Why is Shimla colder than Ludhiana

Hero MTB Himalaya - stage race in India

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in Dharamsala in northern India. This is exactly where the eight-day Hero MTB Himalaya stage race ends. How close do you get to MTB nirvana on the roof of the world?


Same, same, but different. The eight day

Hero MTB Himalaya

through the mountains of northern India is based on the western model BIKE Transalp - the mother of all MTB stage races - and yet wants to be so much more than a mountain bike race. Our author describes her impressions from the 14th Hero MTB Himalya * 2018.

When Grant Usher from South Africa stood on the podium of the cricket stadium in Dharamsala and accepted the winner's trophy in the master’s category, he spoke to me straight from my soul: He would have taken part in many stage races all over the world, but MTB Himalaya simply clubs the best of all races: challenging stages with great technical single trails and tough climbs, grandiose landscapes, great cultural experience, excellent organization with wonderful camps and excellent food.

So much for a brief summary of the ten-day mountain bike event through the Indian part of the Himalayas over a distance of 650 kilometers and 16,000 meters of altitude. Of the original 85 participants, only 52 made it to the finish, which underlines the hardness of this race. However, if you are in good training form, have a functional mountain bike - a fully is recommended - and do not have any accidents or mechanical problems, you should be able to cope with the route from Shimla to Dharamsala and receive at least a finisher medal at the end. I see myself as a passionate, but by no means great, mountain biker, which is why I am more than satisfied with my result: 38th place in the overall ranking and third place in the women's category.

MTB Himalaya starting point was Shimla, the former summer capital of the British. A small three-kilometer prologue started here on the first day.

MTB Himalaya The starting field originally consisted of 85 riders. In the end, 52 drivers reached the destination in Dharamsala.

Two days after crossing the finish line, I am now sitting in a nice Tibetan café in Dharamsala, enjoying the view of the mountains while sipping a mango lassi, indulging in momos (steamed dumplings) and reviewing the last ten days. It's already my second order. Not that I didn't get enough to eat during the race, on the contrary! But obviously my body is still busy recharging my energy reserves. I can't move right now anyway. My thighs hurt too much. So I stay seated, eat and write down my thoughts on this great mountain bike experience:

When I think back to the registration in Shimla, I can hardly believe that only ten days should have passed since then. I've experienced so much, learned and discovered new things. Shimla is the capital of the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh in the very north of India. It takes eight hours by bus from Delhi, then you have already arrived in the former summer capital of the British at 2000 meters above sea level. In addition to the British atmosphere, there are mainly colorful markets, chaotic traffic and many, many wonderful mountain bike trails.

MTB Himalaya Over eight stages it went through one of the most beautiful Himalaya regions in India.

MTB Himalaya We spent the night in camps that were set up anew every day.

Some mountain bike greats keep coming back

The Hero MTB Himalaya Race is a comparatively small race with only 85 participants. However, there is a fixed date on the racing calendar for many mountain bike greats from all over the world. The German Andreas Seewald has now taken part for the third time and this year came second. The Spaniard Milton Ramos is also a true mountain bike legend and impressed with his technical riding skills. The two Norwegians Thomas Engelsgjerd and Ole Hem took first and third place this year.

MTB Himalaya The two fast Norwegians Ole Hem and Thomas Engelsgjeard.

MTB Himalaya The team Micael Isidoro (Portugal) and David Kumar (India) took second place in the team ranking. David Kumar is considered to be the best Indian. Overall in 10th place, he won the title in the Asia category.

MTB Himalaya This year there were also five participants from South Africa, including 19 year old Juan Louw.

Catherine Williamson is also a familiar face: The British woman won the race for the fourth time in a row in the women's category. The two Germans Marvin Augustinyniak and Felix Fritsch won the team classification. There were also strong participants from South Africa, Portugal, Australia, Poland, Belgium, Russia and of course India as well as a large number of "normal" and exotic people. For 13 years, for example, the barefoot Indian Datta Patil has been pedaling every year, and Mohmad Amin Sole from Bangladesh traveled to India on his simple eight-speed bicycle. The two Poles Dawid and Marcin also had fun taking part, although they also had to push from time to time. The beer in the camp tasted all the better for the two of them after a stressful day.

The entry fee of $ 1,000 sounds like a lot at first

All sports enthusiasts can look forward to a well-organized all-inclusive mountain bike adventure in India at the MTB race. An entry fee of US $ 1,000 sounds like a lot of money, but everything is included in the price from the starting signal to the finish: Accommodation in the hotel and camp with shower facilities and toilets, sleeping bags, mattresses, excellent non-stop catering, luggage transport, bike- Cleaning, award ceremony and closing party - yes, even the mechanic on site. Only the massage with the South African physiotherapist Sanja has to be paid additionally.

MTB Himalaya In addition to professional riders from all over the world, many hobby riders also took part in the MTB Himalaya.

The unique thing about the race: Everyone is the same here! Whether world class or mountain bike beginner - everyone lives in the same camp, eats together, exchanges information about stages and nutritional advice and starts together the next day. This not only creates a wonderful family and friendly atmosphere, but also creates a great exchange between the drivers.

For me and especially for many Indian participants, this is an incredibly great opportunity to learn more about mountain biking. While we are snacking together in the dining tent, Thomas reports on his training at home in Norway and Andi talks about his participation in the World Cup. The seven-time world champion in 24-hour driving, Jason Englisch, even quickly tinkered a little presentation on his laptop in order to give us a lecture on competitive mountain bike sports one evening around the campfire. The mountain bike coach Alex Kruger from South Africa also gives a small training session on the rest day at the camp together with his partner Juan Louw.

I myself report from my life in the Indian Himalayas. Having lived in India for eight years, I have a lot to tell: about Indian culture or the most beautiful mountain bike tours on the subcontinent. I also act as a mediator between the Indian organizing committee and the demands of the western participants.

Cultural getaways, the kitchen and cricket

In addition to mountain biking, the program of the MTB Himalaya is above all cultural exchange. Wouldn't it be a shame to travel all the way to India without getting to know the country and its people. But the race management provides a deep insight into Indian culture. This already begins on the day of registration with a joint Hindu fire ceremony to approve the gods for the race. On the rest day, a short trip to the local school is organized, where we dance and sing together. Local Indian specialties can always be found on the extensive buffet.

MTB Himalaya During the race, small cooperation projects are traditionally implemented with the local community. Village schools were visited to distribute exercise books and provide information about environmental protection.

But in the end, the MTB Himalaya is of course about mastering the demanding stages. They lead up and down through the picturesque Himalayan region: every day they are between 60 and 100 kilometers long, and up to 2,800 meters of altitude have to be conquered - just as much is often downhill.

It goes through a largely undeveloped region of the Himalayas with rugged gravel roads, dirt roads, great forest paths and routes over alpine pastures, through villages and over small streams. It is not uncommon for the paths to lead directly over the property of an Indian farmer. Then the children happily wave to us drivers, while the women look after us in disbelief - not without offering an apple. But this is usually declined with thanks, because at the two to three refreshment stations the drivers are provided with sufficient drinks, bananas, cakes, potatoes, eggs and chocolate bars.

MTB Himalaya The routes are a mixture of gravel, forest trails, single trails and some asphalt.

MTB Himalaya Often it was on narrow concrete village paths with many steps and slippery gullies.

MTB Himalaya There were two or three refreshment stations waiting for you on each stage.

MTB Himalaya Marco from the Radl Rasti mechanic team also contested one or the other stage with his team colleague Christine.

While the professionals were on the road between three and five hours a day, I and many others usually sat in the saddle for around eight hours - long, sometimes painful, but wonderful hours on the most beautiful paths in the Himalayas. But the arrival at the camp was all the nicer: nice mountain bikers were waiting to chat, a delicious lunch and a warm shower.

But the time in camp was also filled with a tight program.The later I arrived, the less time I had for regeneration and preparation for the next intensive stage: cleaning and checking the bike, washing clothes, stretching and massage and lots and lots of food. The hard-working kitchen team sizzled around the clock in their large pots.

The 24-hour catering began with an extensive breakfast consisting of oatmeal, omelets, sandwiches, Indian bread, yoghurt and hot drinks. In the next camp, the continuation in the form of lunch and finally dinner, in between snacks - a mixture of Indian and European dishes with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Despite the intense hours on the bike, probably no race participant lost weight during the days.

The days passed from station to station with a very nice rest day on day four, until we finally arrived in Dharamsala - a small mountain town where the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan community live in exile. For me, the perfect place to end such an eventful race and then linger for a few days.

MTB Himalaya The Spaniard Jorge Padrones takes part in the cultural program during the rest day.

MTB Himalaya finish in Dharamsala of the two Germans Andreas Seewald (2nd place) and Holger Haarschmidt (5th place).

MTB Himalaya award ceremony in Dharamsala cricket stadium. After eight stages, the Norwegian Thomas Engelsgjeard took first place ahead of Andreas Seewald and Ole Hem.

The award ceremony in the international cricket stadium was of course another highlight. Despite the great organization of a really elaborate event, you always have to be aware that the race takes place in India and here, well, everything is a little different. Just Indian. Instead of fighting against it, it is always better to accept things as they are and post them under "Indian experience".

For example, the schedule is not always adhered to. Then breakfast is not served at 6:30 a.m., but only at 7:00 a.m. Especially this year there were some landslides after very heavy rains, which meant that the entire camp team had to make some long detours to reach the next camp. And that also delayed setting up the tent and preparing meals.

The start time was also shifted back a few minutes, and yes, maybe one or the other refreshment station was one or two kilometers further away than indicated. All small things, if you are prepared for them. Ultimately, MTB Himalaya 2018 was just an exciting time for me and an adventure that I can only recommend to every mountain biker and adventurer.

About the author: Sarah Appelt

MTB Himalaya Sarah Appelt has lived and worked in India since 2009.

Sarah Appelt has lived in India since 2009. She originally came to Delhi as part of a year-long volunteer program and worked in a slum for an Indian non-profit organization.

During this time, she was so fascinated by the country and its people that she decided to stay in India and offer active and adventure trips in India. After studying tourism and taking courses in various mountain sports and yoga, she moved to the small mountain town of Manali in the Himalayan region.

From here she not only organizes her trips, but also follows her passions for mountain biking and mountaineering. As the first female member of the Indian mountain bike team "Hero Action Team", she regularly takes part in Indian mountain bike events and is a role model for Indian girls and women in mountain bike sport.

In her blog she reports regularly about her life in India and yoga, her travels and of course about mountain biking in India.


* Event name in English spelling. In the text, the German spelling recommended by the Duden is used for the Asian mountains: Himalaya.