The third edition of the Uttarakhand mountain biking race flagged off on April 8, 2017, in Nainital, in the northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. With participation from over 15 countries, the race will cover a distance of 884 km in seven biking days.
The countdown ended with the flag being waved and 54 bikers sped off, amidst a cheering crowd of hundreds, some perched on top of buildings, others gathered around, all present in the pristine Himalayas to witness one of the longest mountain bike races in Asia.
This is the third edition of the ultimate Uttarakhand Himalayan MTB challenge. It started on April 8, 2017, in Nainital, and will conclude on April 16, 2017, in Dehradun, covering a distance of 884 km. The riders will pass through 10 districts in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, following a long track: Nainital – Almora – Champawa – Pithoragarh – Bageshwar – Chamoli – Rudraprayag – Tehri – Garhwal – Uttarkashi – and finally, Dehradun.
This race is a premier mountain biking event, organised by the government of Uttarakhand, with technical support from the Cycle Federation of India, the national governing body of cycle racing in India. “The ultimate Uttarakhand MTB Himalayan Challenge is a new milestone in the history of mountain biking race, which is gaining popularity as a sport in India,” told Onkar Singh, general secretary of Cycle Federation of India, to MIG TV. Onkar Singh also flagged off the race on April 8. The objective is to promote not only the sport in India, but also to leverage multiple advantages that the Challenge will bring to the state.
“The race will have three positive impacts on Uttarakhand: it will be a source of employment generation, especially for hoteliers; it will be an image changer for Nainital, often seen as an unsafe hilly region; and in this age of sofa-culture, the sport will ensure good health to those who will take it up,” highlights Deepak Rawat, district magistrate, Nainital.
Striving for greater lengths and heights
Now in its third edition, the race saw around 90 participants coming from around 16 countries. Before the final race on April 8, a preliminary qualifying competition was held on April 7, that shortlisted 56 finalists. Participants from Colombia, Sweden, Norway, Nepal, Greece, the USA and also the Indian Army and many Indian nationals from states like Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Karnataka were among the top 56.
The second edition of the challenge, held in 2016, saw a participation of 81 elite national and international bikers from seven different countries – from USA to New Zealand, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. A total distance of 628 km was covered in six biking days, passing through eight districts of Uttarakhand, along a track similar to this year.
For Sanjeev Arya, mayor of Nainital, the event presents an opportunity to “project Uttarakhand as a safe and secure destination, and to promote the lesser known districts of the state on national and international level.”