The thrilling Hero MTB Himalaya race wrapped up its 15th edition in Bir, Himachal Pradesh on Oct 3, 2019.
Organised by HASTPA and supported by Hero Cycles, Himachal Tourism and Gatorade, it was one hell of a scenic and tough ride! Only 49 of the 87 cyclists who started the race were able to complete this epic challenge.
Find out what happened at this epic race and explore each stage in detail to see if it’s ever going to be your cup of tea!
Over 8 days, 89 cyclists from 17 countries tested their endurance in Himalayan trail riding. This included riders from Canada, Spain, Norway, Australia, and Croatia. They rode through forests, single trail sections, river crossings and villages in 6 race stages, over 500km, with a total elevation gain of 12000 metres.
The race was flagged off at the historic Shimla Ridge at the Prologue Stage. It went from Shimla to Gadakuffer, Kungash, Paneo, Gadagushaini, Pandoh, Kamand, Barot and finally ended at Bir.
Supporting Local Talent
HASTPA encouraged emerging talent by organising the Road to Himalaya mini-races in 9 cities, earlier in the year. The winners got free entry to Hero MTB Himalaya, and a chance to test their mettle against top international athletes!
Die Plastic Die!
This time the organisers got cracking on the single-use plastic problem as well, committed to preserving the pristine Himalayas. They dropped plastic water bottles, spoons, glasses and other utensils. Instead, cyclists carried their own bottles that they refilled at feed stations.
An Easy Start
The first day the cyclists started with an easy 25km ride, The Prologue. This was non-competitive, a chance to condition oneself. One may say it was just the calm before the storm!
And the Competition Begins!
The next day, the competitive cycling began and the leaders separated from the pack immediately. Adria Noguera from Spain won the Balkhu’s Epiphany stage, finishing in just 3 hours, 21 minutes and 57 seconds. He had already won the race in 2017.
Bart Classens from Netherlands took the 2nd spot, followed closely by Thomas Turner from USA in the 3rd spot, with a time difference of 15 minutes.
In the Female solo category, Catherine Williamson from UK, four time winner of Hero MTB Himalaya faced tough competition from Spain’s Ada Xinxo, a first timer at Hero MTB Himalaya. Xinxo clocked 2 consecutive stage wins at the race, leading by 9 minutes and 31 seconds before Catherine covered up the lead.
Rest Day & a Himachali School Visit
After 3 days the cyclists enjoyed a rest day and visited a school in Gadagushaini. Here, they taught no less than 500 students about the importance of recycling and rainwater harvesting, and participated in a cleanliness drive.
The organisers committed to building a harvesting facility at the school. TERI – The Energy Research Institute and Growdiesel Venture Limited supported these efforts.
And the Winners Are…
The race finally concluded at Bir, also the world’s 2nd highest paragliding spot! Adria Noguera from Spain emerged as the winner and King of the Himalaya, with a time for 22:42:16. He had also won the race in 2017.
Catherine Williamson, from UK, achieved her 5th consecutive victory of the race and was crowned as the Queen of the Himalayas. She has won every time she has participated in the race!
Ashish Sherpa from Shimla, India won the Asian category with a time of 26:10:11. The 18-year-old is an emerging talent and has been riding neck to neck with World Champions from Croatia, France, and Belgium.
Santi Val won the Masters Solo category while Cory Wallace and Jason English won the Team of Two category. Cory was the King of Himalaya in 2014 as well and is a 3 time 24hr MTB World Champion.
Catherine Williamson, women’s category winner said “It’s different every time I come for the race, the feeling of winning never wears out because of how unique each year is. I love how the organisers add a new touch to the race each time. There is nothing like India.”
The HERO MTB Himalaya race has always been tough, but a highly rewarding experience. Any cyclist can make this a target for a test of his or her endurance, to enjoy global camaraderie and to experience the amazing Himalayas like never before!
Up for a ride?
HASTPA will be opening registrations for the 9th edition of the smaller race they organise in April – Hero MTB Shimla. This 3 day, 2 stage race will go over 120kms. Are you up for this slim slice of the MTB Himalaya experience?