To say that the stage was not set today for a grand finale at this Haifa round of the Israel Cup would be a major understatement. After a week of racing, the riders were ready for one final battle. The standings remained close at the top, and Israeli riders needed to attack from the start to make a go at the title on home turf. At the start, the atmosphere was electric - even among those spectators who braved the 30-degree (Celsius) heat to watch the international stars come out and play.
Haifa will host the European Championships later this year, and the Israeli Federation had taken this opportunity as a dress rehearsal.
The Polish team CCC Polsat Polkowice had made the trip and were the heavy favorites in the women's race. They brought Olympic silver medalist Maja Wloszczowska and the up and coming Alexandra Dawidowicz, who is the current U23 and World Champion.
They two raced from the start into the lead, not letting anyone else get close. The legs of the Israeli riders and other Cup contestants were tired, which did not seem to help matters.
Throughout the race, the spirit of the competitors was on display. For example, an under the weather Noga Korem (Team Misgav) still finished the race after taking a bash to the leg. A more impressive result came from the eventual winner of the series for the women, Ivonne Kraft. She managed a respectable fourth place even after breaking her seat post and having to finish the race without sitting. The first Israeli across the line was Inbar Ronen (CCC) who can hold her head high after some tough racing against the European contingent that came to race.
The men's race was less predictable. From the start, it was clear that the Israeli National Champion Shlomi Haimy (Infotre-Leecougen) and Rotem Ishai (Jamis/ Sager Sports LLC) were not going to rest on their laurels as they took up a fight against Austrian National Champion Hannes Metzler.
Haimy took off with a pace that saw him lead Ishai by half a minute by the end of the second lap. The group containing Metzler was a further half minute down. Things were looking exciting, but there was still an hour and a half of riding to go.
The heat forced spectators cheer from the few patches of shade available, especially as the home contingent was leading the race.
Metzler made his way to the front, slowly changing the dynamic of the race while Ishai closed the gap on Haimy. The two leaders seemed to be loosing ground to Metzler as Isahai edged past Haimy and took the lead trying to push home the advantage.
Haimy had an an unfortunate technical for the second day in a row and fell back. The Austrian Metzler was clearly now in charge. David Fletcher (Team Sky) also lost some ground due to a puncture.
It was not long before Metzler had joined Ishai at the head of the race. The two pushed each other with a few tests here and there. As the final lap drew to a close, spectators waited for a sprint finish.
However, unfortunately for them, Metzler had other plans in mind and made a move on one of the technical, rocky descents. It was a close battle in the end, with the Austrian leading Ishai across the line. Benjamin Sonntag and then Haimy followed in third and fourth.
As a dress rehearsal for the European Championships, the race seemed to be a success.
"After the fast start on the asphalt, I decided to slow it down as I knew it would be a long race," said Metzler. "I caught Rotem in the last lap and made a final attack because I was feeling really strong. I'm looking forward to coming back in July when I will be more prepared. I'm still the in the beginning of my season so we will see what happens but I get to go back home with a tan."
"Within the four races that took place (over the past two weeks), I'm very happy with the six podiums that we managed especially against the riders from Europe," said Ofir Galon, Israeli National Mountain Bike Coach. "It is still the start of the season and we are looking forward to the Europeans."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Hannes Metzler (Aut)||1:55:25|
|2||Rotem Ishai (Isr)||0:00:51|
|3||Benjamin Sonntag (Ger)||0:02:47|
|4||Shlomi Haimy (Isr)||0:03:22|
|5||Uwe Hochenwarter (Aut)||0:03:35|
|6||Wolfgang Krenn (Aut)||0:05:36|
|7||Bart Van Keimpema (Ned)||0:07:02|
|8||Evgeniy Pechenin (Rus)||0:07:15|
|9||Benjamin Buchi (Swi)||0:08:05|
|10||Oded Danon (Isr)||0:08:16|
|11||Fabian Strecker (Ger)||0:08:22|
|12||Idan Shapira (Isr)||0:10:03|
|13||Daniel Eliad (Isr)||0:10:27|
|14||David Fletcher (GBr)||0:11:27|
|15||Ryan Sherlock (Irl)||0:11:34|
|16||Dror Pekatch (Isr)||0:17:10|
|17||Amotz Nehoray (Isr)||0:17:57|
|18||Yoav Maor (Isr)|
|19||Itai Birinboim (Isr)|
|20||Alexey Belokrylov (Rus)|
|21||Amir Tenzer (Isr)|
|DNF||Sebastian Szraucner (Ger)|
|DNF||Markus Bauer (Ger)|
|DNF||Benjamin Shemidt (Isr)|
|DNS||Nizan Margalit (Isr)|
|DNS||Daniel Federspiel (Aut)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Maja Wloszczowska (Pol)||1:28:09|
|2||Aleksandra Dawidowicz (Pol)||0:02:35|
|3||Magdalena Sadlecka (Pol)||0:03:11|
|4||Ivonne Kraft (Ger)||0:06:50|
|5||Paula Gorycka (Pol)||0:07:46|
|6||Inbar Ronen (Isr)||0:11:11|
|7||Melanie Spath (Ger)||0:13:26|
|8||Karin Groen (Ned)||0:18:45|
|9||Noga Korem (Isr)||0:19:50|
|10||Paz Bash (Isr)||0:21:25|
|11||Idit Shub (Isr)|
|12||Asa Maria Erlandsson (Swe)|