In a country where cricket is the number one sport, it’s not easy trying to venture something new and getting recognized for it. But there’s huge hope for one outdoor sport: mountain biking. Over the last two decades, it’s made massive strides in India and it’s all thanks to MTB Himalaya, a stage race that has international and local participants battling it out in one of the toughest terrains. What started in 2005 as a project with just a few participants has now turned into a leading race that even attracts pro-riders. It returns in April of 2018 with the 7th edition of Hero MTB Shimla, a shorter version of the main race that takes place every year in October.
Mountain Biking: A Growing Sport
For long considered an unconventional sport that only a few indulged in, mountain biking is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing sports in India. And it isn’t just attracting young riders either. At Hero MTB Himalaya, participants like 55-year-old Harpreet Singh have proven that age is no barrier. Young and old alike compete for the championship, crossing streams and manoeuvring their way over tricky terrain.
Events like Hero MTB Shimla and Hero MTB Himalaya have helped discover athletes from remote areas of the country and have laid a platform for them to eventually represent India at the international stage. Once mere biking aficionados, they have a chance to indulge in their passion and pit their skills against fellow riders. David Kumar is one such example. A member of the HASTPA Team, the Shimla local finished as the Hero MTB Shimla champion. He has another feather in his cap as he’s the first person to take a bike to sacred Kinnaur Kailash.
Adventure Tourism Makes its Mark in India
Tourism is growing in India and this has also paved the road for adventure tourism to the point where the Ministry of Tourism declared 2018 as the Year of Adventure Tourism. Outdoor enthusiasts are undoubtedly waiting with bated breath to see just what’s in store.
The Year of Adventure kicked off in January when RN Sports Marketing in collaboration with Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) organised a first of its kind Adventure Sports Expo Asia, held in Gurgaon from January 27th-29th.
The event was a big success and saw over 50 brands participating and almost 15,000 visitors. Notable names in adventure sports attended as well including Suzanne Al Houby, the first Arab woman to climb Mount Everest, Archana Sardana, India’s first BASE jumper, and Ajeet Bajaj, the first Indian to ski to both poles in a year.
The expo aimed to tap into infrastructure, adventure-seekers, the youth and the affluent population. Events like this are important if adventure sports is to be taken forward. After all, it’s only on such platforms that all stakeholders can work to realize its potential and put India on the global map.
MTB Himalaya and MTB Shimla race director and founder, Mohit Sood, recently spoke at CII’s conference on adventure tourism. With big corporate players like Hero Cycles starting to invest in entities like Hero MTB Shimla to promote cycling and adventure sports, adventure enthusiasts and lovers of mountain biking can look forward to an exciting year.
India has loads of untapped potential with respect to adventure tourism. Vast terrains that are as varied as they come and undiscovered talents with a love for the outdoors and all things adventure create the perfect setting for sports like mountain biking. Despite this, there’s a lot that needs to be done if India is to be the setting for adventure sports. Government support and aid is one such necessity along with the organization of more event like Adventure Sports Expo Asia. As for Hero MTB Shimla 2018, the stage is set and riders are ready and waiting to prove their mettle! Come April 13th and the 7th edition of Hero MTB Shimla will kick-off amid much excitement and thrill.