PARIS: Guy Niv says he will have goosebumps when he pedals off from the start in Nice on Saturday to become the first Israeli rider to compete in the Tour de France.
The 26-year-old is part of the ambitious Israel Start-Up Nation team that will also be debuting in the world's greatest cycle race, joining the likes of experienced team mates Dan Martin and Andre Greipel.
"I am honoured and privileged to represent my country and team in the biggest race in cycling and one of the greatest sporting events in the world," said Niv, a former mountain biker who only took up road racing three years ago.
"And to be the first Israeli to do so? It might sound like a cliche, but it's a dream come true. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. It's huge. I cannot wait."
The Israel Start-Up Nation team were only formed five years ago, but are thinking big and have signed four-times Tour de France winner Chris Froome for next season.
For now, they are targeting stage wins and raising the profile of cycling in Israel.
"We strive for more than just the glory of racing in the Tour de France," team founder Ron Baron said. "We want every kid in Israel to say, 'I can be Guy Niv one day'."
While everything will be new for Niv, renowned climber Martin is in his eighth Tour while vastly-experienced sprinter Greipel will be looking to add to his 11 Tour stage wins.
Martin suffered a crash at the Criterium de Dauphine and his place in the team has been touch-and-go.
"I'm truly grateful to the team for being so patient and allowing me the time to really assess my condition after the crash in the Dauphine," he said.
"I expect to suffer through the first stages as I have missed a bit of training, but I am incredibly excited to use my experience in the race to help the team."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)