Lone female racer kicking up dirt on extreme cycling circuit
Riding through the forest down the side of a mountain is just another day at the office for Noga Korem.
For Noga Korem, whizzing down the side of a mountain at lightning fast speeds is as easy as riding a bike. Literally.
The 26-year-old Israeli athlete is making a name for herself on the international cycling circuit. But we're not talking about your typical cross-country race. Korem specializes in "enduro" races – think of it as extreme dirt biking. The style of racing began in Europe and basically entails riding up a mountain and then zooming down as fast as you can. Riding downhill, swerving around mud and jumping over rocks, Korem looks like an action movie star.
A self-described tomboy, she's been racing bikes since she was 14 years old, when she grew up in a small village in northern Israel. "I was an adrenaline junkie," she admitted. "I always liked to do sports, and the scary kind I liked better."
She started her professional racing career on the cross-country circuit in Europe, and soon was in the top five in her division. She considered becoming an Olympian. But Korem thought that style of riding just wasn't "fun" enough and made the switch to enduro. The rest is history.
She joined the enduro league and found herself participating in races in Ireland, New Zealand and Italy. In 2017, she was named the Breakthrough Enduro World Series Rider of the Year. And this year, she joined the U.S.-based GT Factory Racing Team. She is the only woman on the team.
"I feel super lucky to do what I love," Korem said. "To me, when I'm on the bike, it feels like you kind of forget everything else. It's kind of therapy for me."
Added her dad: "If she smiles all day, that's a good way to live."
She spent time training in the Pacific Northwest this year and then raced at the Enduro World Series in Canada. She came in third place on one leg and is now ranked fourth overall, achieving her goal of making it into the top five.
Korem is now back in Tel Aviv where she lives with her fiancee Omer, a fellow rider. Tel Aviv has become known as one of the world's great cities to bike to work. (An episode of Netflix's "Somebody Feed Phil" showed the host singing the praises of the Mediterranean metropolis' tree-lined bike lanes.) "For me it's one of the best cities in the world," Korem said. On the weekends, she rides with her family around Israel, sometimes on the Israel National Trail.
Israel is fast becoming a go-to destination for serious cyclists. Several organizations host week-long rides that traverse the entire country – starting in the north in the port city of Haifa, traveling down the coast to Tel Aviv and ending in the beachside town of Eilat. The more ambitious riders head into the Dead Sea canyons and through the Ramon Crater, one of the largest craters on the planet.
The Giro d'Italia, one of the most prestigious races in cycling, opened its 101st edition this spring on the streets of Jerusalem for the first time. “Israel’s weather and terrain offer some of the best conditions for cyclists and triathletes that exist anywhere in the world," said Sylvan Adams, who helped establish the Israel Cycling Academy.
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:
Related Topics: Sports