Tuesday 23 July 2024

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Spills and Thrills mark Goa’s first Mountain Biking Race


Mountain biking and Goa. These two terms are rarely used together in the same sentence. But Cycling Goa, the state’s largest grouping of cyclists, showed conclusively over the weekend that they are here to change it.

The Goa International Mountain Biking Challenge was the first of its kind race held in India’s smallest state of Goa. It was a 3-day stage race where the riders had to not only tackle the roughest terrain, climb impossible slopes and make steep descents without falling, but even had to negotiate jungles, water streams, rocky outcrops, etc. 

Cycling Goa President Bryan Soares and Secretary Terence Moniz marshaled the members to put together a spectacular competition. The first stage of this race kicked off on 16 October with riders from almost 7 countries competing for prizes worth Rs3.5 lakh.

Accommodation was at the Jungle Book Resort at Collem, the staging point for visitors to Goa’s spectacular Dudhsagar Waterfall. The resort’s comfortable yet rustic rooms played host to the mountain bikers. Resort owner Joseph Barreto, a cyclist himself, personally saw to the arrangements. The night before the first stage, there were lot of discussions going on about how the track was, how difficult or easy would it be, how was the terrain, the uphills, the downhills and all other cycling terms that would be heard only if you attend a dinner with 35 mountain bikers.

As the mountain bikers arrives at the race destination near the Multi-faculty College, Darbondara. The riders were given 1 hour time to go around and familiarize themselves with the 4.8 km loop. After this all their doubts were solved. The race flagged off at 9.30 in the morning and saw all the riders make rounds around the track under the ultra-hot Goan sun! 

Buddhi Bahadur Tamang better known by his nickname ‘Roan’ and Laxmi Magar, both from Nepal, pedaled a dream race and were led to the podium comfortably. Even though they had come from Himalayas, one week of acclimatisation to Goan weather and hard practice saw them sitting on top of the leaderboard  for stage 1 

After the race, 19-year-old Laxmi Magar, who has come all the way from Nepal and speaks very limited English, said: "This is the hottest race in the South Asian part of the world."


With the first stage wrapped up, the official standings were: 

Open Men
1. Roan Tamang, Nepal – 1:47.21
2. Sukrit, Canada – 2:04.09
3. Gurman Reen, India – 2:18.36.

Open women
1. Laxmi Magar, Nepal – 1:28.16

Open Masters
1. Rainer Dias, Goa-India – 1:32.20

The Open Men’s category had to do 8 laps of the tough course, while the Masters (over 45) and Women’s categories covered 5 laps of the course.

Though the weather was somewhat cooler, the race was just getting hotter as the stage was set for Day 2. Day 1 was a minor triumph for Cycling Goa, too, as all 3 podium positions in the Masters section were taken by Goa-based cyclists.

It was only after the grueling, hot and hard Stage 1 of the Goa International Mountain Biking Challenge that the riders got a basic idea of what they had actually signed up for. Now they knew that Stage 2 was going to be much more difficult than Stage 1, and they tried to mentally prepare themselves for it.

But none of them were quite prepared for what they were up against at the DOT Property 4x4 course at village Kumari, about 15km from Uguem. Once they stepped down at the race location, they had their jaws wide open! Due to rain showers the previous night, the course had become super-slippery and full of slush. Originally one of the sections of this course was used by 4x4 jeep off-road vehicles. It was a perfect obstacle course for mountain bikes too.

After having one practice ride around the course and crossing 3 water streams, 1 impossibly steep and long uphill climb, 2 brutal downhills, a prepared technical section that required great skill and fitness to negotiate, apart from an enclosure of 7 hound dog that protect the property. One look, and the riders knew that Stage 1 was a picnic compared to Stage 2.

The course was in a jungle close to the Western Ghats; the green forest served a lot of shade to the riders, shielding them from the sun. But what could shield them from the tyrannies of the course…?

The Stage was flagged off by none other than the international Triathlon celebrity Pablo Erat, who also took the plunge for the first time in mountain biking, riding the first lap with the riders. The terrain took its toll from the very beginning, and the riders were separated from the first lap itself, with Roan Tamang lapping some of them twice. The result saw almost the same podium standings as the previous stage.

After the race, Roan Tamang from Nepal, leader in the Open Men’s category, said: "This course is one of the most difficult courses I've ever ridden and has a good level of obstacles." Jackson Grey, a racer from Australia, said that the course could match the best European race standards.

The stage was now set for the mostly level but hot and bumpy section at Dona Paula, opposite the Goa University. This slightly shorter course had no climbs or descents, but was over bumpy rocks with very sharp turns and sharp variations in levels created by rocky outcrops.

Notwithstanding that this course was deliberately kept at a lower level of difficulty and brought closer to the city to make it convenient for spectators, this stage too saw its share of spills and falls. When the flag went down on the last rider though, the leaderboard had changed very little.

The men's open category had Nepal’s Buddhi Bahadur Tamang aka Roan in overall first position (Rs1 lakh), Auro Sukrit from Pondicherry (Rs50,000) in second place and Tejasvi from Bangalore (Rs30,000) in the third spot. The women's open category had Nepal’s Laxmi Magar (Rs50,000) in first position, Aurosylle Bystrom from Pondicherry (Rs25,000) in second place and Sowmya Urs from Bangalore in third place. The Master’s category (above 45) had Rainer Dias of Goa (Rs50,000) in the first position, Raghav Gowda of Goa (Rs25,000) in second place and Portugal’s Jose D'Silva in third.

For women's open category winner Laxmi Magar, dealing with the heat and humidity of Goa was one of the biggest challenges yet the experience was exhilarating. "It was a wonderful feeling to compete for three days through tough routes and technical sections to emerge a winner. I look forward to coming again to Goa next year," she said.

"The three days were extremely tough yet exciting," said winner of the Master’s category Rainer Dias: "Goa can be the perfect destination for international professional endurance cyclists," he concluded. 

(The writer is a veteran journalist and presently into trekking, climbing, kayaking, sailing, cycling etc. He can be contacted at [email protected] )

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The photo of a biker riding through a stream illustrates just how environmentally destructive mountain biking is!

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb10.htm . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.nfshost.com/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb_dangerous.htm .

For more information: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtbfaq.htm .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

Mike Vandeman , USA



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