Israel- Gasping for breath in the desert
The Gehrig Twins take on the Samarathon Desert Race in Israel to prepare for the Enduro World Series.
It's been quite a while since we last took part in a marathon race together as a Twins team. Okay, we weren't really looking for that either. But we just had to follow the call of Noga Korem, our Israeli friend and competitor in the Enduro World Series: A marathon race in the middle of the European winter in Israel's desert? Ok Noga, we are in!
What kind of sports equipment do you choose for marathon races? Right, Enduro bikes of course – maybe not. But unfortunately, our light trail rockets simply didn't find their way to us in time. Lighter wheels and thinner tires with a fast rubber compound must be sufficient for the endurance trim of our bikes – we don't have any ambitions for the front ranks anyway.
When you escape a too-warm winter with more rain than snow you would at least expect the sun shining when you arrive in a desert country, but we were greeted by a draining rain cloud again after arrival. We feel fooled by the weather caprioles! "Do not worry," Noga says. "In the desert, it will certainly be nice and warm." To our astonishment, Taxi-Noga drove up in a rather small compact car. We have our first doubts about how the four of us with all the luggage are going to fit into the very compact mobile. Thanks to our Tetris skills, we get the seemingly impossible task "packed" and the journey can begin.
The first evening in Jerusalem begins with culinary delights. The exploratory tour through the old market makes our senses go crazy so that we can reconcile our palates with some of the famous Israeli delicacies. However, acclimatizing is not only about the stomach, because the legs also want to be moved a little before they are plagued with lactate again.
Good luck resisting all the sweet delights at the Old Market (Mahane Yehuda) in Jerusalem. The Israeli have a sweet tooth that's for sure!
From sweets to the sweet trail, the "Sugar Trail" near Jerusalem is usually part of the standard tour program. Knowing how much we like sweets, Noga takes us straight to the "Sweeter than the Sugar Trail", which starts very close by.
Now the European winter is moving into the far distance. The landscape welcomes us in the most beautiful spring dress and the otherwise barren desert shines with green hills and colorful flowers in full bloom. With unrestrained anticipation, we start into a trail pleasure for miles. The trail winds its way through the desert steppe in a flowing and beautiful way, the warming sun in the neck, the decision to turn our backs on the Flims winter for a short time is celebrated properly.
The ride marked Noga's come back on a MTB after her horrific training crash in winter.
Soon we leave Jerusalem and set off south in the late afternoon. The following day the Samarathon Desert Mountain Bike Race is already taking place. But another highlight is already ticked off halfway there - bathing in the Dead Sea. The buoyancy of the water, which is rich in salt and minerals, is enormous, and it gives you the feeling of really floating on the water instead of lying in it. This experience completely exceeds our expectations, and our bucket list once again got a bit smaller.
However, not only does the Dead Sea have the ability to suspend gravity, it does the same with time. So much that we are now behind schedule and get our race numbers at the last minute. Not so lucky we are with our dinner. All restaurants have already closed, so we have no choice but to do the carboloading with a gas station salad - as we would not know better about athlete food.
"Huh, what's wrong? I am a little bit confused when the alarm clock rings. No, 5:30 is not the time we usually get out of bed. But the start of the first stage is set early!
The start time is set early but we still have time for some banter in the morning.
At the start of the Samarathon Race, we can't help smiling. What are we actually doing here? We the downhill fanatics amidst cross-country and marathon racers and especially their lightweight carbon rockets. While many participants even took their hardtails, we feel quite out of place with 14 kilograms of "light" Enduro bolides. "Anyway, we're here for fun and we'll have fun with the big bikes too!"
Joe's No Flats our sponsor for bike care product and sealant is based in Israel, thankfully they took care of our bikes.
The starting signal goes off and it begins bumpy and sandy. We ride regularly and fast, but we have to divide the race up because we have 72 kilometers to complete. We master the first big ramp well, but we were warned not to underestimate the following long flat section. Now it is also clear why. Going forward is really tough, the ground is sandy and deep, with headwind on top. The teams riding with us are not a big help either. They prefer to hang in our slipstream rather than do some leadership work themselves. Caro's tactics also seem familiar to me from past races: She hooks onto my back wheel and doesn't make any effort to get away from it.
We - or rather I - fight our way through the wind. After the almost endless flat section, the reward comes in the form of a cool single trail descent. The last ten kilometers are long and the redemption is great when the palm trees of Timna Park appear in front of us like a fata morgana. Highfive to day one - despite Caro's passive tactics - we did well! And to our complete satisfaction, unlike the evening before, we are spoiled culinary today. So not only trail- but also culinary delights are guaranteed at the Samarathon.
But the day should not end without surprises: As winners of our category, we will start on the second day of the race with the leader jerseys. How did we do that with Enduro bikes? - Crazy!
Norco Sight C9 "Marathon Edition" – the lightweight trim of our Enduro Bikes involves XMC all-mountain wheels from DT Swiss with fast-rolling and light WTB tires plus Crankbrothers candy instead of Mallet and that's as far as we changed anything.
XC on an Enduro Bike= Shock stays on firm
Despite the leader's jersey, we start the second day in no means harmoniously. Caro complains about not feeling well but I don't really believe her. In spite of my doubts about her stomach problem, I set an easy pace. But she lets herself fall back again and again until we start to hiss at each other. Fortunately, none of the participants around us understands our war of words in Swiss dialect. But it must have brought something. "I can't look at your ass anymore - I'm going to ride in front now," Caro expresses herself unmistakably. I do not contradict her and hold my grin back. Obviously Caro has dug herself out of her mental depression and is now kicking the pedals harder. With the change of position, we suddenly get forward again.
Already after the 15-kilometer long start-loop, we turn into a trail that was previously touted to us as a highlight of the race. It will lead us over 30 kilometers through the desert. There are no more long climbs and if there are any, they wind their way up the mountain with a moderate gradient. The trail is very beautifully arranged. Racing in the desert in the middle of winter is no walk in the park for the body. Our body system responds to this climate shock with liter by liter of sweat loss and Caro suffers from calf cramps.
Nevertheless, we find rhythm and laughter again - it is quite nice to take part in this race together. After more than 50 kilometers we cross the finish line, happy and relieved in one. A really cool experience, to which our bikes have led us once again, surprise included. The fact that we even won the two-day classification of the Samarathon is quite unexpected for us. Our form can't be bad when we cross the finish line as the fastest women's team with the heaviest bikes in the field.
Now we are moving on to the more comfortable part of the journey, although a long car journey to Jerusalem. We meet in the evening with the tourist guide who will show us the city the next day. During the dinner together we learn a lot about the history of Israel and we get to know typical dishes again - as Foodies we can't hide our passion here. Shakshuka, pita, and much more - the list seems endless and practically all dishes are incredibly delicious.
The famous Western Wall. Religion and its history are omnipresent in Jerusalem. The subject overwhelms us!
In the sightseeing part of our onward journey, we don't miss Tel Aviv of course. The city alone is worth the trip: Hip coffees, delicious restaurants, and apparently a crazy party scene as well as a super nice beach promenade that reminds us of Miami Beach.
In the north of the country, where Noga lives, we test the trails in the Misgav area. The contrast to the desert trails couldn't be bigger, here it's green and a bit cooler. The trails are all centrally connected on two hills. Here you won't get bored so quickly. On the numerous, but relatively short trails, you can romp around very well. The trails wind their way through the light woods.
The crew around Noga is anxious to build even better trails here. Last autumn the first Enduro race in Israel took place here and there will even be an Enduro World Series Qualifier race in the future.
But before we start thinking about racing again, the rumbling stomach is calmed down - with a large portion of hummus. Getting away from the winter was the right decision, which has made us rich in memories once again. Three days after our arrival at home, Isreal closed its borders to get the Covid19 pandemic under control. When we can start our next journey, that will probably remain unanswered for some time. Israel tips:
- Tel Aviv/ Jaffa: To see as much as possible and travel individually, rent a lime scooter.
- Dead Sea: You shouldn't miss the floating bath of the Dead Sea.
- Desert trip: Sleep or hike in a tent and enjoy the simple life. Must do!
- Jerusalem: The city has an incredibly long history and plays a central role in religion. Take a young cosmopolitan guide and you will learn more than just dates of Christian events.
- The Old Market (Mahane Yehuda): This is worth a visit in the evening, as the market stalls give way to cool bars and food stalls - well worth seeing.
- Blundstones: The national shoes of the Israeli. Everyone wears these shoes originating from Australia to everything and everywhere. Accordingly, the offer is high and the prices quite low.
- Dessert: Dessert and other sweets are available in different variations. Try out Knafeh- it's a cheesy warm sweet.
Thanks Noga Korem #nogatours
for the unforgetable trip!!Follow us for more adventures on bikes, racing and good times! ;-)
Thanks to Samarathon and Israel Tourism for hosting us. Thanks to our amazing Norco Twins Racing sponsors:
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