Racing at the Top of the World!

Race Report from the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020. A 4 stage MTB XC race held in Ladakh in extreme conditions of cold and altitude…

Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020

This past week, some of the most talented mountain bikers of India congregated in the fantastic land of Ladakh to do what their do best, race bikes.

With the pandemic having stopped life as we know it, racers were suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Organising a race safely was a challenge too big to handle.

Until the good folks of Ladakh Cycling Association, got together with the local police and administration to put on a show with the blessings of the Cycling Federation of India.

MTBers from as far as Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh also reached there to race. Most reached well in advance to acclimatise to the extreme altitude of the land.

And this is what happened…

The Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020 was a 4 day stage race, with the first two days around Leh, flatter courses. While the 3rd and 4th stages were the killers. The 3rd stage saw the riders climb Tanglang La in freezing conditions and then after a rest day, in the 4th stage, they raced up Khardung La. Two of the highest motorable passes in the world.

The race was incredibly difficult. Just completing the course itself was a massive challenge. Yet a race has winners and losers.

Race winner was Devender Thakur from Himachal Pradesh, followed by Shiven Aerohawk also from the same state. In third place was local lad Sonam Norboo, who did an incredible job of finishing ahead of far more experienced national level mountain bikers.

Podium at the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020 at Khardung La
From L to R: Sonam, Devender and Shiven at the top of Khardung La after completing stage 4.

Stage Fright!

The elevation profile from Stage 1. A flattish course, with just 600 metres of elevation gain in 74 km.
Elevation from Stage 2. A bit of climbing. The 54 km stretch had 850 metres of climbing.
Stage 3 saw the riders climbing Tanglang La. 50 km and 1600 metres of climbing.
Stage 4. The final stage, from Leh to Khardung La. 42 km and 1900 metres of elevation gain.

What the Organisers said…

The First Edition of Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020 took place in Leh from 27th October to 31st October. The first of its kind in the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh, the Ultimate Ladakh Ladakh Cycling Challenge was meant to test the endurance of top level cyclists in the high altitude terrain of Ladakh. The event witnessed participation from 50 elite cyclists from all over India. Along with 50 local riders from Ladakh, including 10 female cyclists. The event was organised by Ladakh Police and Ladakh Tourism in association with Ladakh Cycling Association  (LCA)and Cycling Federation of India (CFI).

Podium at the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020
The girls on the podium

Race Course…

The four days cycling event was aimed to promote the vision of making Ladakh Carbon Neutral, at the same time to boost the tourism in the region. Lieutenant Governor, R K Mathur flagged-off the event on 27th October at NDS ground Leh. He wished all the cyclists best wishes for the challenge. Overall the four days event was carried on different routes across Ladakh, including Leh-Karu, Leh-Likir on the first two days. Followed by Tanglangla and Khardungla Challenges.

The Fourth and the Final Day of the event was the toughest Khardungla Challenge. It required riding at an altitude of 17582 ft, which is the highest in the world. The Dark Horse of this championship, Sonam Norboo astounded everyone. He clinched the Silver Medal spot, trailing behind some elite National riders. The event concluded with an award ceremony at Hotel Grand Dragon Leh. There riders with best performances were awarded with Medals and Cash Prizes. Punching his mark in the cycling community of India, Sonam Norboo of Ladakh Cycling Association finished 3rd place overall. Devender Kumar and Shiven from Himachal secured 1st and 2nd place respectively.

In their concluding speeches both Honourable MP Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and Lieutenant Governor, R K Mathur, congratulated all the participants, along with CFI and Ladakh Cycling Association for making this event a successful one. Further they pledged to do all the needful to make this event an annual one. Which would see participants from all across the globe.

The Local Lad…

“Competing with the Elite National cyclists and finishing 3rd overall has been a dream come true. I’m really glad that I have got a chance to be part of this first edition of Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020”, says the 19 years old rider from Ladakh Sonam Norboo. He came out as a local star rider during this event.

Racing at the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020
Climbing Hard

About LCA

Formed in 2014, Ladakh Cycling Association (LCA) with a total members of over 150 cyclists, including females. The Association has been the key body in promoting cycling in Ladakh, striving for a green and healthy Ladakh. They have already organised many cycling events at local level. But the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge was the first mega event organised by LCA under the banner of Ladakh Police and UT Tourism Ladakh.

Racing at the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Challenge 2020
Mountain Train!

Photos: Vilayat Ali, Wangial Kaya, Fida Tanghrong

Read the exhaustive interview we did with MTB Champ Shiven Aerohawk. And the endurance race from Manali to Turtuk through the high passes of Ladakh, La La Land Ultra. Also, read about the Downhill folks of Ladakh and their Diskovalley.

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