Photos by: Antonios Charalambous
When Andrew Neethling was offered to race enduro in Cyprus, he jumped at the chance to explore this little-known but greatly-loved Mediterranean island. Andrew had met Andreas Theodorou, the multiple Cypriot Enduro and Downhill Campion, at the Leogang Downhill World Cup a few years ago. The two of them had mulled over potential riding trips and enthused about the chance to ride in Cyprus together, so when the invite came, Andrew snapped it up.
Cyprus sits in the far east of the Mediterranean Sea, a beautiful island that offers snow-capped peaks and golden beaches just an hour drive apart. By European standards, it has warm winters and very hot summers, but there’s enough rain to give the dirt a bit of grip and pack down the never-ending network of trails. Beyond the touristic enclaves of Limassol or Ayia Napa lies a peaceful, rural land of hillside villages which date back to antiquity, and layers of mountains that rise towards the country’s highest point, Mount Olympus at 1951 metres, in the Troodos National Park. From here, it’s downhill all the way to the beach for a cold Keo beer!
Andrew was welcomed in Cyprus by the owner of the Troodos Hotel and driven up into the mountains to his accommodation. This set the tone for the trip; one of warmth, hospitality and friendship for which Cypriots are famed. No favour too big, no welcome too small. Despite Cyprus hosting one of the top cross-country stage races in the world - The Cyprus Sunshine Epic - and accommodating some of the very best professional road riders for winter training, the riding scene in the country is still quite small. With this comes an intimacy which makes you smile! All the riders at the enduro race knew each other, from young XC racers to older enduro enthusiasts. Whatever the skill level and whatever the bike, the passion is always evident. Passion for riding, and also a passion for building.
This passion is evident in Athalassa National Park, on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia. Here, a small but impressive network of well-groomed trails offers a taster for first-time mountain bikers as well as a perfect playground for the well-initiated. It is, says Andrew, similar to the scene in South Africa back in the day when trails were first being built and people were discovering the love and the possibilities for mountain biking.
Up in the Troodos Mountains, Andrew raced over a mix of old hiking tracks, purpose-built mountain bike trails and fire roads. Some steep and rocky, others tight and twisting or fast and dusty. The landscape lends itself perfectly to carving technical tracks over rocky outcrops and around the roots of pungent pine trees. Andrew was also treated to some runs down Andreas’ own DH course, a passion project of nearly two years of careful crafting which boasts big boardwalk berms, jumps plus the best of the natural terrain.
Epic views, crazy-cool trails and stunning sunsets are what Cyprus is all about. Andrew sees endless potential here - and with thanks to George Theodorou at Troodos Hotel, the Troodos Tourism Board and the Troodos Development Company, along with event organisers like Mike Hadjioannou of Activate Cyprus and riders like Andreas - we can’t help but think it will blossom.