Israeli bikers shine at Trophy of Nations

For the first time ever, an Israeli enduro mountain biking team qualified for the prestigious Trophy of Nations 2022 in northern Italy.

Israeli cyclist Omer Hutman rides at the Trophy of Nations tournament in Italy (photo credit: BORIS BEYER)
Israeli cyclist Omer Hutman rides at the Trophy of Nations tournament in Italy
(photo credit: BORIS BEYER)

For the first time ever, an Israeli enduro mountain biking team qualified for the prestigious Trophy of Nations 2022 in northern Italy.

The race, which took place over the weekend and involved over 20 teams from around the world, marks the end of the grueling Enduro World Series season, in which elite mountain bikers both bike up and then back down treacherous mountain paths in locations ranging from the Canadian Rockies, the French Pyrenees, and Swiss and Italian Alps.

Who are the Israeli bikers?

An Israeli team led by Omer Hutman, one of the world’s top U21 riders, qualified for the first time ever.

“It was definitely painful at times,” said the 17-year-old Hutman, who returned to Israel Monday. “Finale is just amazing. We are biking down thousands meter high mountains, on tight ‘single’ paths, with thousands of fans lining the course… Just wild.”

Hutman was joined in Italy by fellow U21 Israeli riders Yuval Sandel and Ori Luskey. The Israeli team came in 14th place, which was beyond expectations. In the Men’s U21 category, the US took first followed by France and Australia. In the Elite Men’s category, New Zealand, France, and the US took the top three spots.

Israeli cyclist Omer Shapira. (credit: REUTERS)Israeli cyclist Omer Shapira. (credit: REUTERS)

The Israeli team, decked out in blue and white Israeli jerseys provided by the Israeli Biking Association, held the Israeli flag high for the first time ever at the Trophy of Nations opening ceremony, which included a parade of nations in the Mediterranean coast Italian town of Finale Ligure. The parade was attended by thousands of biking enthusiasts.

Enduro biking, while already a major sport in much of the world, is relatively new to Israel. Israeli endure bikers are challenged by the fact that training here, even on the country’s biggest mountains, is simply nothing like the conditions where other leading bikers in Europe and North America are preparing for the race season.

Despite this, the sport is fast growing in Israel, and Hutman, Sandel, and Luskey are among the first generation of young top Israeli riders.

For Sandel and Luskey, the Trophy of Nations was their first international race. Hutman biked in the entire Enduro World Series and participated over the course of the season in the races in Canada, the US, and Europe. He qualified just last year, at age 16, by taking the enduro biking world by surprise with first and second-place showings in national races in Italy and Switzerland.

“I’m happy to have a little time to rest now before I have to start training again for the start of the season next year [with the first two races in Tasmania, Austria] already in March,” Hutman said.