I never viewed my participation in this event as a ‘race’, I knew the local guys had the event sewn up as although we can match them on the flat and the climbs when you limit the supply of oxygen we have no response.
So with this in mind I have no idea why I couldn’t sleep last night, I had my usual pre race nerves and spent most of the time going over what little I knew about what lay ahead. Everything usually feels better after the first stage.
The race day started with a group ride to Dubar Square for the official welcome from the President of the Nepalese MTB Association, Chhimi Gurung, and the ‘Gary Fisher’ of Nepal, Sonam Gurung, the man who brought the fat tired back to this part of the world.
The turnout of Nepalese riders was fantastic with 50 strong riders coming out to join the band led procession through the streets of Kathmandu to the official race start on the outskirts of the city to the base of the first climb.
From the start the local favourite and current Nepalese Mountain Bike Champion Ajay Pandit went off hard, out of the saddle attacking the tarmac climb... I optimistically moved up alongside him and for the first 500m rode wheel to wheel until traffic stopped play... well for me at least... while I tried to negotiate around a van in the road I was passed on both sides by other riders.
The climb tarmac with a often changing gradient making getting into a rhythm impossible and with no option to adjust the gears to suit the slope I had to muscle the stiffer slopes and breath hard and recover on the easier stuff... the climb lasted about 6km before levelling into a traverse across the hillside on undulating jeep track, jeep track roughly translates as pretty rough going.
When the undulating jeep track reached the saddle between 2 hills we crossed and started the sizeable descent down to the valley floor but not before getting a glimpse of a fantastic view until the trail demanded full attention ... 18km of fantastic descending through villages, passing buses, cars and motorbikes... every km I thanked DT for supplying me with some suspension forks for this trip.. The trail switched from rocky to sandy, tight corners to flat out straights... dodging locals, goats and dogs.
On the valley floor the jeep track followed the course of the river... the going was pretty harsh and the 32/18 gearing I was thankful of on the first climb was now stopping me going fast enough to get on top of the bumps.. All the time I was convinced my slower than geared progress was going to see me getting caught by one of the other riders.
We passed under a large suspension foot bridge and not long after that turned and crossed another bridge popping out onto a tarmac road... again I felt under geared but pressed on as hard as I could until one of the volunteers signalled the turning for the last climb to the finish at Nuwakot.
This climb was on some awesome dry red dirt... the real heat of the day was now bearing down and it wasn’t long before I was forced to give up riding in favour of a brisk push... the climb would probably be singlespeedable but this being the first day I was picking my battles... this climb as the first was pretty lengthy at around 7km.. as it eased off I was able to turn some pedals and as we reached what looked like the top I made sure I rode more than I had been... after 3 hours of riding I reached Nuwakot and the finish line.
A good opener to what looks like is going to be another amazing experience on the bike.... stage stats of 11km ride to the start... 45km stage... just under 1000m of climbing and 1300m of climbing.
The tea house accommodation as I type is offering some amazing views and time to prepare for tomorrows transition stage to Dhadingbesi followed by jeep transfer to Gorka.