Ronen Aviv’s cellphone buzzed. It was 6:58 AM on the 7th of October, and the 27-year-old cyclist was driving his car, through the chaos, attempting to flee to safety from the missiles, the terrorists, the horror.

Ronen,” a voice groaned from the other end. “I’m severely injured… tell my wife and kids that I love them.”

It was Tomer Shpirer. Just a few minutes earlier, they were together, not far off, a group of cyclists who had gathered for a training ride and found themselves hiding from a missile barrage. Someone managed to capture the harrowing scene. Ronen and his teammate, Noam Basok, are seen lying on their stomachs to the left. Tomer, in his beloved Israel – Premier Tech ‘Racing For Change’ jersey, found cover near his car. Shortly thereafter, they each got into their cars and sped away to find safety. Yet, Ronen’s mind refused to believe that something terrible had happened to Tomer, the superman rider in the group, the one who stormed every peak, the one who always led them uphill. “You’re not serious,” he retorted.

But now, only breathing could be heard. He heard a door open, then silence.

Ronen pressed on the gas and raced towards his friend, estimating he was just ahead. “I refused to believe it. Even at that moment, I thought maybe he was joking. Or if he was indeed injured, I would get to him and help,” he recalls. But within seconds, he realized he was rushing straight into hell. Dozens of terrorists were waiting at the crossroads of Mefalsim to slaughter everyone, car after car. He quickly turned his car around as bullets whizzed past. One of them pierced his leg.

Two agonizing days passed, and the horrors of that day would gradually unfold. The death toll soon surpassed a thousand, but no one knew what had befallen Tomer Shpirer. This was the fate of many families in Israel living, and still living, in uncertainty, not knowing whether their loved ones were killed or abducted to Gaza. Until someone discovered Tomer’s silver car in the field. His father Yoram was the first to arrive. Inside the empty car were only Tomer’s riding glasses. A police officer approached the father, recounting how he saw the young driver’s body being taken out of the car, a young man wearing the same recognizable bright jersey of his son’s beloved cycling team. “That was the moment I knew for sure my son was killed,” says Yoram Shpirer. “Only then could I call his wife and two children and tell her Tomer was no longer with us.”

Tomer Shpirer’s funeral took place just yesterday afternoon. According to Jewish custom, the deceased are buried as soon as possible, but in these hard and terrible days sweeping the nation, this “privilege” is reserved only for the “fortunate” ones, an almost grotesque term for families who have lost everything. All his teammates came, those who remained alive. Four members of the group, who for years used to chase every challenging single track and unknown path, are no longer here. Other teammates, including Chaim Ben Naim, Hillel Zalmanovitz, and Evgeny Galsky were also killed on that Black Saturday. Ronen Aviv came, hobbling on crutches. Just a day or two had passed since his release from the hospital. The bullet is still lodged somewhere in his right leg. He is convinced that the well-developed muscles from countless hours of cycling saved his leg from severe damage.

They talk about Tomer with admiration and longing, although only a week has passed since the loss. “Tomer Stravico”: that’s what they called him because of his endless drive to break every record. “He was the most competitive person I ever knew,” Ronnen shares, reminiscing about the discussions around their team’s performances at the Tour de France, especially after the victories. Chris Froome was a figure of admiration. “Even IPT rider Nadav Raisberg,” Ronen laughs, recalling how they found themselves competing against the young Israeli in a land tour earlier this year. “Tomer connected to that competitiveness,” he said. His father says his son was an “incredibly gifted athlete” who discovered the world of cycling a few years ago and fell hopelessly in love. “From the moment he discovered cycling, it was a source of endless happiness.” He watches the many videos of his son speeding on his mountain bike, his eyes well up with tears. “I watch and cry. But it’s also comforting when I see how much it fulfilled him.”

This morning, a week after the Saturday when over 1300 Israelis met their death at the hands of pure evil, many Israelis went out to ride on the roads and single tracks. Among them were also the bloody and battered residents of the South who, with bleeding hearts, did as an act of determination and defiance: nobody will break us. we are strong, and we will persevere. Among them was also Roni David, Tomer Shpirer’s close friend and the man who had spent so many hours alongside him on shared rides in recent years. He couldn’t go back and ride in the Western Negev. The roads were blocked, and the fear of terrorists still in the area had not yet subsided. So he returned to the trails in the hills of Jerusalem that Tomer knew well.

I thought about him a lot. This ride was also in his memory, to return to the trails where we rode together. Yes, this might have been also an act of determination and defiance: we are strong. And we are here. But the truth is, I did it first and foremost to not drown, to clear my mind, to grant myself all the purifying moments and freedom that only a bike ride can provide,” he says. Ronen Aviv will have to wait many long weeks, maybe more, until he heals and can return to Tomer’s trails. “I know that if he were alive today, if he had survived this, he would be on his bike today. But I promise we will all return. Everyone who remains. For him, for us.

Israel – Premier Tech expresses its deep sorrow for the death of Tomer Shpirer, a beloved supporter of the team, and for all those killed in cold blood by Hamas terrorists. Tomer leaves behind his wife Etan, his six-year-old daughter Bar, and his three-year-old son Yam.