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Mountain biking through the Indian Himalayas

June Calendar Sheet  No. 6

By now I have been sitting in the saddle for four hours and slowly I feel some pressure in my bubble. But I try to keep up with the pressure a little longer. At the moment I am still in a very good rhythm, which I would not like to interrupt. In addition, the route leads through some villages with laughing children, who run exuberantly next to me and very excitedly wish “All the best”. It is the third day of the eight-day Hero MTB Himalaya Stage Race, which takes place annually at the end of September in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. Today is the so-called “King Stage”: it goes steeply uphill to the 3100 meter high Jalori Pass, the highest point of the race.

I am  four kilometres from the pass right now. The steepest section has just begun with about 15-17 percent incline. But the following descent and the catering station at the top of the pass motivate me. Although I had just eaten my last bar, my body demands a hearty source of energy.

I am quite well trained in taking care of my nutrition while racing. Bananas, bars and chocolate are stored in my pockets and I easily fish them out of the jersey, open them and swallow the important calories quickly.

The last curce and finally I have reached the top of the pass, the last 50 meters I pedal even more vigorously, then I climb nimble off the saddle, grab a sandwich and a boiled potato and quickly disappear behind a tree to make mdo what has to be done. Meanwhile, the diligent helpers at the catering station fill my bottles with water and electrolytes, while the mechanic looks over my bike for a moment. Some oil on the chain, I quickly grab two more bananas and a piece of cake and stuff them into my pockets and the fast descent begins down the Jalori Pass. Highly concentrated I try to find the best line on the slippery gravel track, the fingers on the brakes. It’s a long descent and I’m happy how fast I’m making kilometres now. After all, I still have a good 30 kilometers to the stage finish ahead of me!

The stage days during the Hero MTB Himalaya race are long and I spend a lot of time by myself riding. Hours actually. I am with myself and my thoughts, my aching butt and with the Indian mountain world.

Again and again it goes up and down, on narrow forest paths, over grain fields and through apple orchards. Every now and then smaller streams have to be crossed, sometimes the bike has to be carried over non-mobile passages. It is not uncommon to pass small traditional mountain villages and in the background the snow-capped mountains of the higher Himalayas are visible.

The other race participants are either far ahead of me or quite behind. On the downhill passages I am repeatedly overtaken, only to catch up with them again on the long climbs. So I meet other mountain bikers from time to time. We are happy about the short encounter, cycle together for a few minutes and then wish each other “good luck”. Next time we meet, will be in the camp.

It is a mixture of suffering, overcoming, overpowering, joy, pain and adrenaline. Sometimes I have to cry a bit and the next moment I don’t even get my mouth shut, by being amazed by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.

The last kilometers of today’s stage  with almost 100 kilometers and 3000 meters of altitude are hard, but now I have one goal in mind: the camp with a hot shower, lots of food, nice people and my own tent!

I roll through the finish line and am greeted clapping by the organizers and participants. First prioraty: Getting of the bike . After eight hours continuously on the saddle, that alone is a boon. Then I walk to the nearby camp.

Every day the camping place changes and the organizers and their helpers build a small tent city at the most beautiful locations. There is a shower and toilet area, the mechanics are already busy screwing at their station, the buffet in the dining tent is permanently filled with good food and hot drinks.

I get a tent first, then shower myself and my bike, quickly rinse out my biking clothes and then go straight to the dining tent. Here my mountain bike colleagues are already waiting for me with filled plates. While I enjoy pasta, chicken curry and vegetables, we exchange experiences about the day. Although we all didn’t see each other during the day, we all rode the same route and had the same difficulties to overcome (just with different timings).

Leisure hours in the camp

Oh, I enjoy the time in the camp. After the meal I take care of my bike, stretch a bit and laze in the sun. Admittedly, I never have too much time in the camp, I am rather one of the “slower” mountain bikers and am always happy if I manage it in time for lunch.

The atmosphere in the camp is good and after dinner we still sit together a bit to see some pictures of the day, presented to us and to hear the briefing for the next day.

Then it goes into the sleeping bag for a restful night in the mountains of the Himalayas, because tomorrow the whole game starts again.

If you are interested in taking part in the Hero MTB Himalaya Race in September/October 2017, please feel free to contact me. Chalo! Travels offers a complete package for the race.