Team Lebanon
at the 2023
Leipa ICF Worlds

ICF 2023 World Bikejoring Championships — 

ICF 2023 World Bikejoring Championships — 

ICF 2023 World Bikejoring Championships — 

Max, his daughter Kelly and his dog Pepper (GSP) have been in their own little world in Leipa Germany for the 2023 ICF World Bikejoring Championships.

Saturday Oct. 28, 2023. Race day. It’s raining. The track is wet, muddy & slick.

After a year of preparation and training, immense effort and sacrifices, packing, traveling, and hours of driving, it all boils down to NOW. This is IT. The showdown.
Max’s stomach is one big knot, his heart in his mouth with the sheer nerves of it all. The excitement at the start area is driving the dogs mad. The incessant barking and shrieking is deafening.

Pepper and Max take the gun at 12:43:30. They’re first in their category. They blast off from the start line, leaving all the tension behind. Far behind. Pepp is running well.

A couple of minutes into the race and out of nowhere appears a car in front of them with a quad in front of it.

This is unusual. What’s going on? Has the race been stopped? All sorts of ideas rush through Max’s head - and undoubtedly Pepper’s. Max brakes slightly to slow down the pace. Thankfully, the quad and car soon pull to the right, opening the way for the duo to press on and take the left turn.
With full concentration, they fall into the rhythm. Pepper is on fire. His paws pelt the mud onto Max’s face. The taste of the forest soil is on his lips and stretched-out tongue.

About sixty percent into the race course, Vito Antonio and his dog Uma caught up.
Max's slowing down because of the car earlier has something to do with it, but...

Uma, the reigning Master Men III world champion is a bigger dog with longer legs and a wider stride. She is undoubtedly faster than Pepp, especially on this flat course with long, straight stretches.

“Trail!” Max hears from the back. Being in a very technical and narrow section of the woods, Max waits for a couple of hundred meters for the track to widen a little before he move to the side. Umma hesitates at first. Then finds a way through on our left.
Max moves over further to clear her path. His bike is now on the extreme right, a full meter off the still-narrow trail, almost in the woods. “Brava Umma!” shouts Antonio as she squeezes past.

A split second later, as soon as Pepper senses her on his left, he lunges towards her.
Undoubtedly frightened, Umma moves away, and Antonio crashes into the bushes.

Shucks! Why did Pepper do this!?
Max keeps going, looking back and waiting for Vito Antonio to catch-up. About 400 m later, after a couple of tight turns and narrow passages, he’s on Max’s back wheel again. Max slows down and moves over to clear the way, this time to the left.

Max is now really off the trail, slowing, almost braking. He hears his tires snap fallen branches on the side of the course, He’s praying he won’t get a flat - and that Uma will be able to slip past this time.
Once again, when he sees her, Pepper lunges to the right. Uma moves right, behind a large tree trunk. OMG. This is not good.

You see, unlike the great majority of the other dogs in this championship, Pepper has no experience in racing. He has only raced once!: at last year‘s 2022 World Championships in France (where he won the silver medal).

There, and throughout his entire life, no other dog had ever overtaken Pepper. Not in racing and not in training.
He is the only dog that practices Bikejoring in his country and region. (Max is currently working on raising awareness about the sport in Lebanon.)

Still, Pepper being very docile with other dogs - and humans, his knee-jerk reaction - albeit not an aggressive one, came as a total surprise to Max, and he cannot (yet) explain it. Following the incident and complaint, and in accordance with the ICF rules and regulations, the technical committee imposed two time penalties on Max & Pepper. Their 2022 vice-world champion title has now expired and they are not in the medals this year. Yet the missed shot of another medal for his good friend Vito Antonio hurts Max more than this. He is SORRY. Now that he knows better, Max should’ve stopped on the side of the trail and held Pepper for Uma and Vito Antonio to pass.
Max verbally apologized to Vito Antonio and his team manager. The apology was accepted. And here, yet again, is a written and public apology from someone who knows what it is to train and prepare for a whole year only to miss an opportunity of a medal because of unforeseen circumstances out of anyone’s control.
If it’s any consolation, Rinaldo, a seasoned Italian musher with his dog Charlotte won gold this year - perhaps righteously so, given their fast times on both heats.

Max’s good friend and trainer, the IFSS World Bikejoring Champion Viktor SL, in Norway, saw it all the way from there and wrote:

My my friend. Hope you and Pepper are doing fine. I have seen the video. I’m sorry I did not bring up this topic during our talks. This is undoubtedly your main challenge always training alone. Lets have a talk when you have internet again. Anytime.

Max’s reply came soon after:
Viktor! Thank you so much for the encouraging words. They ease my pain. Please do not feel bad. Although we trained for the good part of a year and made a lot of sacrifices, there are worse things than missing out on a World Championship medal. Your help and guidance has been extraordinary. I sincerely thank you for it. Talk soon.

Max sends his equally heartfelt thanks to Elias AR in France whose sound advice and intense, spot-on training regimen brought him to race day in tiptop form for this short, sharp race. Thanks, Elias!

Last but not least, Max conveys his sincere thanks to those who believed in him and Pepper and supported their World championship bid.

- Michel Nassif of Royal Canin,
- Mazen Damiani of Transmed,
- President Mawad of LAUMC,
- Thomas Abraham of Podiam,
- Blatt Chaya - handcrafted traditional Lebanese cement tiles.

Alles ist gut 🇩🇪 that ends well. It looks like Max taught Pepper everything… except dogmanship.
Max too learned a great deal… especially on what to do if and when caught by a fellow competitor - hopefully never!

Pepper & Max's 2023 ICF Worlds sponsors

Max & Pepper on YouTube (PRE 2023 ICF Worlds)


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