Shimla, Sep 26 (IANS) With over 100 cyclists from 17 countries participating, the Hero MTB Himalaya, Asia’s oldest stage race, was flagged off by Governor Bandaru Dattatraya here on Thursday.
They gathered at Dak Bangla in Mashobra after riding 25 km in the prologue. The competitive six-stage 500-km race will begin on Friday. The participants will cover the distance in six days, with elevation going up to 12,000 metres, 2,000 metres a day.
They will traverse four districts. Starting from Shimla, it will pass through remote parts of inner and outer Seraj in the Kullu and Mandi districts before culminating on October 3 at Bir in the Kangra Valley, which is world famous paragliding site.
The 15th edition of the Hero MTB Himalaya rally is being organised jointly by the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), the Himachal Tourism and Hero Cycles in association with the Himachal Youth Services and Sports Department.
The race this time would feature one of the most competitive rider lineups, organisers said.
Spanish national champion Adria Nougera, 27, who won the King of Himalaya 2017 title; three-time World 24hr Champion Cory Wallace (King of Himalaya 2014); Croatian national champion Milo Pilski; and seven-time World 24hr Champion Jason English from Australia, are among the top bikers taking part.
The foreign riders are from 17 countries, including the US, Canada, Croatia, Britain, Spain, Germany, Portugal, South Africa, Poland, Belgium and France.
“We are delighted to reach this landmark of 15 editions. Our aim is to produce an Olympian from India. We are sure this experience will go a long way in achieving that,” Mohit Sood, founding president of HASTPA, told IANS.
One of the stages of the race will include camping at Paneo in the Kullu district at a British colonial-era rest house, frequented by erstwhile Viceroys.
There will also be a new campsite in Jhatingiri in the Mandi district. The race has a new finish point at Bir-Billing in the Kangra hills.
According to organisers, the race route is mostly single track, few stretches of motorable jeep tracks, rocky tracks, loose gravel and very small segments of broken tarmac.
There will be an equal amount of uphill and downhill segments in the race. A never-before-seen stretch from Shatadhar to Pandoh will feature in this year’s race.