Shimla, Sep 24 (IANS) Former Himalaya Mountain Biking (MTB) champion Cory Wallace is among the top bikers set to race again in the state’s off-road tracks at the 13th Hero MTB Himalaya this month, event organisers said on Sunday.
Other top riders include US’ Thomas Turner, who finished fourth in 2016, Spain’s Pao Zamora, who is the team manager for Buff Scott MTB Team, and Thomas Engelsgjerd, winner of Glacier 360.
Teams from 14 countries including Portugal, Spain, the US and Australia are participating, besides Indian riders, comprising defence forces personnel, Mohit Sood, President of the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA) told IANS.
HASTPA is the local club that organises the MTB Himalaya rally every year.
The nine-day race, touted as one of the toughest across the globe, will start from Shimla on September 28 and conclude in Dharamsala town, the abode of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, on October 7.
It will traverse a distance of 650 km over eight stages with an elevation gain of 16,500 metres.
Canadian rider Wallace, 33, who is currently the WEMBO World Solo 24-Hour Mountain Bike champion, will be participating in the Open Men Solo category.
He is sponsored by Kona Bikes and loves riding on Indian trails.
Wallace, who axes trees in forests for two months and cycles on off-road tracks across the globe the rest of the year, was crowned the ‘King of Himalayas’ title in 2014 in the MTB Himalaya.
Last year, he participated in the race but failed to defend his title from German Andi Seewald, who is the current ‘King of Himalayas’.
The race saw a close contest between Wallace, Seewald and seven-time world champion and Australian rider Jason English last year.
The incumbent ‘Queen of Himalayas’ Catherine Williamson will also be returning this season in MTB Himalaya to defend her title. She made a hat-trick last year after winning the race in the Women Solo category.
She was followed by Portuguese rider Ilda Periera and German Naima Medlen.
“It feels amazing to sit back and stuff on different Indian curries after peddling on bumpy Indian trails,” Williamson, 35, said.
Shimla-based Ankush Arya, who rides for Hero Action team, got an opportunity to compete with Wallace and Williamson in the last season. This time too he will be participating.
“It is a great exposure for Indian riders to be competing against top international riders,” Arya said.