Pros prepare in Israel

It's the time of year when many professional cyclists head to warmer climates for training camps. When looking for warm European countries for early-season training, Israel's Dror Pekatch, who races for Subaru - Gary Fisher, had an idea. "I will not go there. I will bring the riders here". He wanted to give pro riders the chance to train somewhere warm while also pushing himself to climb within the elite ranks by training with top riders, so the Isrotel International Training Camp was born.

"Here in Israel we have all that is needed - high quality roads and trails, perfect winter weather," said Pekatch. "In general, Israel is a real cycling country, only no one really knows that yet, so I took it upon myself to spread the word."

He ran a pilot camp in 2007 which evolved it into a full-blown camp for 2008. On January 18, seven international racers landed in Israel, including Swiss Christof Bishof (Bikin' Cyprus Team), Great Britain's Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven), Bernardine Boog (Dutch National Team and Giant), former Belgian national team member Gody Jacobs (Univega Pro Cycling Team), Dutch riders Ilya and Mike Velter (FCC de Plakpunters) and Spain's Aitor Azpiazu (TACC). They joined two other Israeli riders Zachi Boygen and Ori Zur (TACC).

Thanks to the Isrotel Ramon Inn, riders got room and board along with a staff of mechanics and soigneurs to support their training efforts on and off the bikes.

In eight days, camp attendees covered 960 kilometers over 28 hours of riding time with the longest ride being 190 km along the Israel-Egypt border on a beautiful, sunny day with breathtaking views. Riders were surprised by the quality of the roads and trails and level of general support. Pekatch credited his Subaru-Gary Fisher team manager Jon Rourke for setting an example of how to take care of pro riders.

"If I had known this is how its going to be, I would have come last year," said a happy Richardson. "I will be here next year, for sure."

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