Mid season update after Israel championships
After a rough first half of 2015 racing season, battling lingering health issues between training/work/traveling/racing, I was able to refocus after the two European world cups in Germany and Czech Republic and pick up my fitness gradually and steadily. In Missoula Pro XCT I noticed my body back in good health and I was able to put a stable race into 15th place, the following weekend in Colorado Springs US Pro Cup I kept the same trend of improvement and finished 10th in the XC and 9th in STXC.
Mixing those good results between my Jamis Dakar full suspension and Dakota hardtail, according to the course. But tire/wheel wise, I found the Vittoria Barzo on Stan’s Valors the ultimate combo – wheels are super light and responsive, while the Barzo tires give me confidence on practically any terrain. Playing with the air pressure on the Barzo tire really changes its “character” within every 2-3 psi range and gives me a great terrain range between hardpack, fast and smooth, through loose, steep and even slippery and wet. You can probably find a specific tire for each one of those terrains on the Vittoria tire line but the Barzo can run them all with great confidence, just playing with the tire pressure up or down a bit.
Less than two weeks after US Pro Cup finals and I was making the leap over the Atlantic pond to race in Israel. Two days after my arrival was the Israeli Cup UCI C2 race in Mishmar Ha’Emek forest. The course included super fast, smooth and twisty trails with only one short climb. Somehow it felt like we descended more than we climbed! Short and fast lap made it feel like a fat tire criterium, leading me and my Israeli contender Shlomi Haimy to a last lap sprint finish with I was able to hold the front wheel first and grab the “W”.
Six days later were the Israel national championships, so the time spent mostly recovering from the race, travels, still jet lagging and getting familiar with the nationals course. The course was pretty cool, fast and not significant in climbing or technically challenging. Cool mountain biking not selective in any means.
The spectators got an interesting championship fight as me and Shlomi separated from the rest of the field quickly and lead out the race wheel to wheel, very conservative and tactically, while changing the lead here and there. At a certain point it was clear that it will probably come to a last lap push or even a sprint finish on the last climb, and I was ready in full force. I took the front wheel coming into the last lap and after going through the second rock garden descent into the first climb, my chain fell off… I had to stop and get the chain back on there, when Shlomi passed me and opened a 20-30 seconds gap by the time I started riding again. I rode my heart out for the last 3 km until the last climb when I realized the fight for the victory is done. Second place is a loss in my case that day, especially after overcoming a bad first half season and gaining my fitness back.
There are lessons I learned that day which I take with me on my path to step up my game and progress as a professional mountain biker and on my path to the 2016 Olympics. Failure is the rich soil for future success, and hard/smart work is the water to feed it.
I’m already wrapping my final couple days here in Israel before traveling with the rest of the Israeli national team to northern Italy for the European Championships.
On other non racing notes, my visit back home in Israel has been a pleasure! I did my best to not do too much, as I usually do here while on a visit, but had the pleasure and time to meet with friends, family, have great Mediterranean food, chill on the beach and hit some summer dusted Israeli trails.