Cyclist Pinto in command at MTB Himalaya

Kullu Sarahan (Himachal Pradesh), Oct 1 (IANS) Top Portuguese cyclist Luis Leao Pinto claimed a hat-trick of stage victories in both men’s solo and overall categories at the MTB Himalaya here.

After clinching victory on Day 1 — after the race was flagged-off from the Ridge in Shimla to Gada-Kuffer — the 36-year-old Pinto clinched wins in the next two stages as well on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, ahead of the rest day on Wednesday.

Pinto, who won here two years back, completed Monday’s second stage in four hours, 10 minutes and five seconds in the cross country, stage-based endurance race. Spaniard Pau Zamora, who finished third on the first day, wasn’t far behind, coming home second in 4:11:56.

German Andi Seewald, who was second on Day 1, finished third in 4:14:44 in the Gada-Kuffer to Khegsu stage.

Then in the 79km third stage on Tuesday from Khegsu to Kullu Sarahan, it was World No.9 Pinto who topped the time sheets once again in 3:51:48.

Seewald gave tough competition to finish second, only 16 seconds behind the Portuguese. Zamora was third this time, clocking 3:56:44 in the mountain bike race.

The last part of the third stage had an extremely tough 11 km bumpy uphill ride, full of pebbles, rocks and soil on the way. The original track was 104 km long but was cut down on Tuesday morning to make it somewhat easier for the riders.

Thursday will see the riders cycle from here to Bahu, which is 94 km away.

The eight-day race, with a day’s break in the middle, takes cyclists through some of North India’s most arduous and rugged terrains in a gruelling adventure comprising of cycling and hiking across 550 km of scenic, unchartered territory.

The race will finish on October 4 in Shimla.

Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA) is the parent body of MTB Himalaya, now in its 11th edition, and also its organisers while Hero Cycles are the main sponsors.

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