Biking in Israel? An adventure? Nathalie Schneitter from the ROSE Vaujany fueled by UltraSPORTS team has been successfully competing on the cross-country circuit for many years. She loves to experience and discover new things and places and occasionally takes unconventional paths in her pre-season training. Nathalie tells us what motivated her trip to the “Land of Creation” and what she experienced there.
Do you know anyone who’s been mountain biking in Israel? Exactly! Neither do I. I specialize in adventures of all kinds. My hobby is experiencing new things and my passion is discovering new places on my mountain bike. And if I can share this with people who have the same interests, so much the better!
Most tourists’ motivation to visit Israel is cultural. Our mission was different. Our goal was to ride the best single tracks in the country and to compete in the Samarathon Desert MTB Race as the grand finale.
We rode Israeli trails for an entire week before the race, starting in the north at Manara Cliff and in the Misgav Forest, which reminded me of Tuscany. The spring flowers were in bloom and we sometimes returned from training covered in mud.
We traveled all the way down south into the Negev Desert, where we were thrilled by the huge variety of rock formations and challenged by both the riding technique required and the demands put on our gear. Since I’m always attracted by the opportunity to discover new things, I was stoked about exploring the desert. I’d previously thought there would be nothing to see apart from sand and stones, but I was astounded by the diversity of the landscapes.
We didn’t just ride our bikes, of course: we also explored the Old Town of Jerusalem, experienced fantastic cuisine and enjoyed Israeli hospitality to the fullest. We were all very surprised at how friendly the people were who greeted us at every street corner. But it’s probably the same the world over: we mountain bikers are a big family. If you meet mountain bikers from far-off places in your own country, you’re ready to show them the best your homeland has to offer and to give them tips and tricks straight away.
The three-day Samarathon stage race was the first time I’d taken my place at the starting line as part of a two-person team with my brother. We’d planned to make something like this happen for a long time. After four months of preparation, we’d finally done it! The weather conditions during the prologue, however, were anything but friendly. We were met by strong winds and bitingly cold temperatures. The lack of any trees for miles meant that we were ruthlessly exposed to the elements.
We braved the elements and concentrated on what we had to do: ride. Although our progress as a team was a bit sluggish and we were delayed by a flat tire, we won the prologue in a time of around one hour with an impressive lead of 33 seconds. It’s always a great feeling and I’m always so proud to put on the leader’s jersey at the award ceremony in the evening. And to be able to share it with my brother was fantastic!
Day 2 was significantly harder. We were expected to finish the 80 km that lay ahead of us in a time of around 4 hours. Constantly exposed to the sun, every kilometer sapped our strength. After 60 km Michi was out of energy and cramped up. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as he had been sprinting about like a fawn at the start of the day. But you probably need to experience for yourself just how necessary energy conservation is to really learn this lesson. We lost our leader’s jersey at the finish, but were able to minimize the damage. We were around 4 minutes down in the overall standings and knew that it would be a real challenge to turn the tables on the last day of the race.
A cool head and smart thinking was needed on the third and last stage. I took the reins and didn’t let my dear brother fall into the same trap again. I kept giving him instructions and information on gear selection, cadence, riding technique and pacing. I wanted to go easy on him for as long as possible, so that he still had power and could hit the turbo when the going got tough. Mountain bike racing is not for the faint-hearted. It always hurts, however fit you are and whatever place you’re fighting for. When you have your rival in your sights, what ultimately counts is who is more hard-headed and who has the greater will. We gave absolutely everything right up to the last inch of the 60 km. Our love as brother and sister was put to the test, but we made it and won the Samarathon by just 55 seconds!
Israel welcomed us and left us with many fond memories. The Samarathon was brilliantly organized and we really enjoyed the entire distance we pedaled. I’m already looking forward to the next time I visit the desert!
Nathalie Schneitter began her international mountain biking career in 2004 by winning the Junior Cross-Country World Championships. Since then she has been tearing around the race tracks of the world at breakneck speed. In 2008 she qualified for the Olympic Games in Beijing and in 2010 she secured a home victory at the Cross-Country World Cup in Champéry. She has been racing for the ROSE Vaujany fueled by UltraSPORTS team since 2015 and has been using DT SWISS products since 2008.
Nathalie doesn’t just take on the race tracks at full throttle – she’s always laughing, a little bit crazy and dances at the drop of a hat. She has been part of the organizing committee for Bike Days in Solothurn and the Urban Bike Festival in Zurich since fall 2016.