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A mountain bike Race Stage of a special kind

December Calendar Sheet No. 12

This photo was taken on the second day of a three-day mountain bike race last year in November.

The race took place through the mountainous region around Dharamshala. Dharamshala is the place where the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan refugees live.

From here rise the high mountains of the Himalayas, with many small hidden valleys and even smaller villages to which hardly a road leads, but just  small footpathes.

This is where the race took place.

My intention to participate in a mountain bike race is not so much the victory (although it is also nice) but rather the opportunity to visit a region I would never get to.

On that second day of the race I was actually quite far behind, because the stage started with a downhill, which is not exactly my strength. Immediately after the descent we went on a forest path, which led to the first village. Some sections I could roll, others were too technical for me and often I had to shoulder my bike and even carry it over high rocks.

Again and again I came across locals who collected grass for the cows or firewood.

They looked at me with great curiosity, but also incomprehension: Why did a person come here with a bicycle?

I myself wondered about it one or the other time as well, while I had to get off my bike again to carry it over the next obstacle.

I was also a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. After all, I shredded here for pure fun, whereas these people had to do real hard work to survive.

Arriving in the village,  two women who were about to wash their clothes by a small stream, guided me the way. Then, fortunately, I got on a kind of jeep runway that I could actually ride on. This jeep slope eventually led quite steeply up the mountain. But even though I was only in the smallest gear and the sweat was coming from my forehead, I was grateful for this section, because I was able to ride and so I made at least a few places good. At some point the route actually went downhill again and I just let the wheels roll. I even overtook a group of locals who carried their village deity (a golden statue of the gods dressed in colorful robes) to the next temple with drums and other instruments. Great!

traditional villages in mustard fields

Even if it took a little time to overtake these people, it was precisely these experiences that make up a race in the Indian Himalayas!

I rolled into the next village. It seemed to be not only the end of the world, but also the end of the road.

The houses and the village temple were built in a very special wooden architecture, all around it was green and wild, with bubbling streams, muddy cows and waving children.

For a few meters I was accompanied by the juting children and they even helped me to carry the bike down a particularly deep heel. One last time “Bye” and then I was already gone.

This path to the next village was endless and robbed me of all my energy. It went over  fields and through forests, often always along a steep slope. In fact, I had to either push or carry the bike for long distances. How good that I had a light carbon bike. I was sorry for the other participants with a steel frame.

So slowly my energy was quite gone and this 7 kilometer long path took forever and just never came to an end. It wasn’t particularly helpful that a photographer kept jumping around me and documenting my inability to cycle here on these paths.

As I tormented myself through the last bushes, I finally reached the next feed station and with it again a sandy road. Quickly I took a sip of water. The sand road was so bad, dusty and undeveloped that you could only  go here with a bike or maybe a motorbike anyway. The valley into which I rolled, however, could not have been more beautiful and wilder. Next to me a raging stream, around me, high snow-capped mountains. There was actually a concrete bridge- what a surprise- over which I could cross the river, then it went  uphill to the finish for the next 8 kilometers.

Well, yes. I also mastered these last kilometers, albeit very slowly. I was completley exhausted, I had probably not eaten enough during the stage. Now the energy was just out. I tormented myself meter by meter and couldn’t even sprint into the finish.

When I reached the finish line, I quickly reached for a coke and two potatoes, which I greedily stuffed into myself.

I was done, but happy and overwhelmed by the day. This was a true mountain bike race stage  in the Himalayas!

Of course, this evening was also properly celebrated! Not only with the best sunset ever, but also with good atmosphere, campfire and delicious food.

More about the three-day MTB Challenge Dhauladhar, which takes place every year in October/November and is organized by the organizers of the Hellrace Series, can be found here.