Former 'chain smoker' comes full circle with cycling victory

Forty-eight-year-old Hilton Moss is somewhat of a marvel in the Israeli cycling world, what with the unconventional path he took to the sport. On Friday, Moss took first place in the open category of the Jerusalem Marathon, a 80 km bike race from Yad Kennedy to the Jerusalem Zoo. Up until seven years ago, Moss was a self-described "overweight chain smoker." After buying his children brand-new bikes at the time, Moss attempted a six-kilometer bike ride and found that he couldn't make it. That was the catalyst for his beginning a new healthier life, centered on cycling. Asked how it felt to win the race, Moss admitted that he wasn't aware at the time. "I thought I had just finished in the time constraint," he said. This was Moss' second attempt at participating in an organized bike race. During a race in Megiddo a few months ago, he experience, "mechanical problems" which prohibited him from finishing. Competing on Friday against elite racers from the Israeli league, Moss came out fourth overall. What was his goal for this race? "I just wanted to finish in one piece," he admitted. Originally from South Africa, Moss was athletic in his youth and as a result has torn ligaments in his knee, which is his reason for choosing cycling. "I chose cycling because there's no impact on the knee, that's what makes it viable," he explained. His advice to older athletes getting back into physical activity is "make a change and do it, the sky is the limit!" For those who are interested in cycling, Moss recommended partnering with a fellow enthusiast to "show them the way." For him, Jerusalem is the perfect place to cycle. "In Jerusalem it's really easy to get back into cycling, there are very nice trails." According to Moss, cycling took off in Jerusalem at the time of the second intifada. "Buses were blowing up and people started taking their bikes to work," he explained. Asked what he likes better, road biking or mountain biking, Moss was firm in his response. "My first choice is mountain biking because of the adrenaline, it's tough. You can ride the same routes everyday and it will never be the same. You get into a meditative rhythm and you keep it going." Even still, he enjoys the occasional road biking, noting that "road bikes are quieter. It's more peaceful." Friday's Jerusalem Marathon was the third annual bike race held in Jerusalem and organized by the Jerusalem municipality. The 27.2 km trail presents a myriad of challenges, even for experienced cyclists, and riders ride the trail once, twice, or three times, depending on their skill level. The best time on the day overall was three hours and 30 minutes. (Moss finished in four hours). The race has both a professional and an open tournament, which Moss competed in, and riders ranged in age from 14- 60. Ilan Green, organizer of the marathon, spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the success of the event. "We see more people every year and we hope to continue it with more riders," he said. "It was the biggest bicycle event in Israel this year."