More than 1,500 riders came to Israel to compete for the Mediterranean Cup, the prize for an international mountain biking race near the Dead Sea.

Veolia Desert Challenge paricipants

Bikers from Israel and around the world took part in the desert challenge.

The race is the centerpiece of the annual Veolia Desert Challenge, a two-day festival of running, camping and family fun. The 17th annual challenge took place in early December 2011 and attracted people from six countries in addition to Israelis.

“It was fun. You have to have skills, to pass fast through the canyon,” says Mariod Athanasiadis of Cyprus, first-place winner of the 70K bike race, which is the lowest-altitude mountain biking event on earth at 380 meters below sea level.

Veolia Desert Challenge founder Nimrod Cohen hopes one day to have the racers circle the entire Dead Sea by going through neighboring Jordan.