thought. But it's exciting to work with a new team, with new energy and new ambitions," Impey said. 

"The most crucial reason is the challenge that is waiting for me at ISN. After speaking with ISN co-owner Sylvan Adams and the team's management, I got the sense that they see other aspects of me as a bike rider. I will have the opportunity to play a leadership role, and as a team captain I will be given more responsibility and a huge challenge at the same time.

"Team ISN has moved through the ranks very quickly; and now it's about trying to create a winning culture. I will use my experience over the past decade to instill this in the younger guys and make sure we are always progressing. I'm excited about it."

Both Froome and Impey road together at Barloworld in 2009 before the British rider moved to Team Sky and Impey signed for Lance Armstrong’s Radioshack. The South African bounced around for several years with one-year stints at Team MTN Qhubeka and Team NetApp before joining Mitchelton-Scott – then known as Orica GreenEdge. A lasting friendship with Froome also played a role in his decision to change direction.

“It's not often you get to race with one of the greats in our sport, so when Chris called me and said he trusts me and would like to have me by his side I appreciated that and knew he meant it. I have known him a long time and our careers have nearly come full circle – we started out together at Barloworld and we are continuing at ISN. I know he can win another Tour de France, and it will be great to not only be part of that team, but to play an important role.”

Analysis

Impey’s move from Mitchelton-Scott to Israel Start-Up Nation has been on the cards for several weeks. The sponsorship issues surrounding the Australian team appear to have eased in that time, with Gerry Ryan promising the squad’s roster that they all had contract offers for the next two years.

His signing is a huge for Israel Start-Up Nation. The squad lack depth in a number of departments if they are to genuinely support Froome at the Tour de France and while they scour the transfer market for climbers and time trial specialists, the position of an experienced road captain cannot be overlooked.

Impey’s versatility on all but the toughest Grand Tour climbs will be a crucial asset to Froome, who will need help when it comes to shaping the team for 2021. Carl Fredrik Hagen has already been announced but even with more climbers on their way to the team, Impey’s arrival is a major coup for the squad.