Andrew had met Andreas Theodorou at the Leogang Downhill World Cup a few years ago. The two of them had mulled over potential riding trips and enthused about the chance to ride in Cyprus together, so when the invite came to race a new enduro event on the island, Andrew snapped it up.
A lesson in saying yes
I was invited to participate in an Enduro race on the Island of Cyprus. It all happened last minute and even though I knew fairly little of the riding in Cyprus, I jumped at the opportunity. I had met Andreas Theodorou previously, while we were at the Leogang World Cup a few years previously. He is the national Enduro and Downhill Champion and as such is a very fitting guide to my trip. Although I was there to participate, we all agreed it would be silly not to explore the other riding areas in Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia. It has a subtropical climate with very mild winters and warm to hot summers. Snow is possible, but only in the Troodos Mountains, in the central part of the island. The political situation in Cyprus is quite interesting. I asked Mike from Activate Cyprus for some words on it: “Cyprus has been a divided island since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 38% of the Island. Despite the occupation, the population of the island is 82% Greek Cypriots and 18% Turkish Cypriots. These 2 groups are living here without any major problems or conflicts, except that the territory is divided. In saying all this, Cyprus is a very safe place to live.”
Warmth, hospitality and friendship
I was welcomed into Cyprus by the owner of the Troodos Hotel who drove me up into the mountains to his accommodation. This set the tone for the trip; one of warmth, hospitality and friendship for which Cypriots are famed. No favour too big, no welcome too small. Despite Cyprus hosting one of the top cross-country stage races in the world – The Cyprus Sunshine Epic – and accommodating some of the very best professional road riders for winter training, the riding scene in the country is still quite small. With this comes an intimacy which makes you smile! All the riders at the enduro race knew each other, from young XC racers to older enduro enthusiasts. Whatever the skill level and whatever the bike, passion is always present. Passion for riding, and also a passion for building.
Similar to the scene in South Africa
This love for MTB is evident in Athalassa National Park, on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia. Here, a small but impressive network of well-groomed trails offer a taster for first-time mountain bikers as well as a perfect playground for the well-initiated. It is similar to the scene in South Africa back in the day when trails were first being built and people were discovering the love and the possibilities for mountain biking.
The landscape lends itself perfectly
Up in the Troodos Mountains, I raced over a mix of old hiking tracks, purpose-built mountain bike trails and fire roads. Some steep and rocky, others tight and twisting or fast and dusty. The landscape lends itself perfectly to carving technical tracks over rocky outcrops and around the roots of pungent pine trees. I was also treated to some runs down Andreas’ own DH course, a passion project of nearly two years of careful crafting which boasts big boardwalk berms, jumps plus the best of the natural terrain.
Epic views, crazy-cool trails and stunning sunsets
The cool thing is, you can ride a 1952 meter high mountain range, and then the coast line, all in the same day! Epic views, crazy-cool trails and stunning sunsets are what Cyprus is all about. I see endless potential here. Thank you to George Theodorou at Troodos Hotel, the Troodos Tourism Board and the Troodos Development Company, along with event organisers like Mike Hadjioannou of Activate Cyprus and all the riders for a good time.
| IMAGES: Antonios Charalambous | WORDS: Andrew Neethling |