Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mountain biking on the Top of the World

Photo Credit: The Express Tribune

Kaghan Valley in the Khyber Pakhtukwa province of Pakistan is home to some of the sepctacular mountain sites in the world. I have already shared a numbe rof posts describing the pictureseque beauty and serenity of the Valley in a number of posts before. Recently, a small event attracted some of the best bikers from across the globe to take part in the Himalayas International Mountainbike Race 2011 held in the Valley - or on the top of the world, so to say as the bikers started at a height of some 9,000 feet and finished at 13,800 feet

The small event meant a lot to the children of the area who were affected by the devastated earthquake that struck the valley and northern areas of Pakistan on a dreadful morning of October 2005. Besides massive destruction of the entire communication infrastructure in the area, buildings and houses, countless schools were also destoryed. And along with the schools thousands of children also succumbed to the earthquake. The 3-day event was organized by Kaghan Memorial Trust as a fund raising campaign to build a school for the children.

A total of 10 teams, including to from Pakistan, particiapated in the event, which included some 30 foreigners and 10 Pakistani cyclists. The race was organized from 16-18 September 2011 in three stages at three prominent sites of the Kaghan valley – The Babusar Challenge to Jalkhad, The Lake Criterium (Lake Saif-ul-Maluk - located at 10,500 feet, near the town of Naran) and Pai Ascent situated a altitude 13,800 feet. Babusar Pass is located on the old Silk Route of ancient times.

Taking a round of Lake Saif ul Muluk, Naran
Photo Credit: AFP/Dawn MEdia Gallery

After a trecherous biking over rugged mountain tracks surrounded by snow covered mountain peaks and even hit by hailstorm, Martin Haring of Slovakia clinched the event in a tough ride for almost two hours 16 minutes and 2 seconds. Mel Alexander from Britain and the current European Singlespeed Champion clocked 2 hours, 41 minutes and 30 seconds to score first place among female cyclists.

The best part of the event was that all these world renowned cuclists had volunteered to come to Pakistan, despite warnings from their respective goverenmtns on account of terrorism. "There is terrorism in Pakistan but it is only in some places and the rest of the country is safe. And security issues are everywhere in the world," a confident Austrian rider Lisa Pleyer observed. And many cyclists vowed to come again if the event was held next year too - and I sincerely wish they do so.