The Tour of Himalayas International Mountain Bike race will start on September 16. The race spans three different stages and three prominent sites of the Kaghan valley — the Babusar Challenge of Jalkhad, Saiful Maluk Lake and Pai Ascent situated at an altitude of 13,800 feet.
The three-day mountain bike stage race features eight international teams and two Pakistani teams, totalling 50 professionals and semi-professional riders. The race also features a mountain bike tour for amateurs.
Each competing team will consist of three men and two women. The race is being organised by the Kaghan Memorial Trust, in collaboration with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Cycling Association and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Ministry of Sports and Tourism. The start point of the race at Jalkhad sites at an elevation of approximately 9,300 feet at the mouth of the Babusar Pass.
The second day will feature the Saiful Maluk challenge, situated above the tree line at an altitude of 10,500 feet, and surrounded by a ring of majestic snow-capped mountains. Transported up to the lake in jeeps, the riders will do six circuits of roughly 6.5 km each around the lake.
Whereas the course is relatively flat with no steep climbs, the circuits, rolling over rock fields, glaciers, mud flats and stony bridges, have been described by riders from the last race as the ultimate technical challenge for any mountain biker.
On the third day, The Pai Ascent, which would be the final stage, though the shortest in distance, is probably the most punishing based on the past experience. Each racer has to climb 5,000 feet in this stage. In the end, the cyclists will make two relatively easy circuits of around 1 km each of the Pai meadows to finish the race.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2011.