If you ask Rotem Ishay what his favorite things are about living in Colorado are, it won’t be too long be fore you hear him talk about cyclocross. “We don’t have cyclocross in Israel, but I was always interested in it and I wanted to try it as soon as I came here for school,” he says. And so, in his first year at collegiate cycling powerhouse Fort Lewis College, he gave it a shot. He was hooked.
A mountain biker at heart, Rotem kept his eye on races in the spring and summer for his first few years, just doing cyclocross races for fun and some intensity in his build towards his “real” season. There was success on the fat tires during these years – last year, he placed second in the cross country race at Collegiate Nationals before winning in the short track. There was a top ten this year in the Catamount Classic, the final stop of the national level Pro XCT series. But as the years went by, the curiosity he first had in Israel could not be satiated by merely dabbling in cross.
Last year, Rotem raced a full season of cross along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, hitting local as well as big regional races. His love affair with the sport was ever deepening and his results were climbing upwards. He began to mix it up with local pros in Colorado races, eventually wondering how he would stack up in national level races. Then, after careening through the paradoxically frozen yet still muddy ruts that characterized the course at Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals in January, he placed third, sandwiched between two of the five riders the United States would send to the U-23 World Championships a month later.
Rotem’s route to Boo begins with someone we all know well by now – Skyler Trujillo. Or maybe a better way to phrase that is Skyler’s bike… The two members of the Boo – Training Peaks team were teammates at Fort Lewis – and during this mountain bike season on Team Jamis Factory Racing – and developed a friendship over the years. But when speaking to Rotem, it is apparent that Boo was as much a draw as Skyler was. “I was shocked by how beautiful [Skyler’s new Boo RS-X] was,” he says, which led him to approach Boo to discuss the 2013-2014 cyclocross season. The rest is, as they say, history.
Now that he has left Fort Lewis behind, degree in hand, Rotem works at the Durango Performance Center where he does athlete testing, coaches athletes, and does bike fitting. But under the calm, educated exterior there is a more primal creature that emerges on the race course. As someone who likens cyclocross to “being thrown into a rink with lions, and you have to tame them,” Rotem thrives on the lung-searing intensity and dynamic nature of racing for an hour through muck and the taunts of heckling fans. The worse the conditions – and the more they change lap to lap – the happier he is.
With a schedule that has Rotem and Skyler leaving the Front Range for national level races more and more as the season progresses, the lions will only grow sharper claws, but that is something he is prepared for. The question that all athletes ask – how would I fare against the best? – is about to be answered, and with both Rotem and Skyler preparing to take things to the next level since this summer, the prospects look good.