The vivacious 9th edition of the Hero Sprint MTB Himalaya Shimla 2021 concluded here today. The two-stage MTB XCM (cross country marathon) race was flagged off by Shri Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, Hon’ble Governor of Himachal Pradesh from the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies on 8th October as 100 cyclists from 22 cities pedalled over 110 kms through the mighty Himalayas. Rakesh Rana from Nainital leads the tally, followed by Akasha Sherpa and Rajbir Singh from Shimla. The race, organized by the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), Himachal Tourism, Cycling Association of Himachal Pradesh, and Hero Cycles traversed through Shimla and Chail. This year, the competitive categories were men solo, Masters solo, women’s solo, Team of two, Under-16, and Under-19, selected through city-level qualifiers in 12 cities (Gurugram, Bengaluru, Pune, Gandhidham, Ludhiana, Nainital, Belgaum, Chennai, Kota, Jaipur, Shimla, and Srinagar).
The category-wise winners this year are Rakesh Rana (men’s solo), Oshimanta Phatowali (Masters solo), Anupama Chauhan (Women’s solo), Bechan and Dhiman (Team of two), Vansh Kalia (under-16), and Rajbir Singh (under-19). The prologue of the race was a 15-km non-competitive race while the first and second stages covered 58 km while gaining an elevation of 1500 metres and 48 km while gaining an elevation of 1650 metres, respectively. Stage 1 covered Willys Park, Sheelgaon, Anandpur, Sadhupul, Janedghat, Chail, Dhochi, and Sadhupul while stage 2 covered Aswhiwini Khad, Junga, Koti, Mundaghat, Chini Bangla, Sanjauli, and end at Peterhoff. The race took cyclists through some of the most challenging but scenic routes in India, including Kufri Catchment – the densest forest in Asia, Chail Wildlife Sanctuary, Chail Cricket Stadium – the highest cricket ground since 1893, Shimla heritage zone lined with British-era architecture and the famous climb of Janedghat.
The youngest participant this year was 10-year-old Kostav from Shimla while his fellow citizen, 13-year-old Divija Sood, was the youngest female rider. The senior-most participant was 61-year-old Harpreet Singh from Ludhiana. Other noteworthy participants included Anupama Haryanvi, a mother and a professional from Gurugram; Sameera Auluck, a fashion designer, a mother, and an ultra-endurance cyclist; Akshit Gaur, former U-19 National Gold medallist; Issac Rai, one of India’s finest MTB riders; as well as teams of cyclists from Chennai and Guwahati. Strengthening its 7-year-long commitment to the annual race, Hero Cycles also inducted 17-year-old Rajbir Singh into the ‘Hero Action Team’, India’s most structured programme for identifying and nurturing talents who have won national titles and represented the country at international levels. Rajbir Singh’s inclusion to this elite group of 10 cyclists will help him with financial and technical support and up his game to international levels.
“This is a platform for cycling talents to show their capabilities and sportsman spirit. In this 9th edition, the race is critical to pick up the threads from where we left before COVID-19 hit us. We are committed to take mountain biking and cycling to every city in India and this year has just been phenomenal. I hope the finalists have a good run at the race and can take back the culture of mountain biking to their cities with the aim of putting India as a destination for Mountain Biking on the World map. We are also very happy to add on to our talent pool of Hero Action team,” said Mr. Pankaj M Munjal, Chairman and Managing Director, HMC, a Hero Motors Company. ‘’We are very happy to make Rajbir a part of the Hero Action Team. He has been dominating the circuits in and around Shimla for the past one year and with right guidance and training, we believe he has the potential to represent India at international level,’’ said Mr Abhishek Munjal, Director, Hero Motors Company (HMC).