By LB THAPA FOR THE ONTOTHEROAD.COM
For a long time, riding a bicycle was only a means of transportation in Nepal. Many Nepalese who live in urban and semi urban areas would buy Indian made Hero, Atlas or Hercules bicycles as the cheapest mode of transportation. The wheel of time moved quickly and now Nepal has become one of the best destinations for professional mountain biking.
When we speak about Professional Mountain biking, there is one name in Nepal that flashes into our mind and he is Ajay Pandit. He is the man of amazing stamina and strength. Until this day, there is hardly any international mountain bike championship he has not won.
The Yak Attack High Altitude Mountain Biking is one of the toughest mountain biking competitions in the world. The competition is held every year in Nepal. It starts from Besisahar and completes in 8 days at Beni.
Ajay Pandit has won The Yak Attack High Altitude Competition for five times till date. Winning the race of The Yak Attack is the dream of all professional mountain bikers. A single win of The Yak Attack is enough to bring international fame and a status of celebrity.
Speaking about his biking career Ajay Pandit said, “I began taking interest in cycling at the age of 10. At 16, I did participate in my first national level mountain bike championship in junior level in 2005. I was a young boy and had no previous experience of any competitions. All that made me little nervous.
“Soon I stopped negative thinking and focused on winning the race instead. In the beginning, I was behind several riders, but after a few kilometers of ride, I saw many of them were exhausted and let me go ahead. When uphill began, even more riders gave up but for me that was just a beginning. I was not tired at all.
“I paddled with the same strength and very soon I was far ahead of my rivals. I could not believe that I had already won the race and that also comfortably”.
Ajay Pandit had won the National Mountain Bike Chapmpionship-2007 in junior category. After winning the National level competition, Ajay Pandit eyed to win the same championship at senior level.
For the first time Ajay Pandit had participated in the National Mountain Bike Championship in senior level in 2009. There were the best mountain bikers from the country and the competition was among the best mountain bikers. Among the muscular riders, Ajay Pandit, a small boy was nowhere to be seen. Moreover, the senior riders did not take Ajay Pandit as a serious contender either.
‘The senior mountain bikers called me ‘fucche’ a chap and asked me to stand behind them. I obeyed and stood behind them. The race began and when uphill began, I was too tough for them. The hardest uphill of the race began and I saw the bikers who asked me to stand behind of them were gasping for breath. However, I was quite comfortable and rode past them, throwing a sarcastic smile at them. They looked at me rather helplessly.
“The entire race was over and I won the race quite comfortably. In fact, no one in the competition could give me tough challenge as I had expected. After then I dominated the national race and won Nepal National Mountain Bike Championship for five consecutive times from 2009 to 20013”.
The real test of strength and stamina of professional mountain bikers is to win The Yak Attack High Altitude Mountain Bike Competition. This is the only high altitude, mountain bike competition held in Nepal. Winning the much-coveted championship makes the winner an excellent mountain biker of note. It directly brings name, fame and money to say the least.
Round the year most of the professional mountain bikers come to Nepal and spend enough time on high altitude biking. They acclimatize themselves to paddle at high altitude where oxygen level is very thin. It is always tough to paddle at such height where the body has to work with minimum oxygen level.
Ajay Pandit stunned several professional mountain bikers by winning The Yak Attack high altitude competition for record five times from 2010 to 2015. The participants of The Yak Attack have to complete over 400km distance across Annapurna circuit.
“When the race begins from Besisahar, the altitude is only 790m but thereafter it rises as the bikers move ahead. When they reach Manang, it is already 3520m high from the sea level. By the time the racers reach Thorung Phedi, it is 4500m. The race completes in 8 days.
“There are all kinds of dangers along the trail. Sharp rocks, slippery downhill, steep cliff and the fear of sudden weather change keep worrying the riders. In brief, the trail is fraught with all kinds of known and unknown dangers”, said Ajay.
Himanchal Pradesh state government had invited Ajay Pandit to participate in 6th MTB Himanchal Pradesh Stage Race in 2010. Ajay proved he was not only good at home but abroad as well. He won the championship and lifted the shield and prize money. Ajay won the same competition in 2011 as well.
Ajay had received an invitation from the UK to participate in 2nd Gore Bike Transwear Trans-Wales in 2011. Ajay won this competition easily and became the champion. He did also participate in the 1st Midland XC Series Hanchurch wood, UK in 2013. This competition was participated by several senior bikers from Europe, America and Canada. However, they were not good enough to defeat Ajay Pandit. Ajay emerged victorious as he had left all of them far behind.
North Wales UK had invited him to compete the Schwalbe MTB Marathon, Ruthin, North Wales, UK in 2013. Ajay accepted the invitation and attended the championship. “It was a tough competition because for the first time there were some mountain bikers who were really tough. However, I managed to beat them,” added Ajay. In 2016, Ajay had attended the 4th Kerala MTB XCO Championship, Kerala, India. Ajay won this championship easily as his competitors were nowhere in sight.
“The toughest challenge I ever received was in Bhutan,” said Arjun Pandit and added, “It was the 5th Tour of the Dragon Mountain bike championship held in 2014 in Thimpu, Bhutan. The distance was 260km and the bikers must complete the race in one day. Paddling across the craggy hills was extremely tough as in many places we had to carry our mountain bikes. In fact the race was too tough, but eventually I won the race,” said Ajay with a broad smile on his face.
To become a complete professional rider one should also have the knowledge of repairing the mountain bike. Ajay Pandit worked in some well-established mountain bike shops and learnt the skill of repairing of all kinds of mountain bikes with confidence.
He is always grateful to TORQ UK for providing him professional mountain bike training in 2011 and 2013. “To become a complete cyclist only stamina and strength are not enough. One needs proper technique to become a professional mountain biker. I was lucky enough that TORQ UK invited me to provide such training that helped me to improve my skill to a great deal,” said Ajay Pandit.
Ajay Pandit has set a very unique national record that is still unbroken by any Nepalese or foreigners. He paddled from Kathmandu to Pokhara in record 8 hours. He did it for five times.
“It was not planned. Actually one fine morning I was talking with my fellow mountain bikers. In the meantime, one fellow biker said that I could not reach to Pokhara in less than 10 hours. I immediately accepted the challenge. I wanted to prove him that I can reach Pokhara in less than 10 hours.
‘I set out at 6 o’clock in the morning from Sundhara. While paddling I was neither nervous nor did excited, because I knew I could do it. I trusted my ability and I was right as I comfortably completed my race and I reached Pokhara in eight hours.
“My friends were very excited by the news that I reached Pokhara in 8 hours. I won the bet and my friend gave me 5000 rupees. But looking at my friend’s pale face, I felt pity on him and decided to return his money. I think his happiness must have known no bound,” said Ajay Pandit and burst into laughter.
It is a good news that Ajay Pandit has succeeded to make his name in the international mountain biking. By winning international mountain bike championship like ‘The Yak Attack’ for five times, Ajay has proved he deserved honors and accolades, because he is a world champion mountain biker of Nepal.
All rights reserved. No articles and photos published in ONTOTHEROAD.COM can be reproduced without prior written permission of the blogger. A legal action will be taken immediately if any articles or photos are reproduced without the blogger’s knowledge. However, articles or photos can only be reproduced by duly mentioning ontotheroad.com and author’s name together. The blogger must also be informed by sending an email. All articles and the photos published in ontotheroad.com are the copyright property of the BLOGGER.