After the last Sunshine Cup race in Cyprus, Ryan and I flew over to Israel to do the 3rd and 4th race of the Israeli Cup, which were held back to back on the 12th and 13th of March. We arrived in Tel Aviv late on Tuesday evening and stayed overnight in Tel Aviv. When we searched for the place late at night in the quite derelict historic Yemenite quarter near the beach I was fearing for the worst, but all my fears were laid to rest when we were received by the two very friendly proprietors of Eden Guest House. The state of general disrepair of the buildings in this area created a stark contrast to the adorably decorated room, complete with fairy curtains and lit smelly candle lights. The next day we had an amazing feast of the "Israeli breakfast" before heading off to Netanya to visit the Matzman Merutz Specialized workshop.
Both Ryan and I had a few things to get fixed and serviced on our bikes - 3 weeks training and racing in the rough countryside of Cyprus were taking their toll - and the Specialized Workshop had kindly offered to get our bikes back into perfect race shape for the two Israeli races. In fact, we - and our bikes - got the real VIP treatment (now we know what it would feel like as a real pro!), every creak and ceased bearing was followed up on and both the front and back shocks were professionally serviced. After a full day of work on our bikes there were again in tip-top condition!
The next day we went to pre-ride the course of the first race in Ma'anit. The course proved to be a fairly flat and fast affair of a few bits of fireroad and a lot of beautiful flowy singletrack. Some of it was through some grassy fields with the rest winding its way through some cooling forest that provided some much needed shade, because it was very hot, over 35 degree Celsius! The singletrack was mainly dried out hardpack dirt and provided a lot of grip, speckled with some rocky sections to test your bike handling skills - all fairly non-technical but a lot of fun!
After the pre-ride of the Ma'anit course we drove over to the European Champs course in Haifa, since there would be no time to pre-ride the course before the race due to races being held before ours. Since it was extremely hot (for us), we decided to only do one lap of the course. The course was very different from the Ma'anit course: It was a lot more technical and had a lot more climb, with a few sections of purpose-built bermy and bumpy single-track, with one section reminiscent of a pump-track. It also featured a cross-over bridge and a few techy sections where the single-track crossed back and forth across a rocky hill-side.
Only nine women lined up in the Elite class on race day in Ma'anit, including Ivonne Kraft from Germany, Asa Maria Erlandsson from Sweden and Inbar Ronen, the Israeli National Champion. From the start Ivonne went into the lead, with me closely on her wheel and Asa not far behind us. The pace was comfortable and the three of us separated fairly quickly from the rest of the field. It was so much fun to hit the single-track at full speed! Unfortunately I made a few small mistakes, and each time Asa came close to my wheel in those but I was able to keep ahead of her. I also came close to Ivonne Kraft a few times, but wasn't able to overtake her. We stayed in this formation until lap 4 out of 5 laps, when Asa attacked and overtook me. Unfortunately I couldn't follow, it seemed like I had only one speed that day. I finished in this position only half a minute down on Ivonne and 12 seconds down on Asa. Although I didn't feel that I pushed myself very hard in this race I was still satisfied with the result.
Many many thanks to Yusal, Haggai and Adi from the Specialized Workshop (Matzman Merutz) in Netanya for being extremely helpful and professional and giving our bikes the full VIP treatment before the race and for sending a brand new Specialized Epic for standby to the bike shop near the race place, thanks to Ori from the bike shop helping out on short notice when we needed it - we wouldn't have been able to race our bikes without all your help, and Klaus Sonntag for feedzone support.
Race results available on cyclingnews.com.