Top bikers to participate in mountain rally

Shimla, Sep 20 (IANS) Titan desert MTB Marathon champion Luis Leao Pinto will participate with another top rider Ricardo Rodrigues Martins of Portugal in one of the world's toughest mountain biking rallies to be held in Himachal Pradesh next month.

Portuguese national champion Pinto, ranked ninth in the world and seeded sixth in Europe, and Martins, who is ranked 16th in the world, will be among 74 foreign and Indian participants of the 'Hercules MTB Himachal 2013', Mohit Sood, president of the organising Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), told IANS Friday.

Both are marking their debut in an Asian biking event, he said.

Pinto won Titan desert MTB Marathon, the mountain biking event designed on the analogy of Paris-Dakar, this year.

He became the first rider in the history to climb the three steps of the podium (first in 2013, second in 2012, third in 2011).

Sood said participants included 14 foreign bikers and they would take part in the seven-day event, ninth in the series, to be flagged off from the state capital Sep 27.

Teams from the adventure wings of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force are also participating.

Another Portuguese rider, Luis Canto Moniz, who is the Ferrari India general manager, will also take part.

During the rally, participants, both men and women, will pass through forest trails and unmetalled and metalled rural roads, winding through Shimla district.

The length of the route has been increased to 500 km from last year's 438 km.

The highest point of the rally will be the 3,300-metre Hatu peak, overlooking the tourist destination of Narkanda, some 65 km from Shimla. On an average, a cyclist will pedal about 70 km daily.

The Hercules MTB is billed as the third-toughest mountain biking event in the world after the Trans-Alps Challenge (Europe) and Trans-Rockies (Canada), the organisers said.

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