The next day we headed off to the course in Haifa. Since the race acted as a test-run for the European Champs in June, a few more people had signed up in my category, notable the Polish national team, including Maja Wloszczowska (2008 Olympic Silver medalist, 2009 European Champ) and Aleksandra Dawidowicz (U23 World & European Champion). We set off and from the start it felt as if I went into a blind race. I didn't have a very good start and went into single-track in about 8th position. I made up a few places to 6th place before I hit the first technical rock drop. I went into it full speed, but I misjudged my line and caught my handlebar in the rock on the side and almost took a tumble. Luckily I was able to quickly unclip my foot and hold the fall with my foot, but unluckily my foot hit the ground hard and in a bad position, so that I twisted my ankle and hurt a tendon. I thought this was the end of my race, but after the initial pain subsided I was able to get going again. I had lost a place to Ivonne in the process and Inbar Ronen overtook me shortly after, so that I was back in 8th position. As long as the course was non-technical it was OK to go on, but any slight movement of my ankle put me back into agony. I was so scared of having to dab in the technical sections that I preemptively walked most of them, of course loosing even more time. Finally I finished the race in 7th position, since Asa suffered a flat tire.
In hindsight we should have spent more time pre-riding this far more technical course, one slow lap just wasn't enough, and I'm sure I could have avoided that stupid slip in the first lap, but hindsight is always 20/20 vision. At least I was able to finish the race, even though I am still hobbling 3 days later...
And so ended our Israeli adventure, only to be followed by our adventurous 21 hour trip home that involved 4 separate flights over 5 airports and lost bike bags in Heathrow (again....).
A big thanks to the Syrkin family for arranging and providing lodging, and again Klaus Sonntag for feedzone support. Ryan and I had a very enjoyable time in Israel and everybody we met has been extremely friendly and helpful - we will definitely be back again next year!
Race results available on cyclingnews.com.