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2 weekends – 2 two-day mountain bike races in the Indian Himalayas back to back

The mountain bike season in India has started for me with the Hero MTB Shimla and MTB Nainital race

With two intensive mountain bike races in April I was able to test my self for the first time this season.

Although I have been taking part in mountain bike races in India for years, I have only been training a little more professionally for a month. What used to be comfortable mountain bike excursions are now intensive interval trainings, mountain sprints, technical trails and long endurance rides.

I was quite surprised how my body has adapted to the training in the last few weeks. So I not only became physically stronger, but quickly realized that with an intensive workout, the diet also needs to be adjusted and rest is important. two completely new aspects for me.

In any case, I was very much looking forward to the two races that took place over the last two weekends.

Because Indian mountain bike races are more than just ordinary races. Especially if they are several days long. Then mountain bikers from all over India come together not only to compete against each other, but above all, to have a good time together in the camps and hotels in beautiful scenery and with good food.

But, of course, the main focus is on the race itself. The Indian Himalayas offer magnificent routes, lots off jeep tracks, challenging single trails, small forest roads and, and, and… the landscape with small villages, fields, deep forests and magnificent views is particularly attractive. The fact that suddenly a cow blocks one’s way or that laughing children run next to one, can be expected.

The first race was the Hero MTB Shimla. It is the two-day mini version of the nine-day Hero MTB Himalaya race.

It’s a pretty important race for me. Not only because I won it in the women’s category in the last two years, but because it is sponsored by my sponsor Hero Cycles. To this day, unfortunately, there are still very few female Indian mountain bikers and the competition is therefore very small.

The Hero Action Team

Mountain biking is an expensive adventure sport that many Indian women either do not dare or simply have no access to, because of their social position. The women who own a mountain bike in India are mostly from the privileged upper classes of India’s big cities, but due to a lack of training, barely get up a mountain, let alone come down.

As a result, my previous wins have always been very clear. But over the years, the competition in India also increases and you never know if one or the other mountain biker from abroad also participates, as is the case with the MTB Himalaya race.

And indeed: The list of participants included not only one participant from South Korea, but also from the USA. At 51, Heidi is much older than me, but she was already a two-time national champion! The Indian mountain biker Poonam Rana is also getting stronger and especially her downhill skills are enormous. So I had at least two serious competitors.

Heidi followed by Poonam Rana

In total, we would be 8 participants. In India a decent number for a mountain bike race.

Prize money of about 200 €, a bicycle, as well as various vouchers for travel and nutrition, made the win even more attractive.

But the briefing for the next few days announced not only a few long and intense climbs, but also as many technical descents. Anyone who knows me, knows that my downhill skills are quite limited. So it would be exciting.

Race Day 1 MTB Shimla

Race Day 2 MTB Shimla

On both days we would cover about 50 km with 1600 to 1800 meters of altitude both up and down.

Start at the Central Market Square in Shimla

In fact, on the first day of the race my guess was confirmed: the girls were much faster tahn me during the descent, although I didn’t do that bad while going down.

So the race had to be won as usual on the uphill. And I could.

I wasn’t worried about Poonam. She was not far away and had clear problems with the steep passages uphill. She was clearly not in training and so I was able to overtake her quickly after a few kilometers.

I with the Indian girls Rubi and Poonam after the first stage

But where was Heidi? As a former mountain bike national champion, she was certainly quite strong uphill. At least she had told me the night before that one of the races she had won a race with more than 5000 meters of altitude!

But I also saw her very soon in front of me and was able to overtake her during the long ascent.

Now it was time to get as much distance inbetween as possible – both for the next descent, as well as for tomorrow and in case I of a mechanical problem.

The hard interval training in the previous weeks had proved successful. Powerful and rhythmic I did my pedal strokes. It felt good. Uphill was my comfort zone and I was able to overtake some male participants. Even the single trails and the last descent were fun and I could really enjoy the race. After all, I was ahead rolling happily to the finish. To the second place I had an almost an one-hour lead. I was relieved and looked forward to the afternoon in the camp with the other race participants. I was in 10th place in the overall standings. Not bad with more than 90 participants.

The camp was beautifully situated in a beautiful green apple orchard with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the rich buffet, relaxed in the sun and let the day end by the campfire.

The next day started with a bit of excitement: David, my team member and currently first place finisher, noticed 5 minutes before the start, that he had a flat tire. After a somewhat hectic temporary repair we run to the start and then directly into the race.

The descents on day two were even more challenging. With lots of loose debris, narrow curves and steep passages. I was way behind. But Heidi had a mechanical problem and had to stop so I caught up with her on the first descent. Poonam I overtook at the steep climb.

Due to the long and difficult descents I could hardly get into the race and also the ascents were too short to be far ahead in the overall standings. Nevertheless, I overtook 10 riders on the last climb and extended my lead to the girls. I had achieved my goal and was able to win MTB Shimla again for the third time this year. David, by the way, won the overall race.

The week in between the races really didn’t go well. For our sponsor, who introduced a new product series, we shot a promotional film and immediately after the race we had 2 long and strenuous shooting days, which were fun but did not offer us much rest.

Shooting days in the area of Shimla

In addition, the distances in India are long. To the race venue of the next race we had to travel 20 hours, also overnight.

In the Volvo Bus – what looks relaxed, it’s not really after 20 hours

While the race in Shimla in the state of Himachal Pradesh was a home game (here I live at the moment) and no travel was necessary.

Tired and quite exhausted, we reached the starting point of the second race on the morning of the day before the start of the race.

The Nepalese team, including the second-placed national winner, was already waiting for us here. Actually I had prepared for a race without female competition and wanted to use the race more as an excursion, but a hard race was awaiting me.

The day before the race, however, did not offer us much rest.

In the meantime, more and more participants came from all imaginable regions of India. Very exciting.

Race Day 1 MTB Nainital

Although the Nepalese woman offered me a hard race head-to-head on the first 10 kilometers of the first day of the race, she couldn’t keep up uphill. It was my luck that the first day of the race, consisting of 43 km, was almost exclusively uphill and I was able to get a generous lead again.

I reached the finish line early and were able to spend a wonderful day in an old developed British manor house with a magnificent view of Lake Nainital.

David has trouble on the first day

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for David. He just didn’t get into the race and made it to fourth position with difficulty and hardship. In the men’s race, the competition in India is much stronger and here the best from all over India came together.

Nevertheless, he was very motivated and looked forward to the next day, where he would give everything.

I looked rather relaxed on the second day of the race. I had a comfortable lead of 30 minutes.

Race Day 2 MTB Nainital

While David flew off on day two and dominated the race from the start, I felt my heavy legs from the day before. Still, I did my best. Then came long, long single trails. The paths were a total of 9 kilometers long. There was no Nepalese woman to see, nor was there any other female race participant. So I rode the paths slowly and used them for practice. Somehow I wasn’t in racing mode today. But then finally came the last climb of 15 km and I was able to do some time in the overall classification again and made it to a 15th position.

David finished on third position with another flat tyre just before the end of the second day.

After a long journey back to Shimla, I can look back at two great race weekends. Almost more strenuous than the races themselves, was the journey in between.. But the wonderful routes, the many nice old and new experiences and the wonderful landscapes make such events unforgettable experiences.