Holyland MTB Challenge - The desert dash and the finish line

Holyland MTB Challenge - The desert dash and the finish line

By Paul Errington>

So what an experience HLC was!!! I am still blown away by it all and it went way beyond my expectations, physically and emotionally very draining but ultimately very rewarding. With temperatures tipping over 40 degrees in the heat of the day and up to 120km between water stops, the 10 days have seen me race my way across Israel as part of the HolyLand MTB Challenge event. It offered a physical and mental challenge with such a huge variety in terrain but with welcome consistency in the welcoming nature of everyone we met in Israel.

Just a very special journey that I look forward to trying to capture in words as I start a series of blogs over the forthcoming weeks that I hope will encapsulate the whole experience as accurately as possible.

To kick things off I can look back at how I got prepared. Strangely it was to be on two skis rather than two wheels as I trained for the massive Birken Ski race. This, however, was to end in dissapointment as they cancelled the event on the morning of the race. I soon overcame this by quickly refocusing on a new challenge, one which soon quashed all plans of staying firmly in the UK this year. As soon as I had signed up for the Holyland MTB Challenge it was Preperation Time.

Running through what I felt to be essential for this new bike packing adventure. As with every event I've done, I find each one leading me along this "Process of Constant Refinement"

Waking in our dusty clearing, we were soon rolling, and the trail we couldn’t find the night before was just as elusive in the daylight. We resorted to bush-whacking through the vegetation until we popped out onto a very distinct trail.

Today’s goal was Tel Aviv and beyond. The promise of a roll along the coast and plenty of food options on offer spurred us on.

The days riding would see us skirt the Israel/Palestinian current border. While doing so, we witnessed carloads of Palestinians being dropped off near a gap in the fence where they would exit to waiting cars on Israeli soil before being sped away. Another highlight as to just how real and raw this event can be. This was TV esq images occurring right in front of us.

Under advisement we had spent the night in Arad as we had been told the descent to the Dead Sea was worth riding and appreciating in daylight. We weren’t disappointed. A gravel road descent into a wadi then led us to a seriously technical and steep descent. I chose caution whereas Ricky and James went fully committed.

There are moments in cycling where all of a sudden, an immense realisation of just how amazing what you are doing hits you, apprehension was suddenly replaced by joy as we rolled through a steep-sided, narrow wadi. The scenery was alike something from Star Wars .. all of a sudden we were on Tatooine in search of Old Ben Kenobi.

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