Top seeded riders to vie for MTB Himalaya title

Shimla, Sep 24 (IANS) Professional international riders Luis Leao Pinto, Pau Zamora, Guido Thaler, Andreas Seewald and Reimund Dietzen will be seen pedalling in the Hero MTB Himalaya that gets rolling in the hills of Himachal Pradesh on September 27, event organisers said on Thursday.

While Pinto, winner of MTB Himalaya 2013, is the world number 9, Zamora is the four-time Cape Epic finisher with a ranking of number 12, Thaler raced in Trans Alps, Seewald ranked 16th at the UCI Bike Marathon World Championship 2015, and Reimund Dietzen is nine-time German champion now a retired road and cyclo-cross cyclist.

MTB Himalaya 2012 winner, Narayan Gopal Maharjan from Nepal has also made a comeback this year to compete for the ‘king’ of the Himalayas crown.

This year’s edition – the 11th – will see the highest number of 42 foreign participants so far. They are mainly from Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Holland, Nepal and Portugal.

India bikers are among 88 total participants. Five bikers are from Nepal, whose participation fee of $600 each has been waived off by the event organisers owing to devastating quake that hit the Himalayan nation in April.

The event will conclude at the starting point in Shimla on October 4 after traversing 550 km.

“The MTB Himalaya is proving to be an exciting competition with so such seasoned riders competing against each other and also enable the young riders to hone their skills,” Mohit Sood, president of the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), the Shimla-based organiser, told IANS.

The other professional bikers include ABSA Cape Epic winner Catherine Williamson, Andreas Hartman and Manuel Wesseinbacher.

The 56-year-old Dietzen with years of experience of professional cycling and wining many championships and races is itching to go though he says, “The MTB Himalaya will be a very difficult challenge.” His favourite race is Vuelta Espana.

The seven-day stage race covering over 550 km of dirt track, broken tarmac and single trails takes the rider through the beauty of the Himalayas.

Dietzen, who is participating in the Master Solo category, said he is using the rally to explore India.

“To get to know the people of India and learn more about the country,” he said.

The other attraction of the MTB Himalaya will be the 34-year-old lawyer-turned-rider Pinto, who is a Portuguese national champion and ranked sixth in the Europe.

“The mountains have always lured me and the beauty and challenge of the majestic Himalayas brings me back this year again,” Pinto said.

Hero Cycles marketing manager Gaurav Matta said: “It is a pleasure to have a renowned and top seeded rider like Pinto to be a part of the race. He is certainly going to be an inspiration to all other participants.”

Cory Wallace, ranked world No.18, won the title in MTB Himalaya in 2014. That year, Pinto did not participate. This time Wallace is not participating.

On an average, each cyclist will pedal 90 km every day with a day’s rest in between and will have to ascend or descend 2,000-3,000 metres each day. The highest point of the rally is 3,150 metres.

Covering the most rugged and inhospitable terrain, MTB Himalaya has been billed as the third toughest mountain biking event in the world, next to the Trans-Alps Challenge (Europe) and Trans Rockies (Canada).

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