MTB Shimla 2014 was my first experience anywhere around mountain biking. Though I used to pedal in my childhood days, but here I had something else to do. I volunteered for media management at the event as it was something that closely matched to what I did for a living.
What is MTB Shimla 2014 ?
MTB Shimla is the Shimla edition of MTB Himalaya mountain biking race. It was the third consecutive year that MTB Shimla, a cross country cycling race was organized, that takes riders around Shimla, mostly off road, loose gravel and broken tarmac. MTB Shimla 2014 attracted more than 100 applicants, but finally the number of registered and approved riders landed down around 70.
Well, behind an event as well managed as MTB Shimla, there goes months of planning, number of dry runs and different teams that execute their designated jobs.
MTB Shimla 2014 Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes, I saw a well balanced team and dedicated officials and volunteers. Not to forget the complaint riders, who took care of the rules and guidelines.
I started to play an active role on 9th April as the event had to start on 11th of April 2014. I saw riders landing in Shimla early and trying to get used to the terrain and atmosphere. Riders being from different parts of the country and world, it was important to take on the terrain in advance I guess.
People who influenced me the most
To begin with, I saw Ashish Sood and Samir Azad on their toes 24 hours, they barely took any sleep. They were there when I used to leave and on the go before anyone else would have arrived in the arena. With his phones ringing 24*7, Ashish was the face of managing committee and Samir took care of the track which was carefully curated for what mountain biking should really offer the riders. After all, adventure in the adobe of nature is what most of them were here for.
Ashish, working closely with the managing committee of the parent organization HASTPA had sponsor representatives, teams of volunteers, Bike Marshals, Media and race official to coordinate with. Ashish was the one stop for all solutions during the event. Samir handling all the designs that we see on posters, also curated the track. “Samir is a very strong rider and has an understanding of the tracks. He’s putting in endless hours on recce of track”, said Ashish.
Apart from racing at MTB Shimla
While I saw riders getting their bikes ready, degreasing the axles and chains, we prepared the presentations for press and rider briefing. At Hotel Holiday Home, press representatives of all leading news dailies were present to find answers about MTB Shimla 2014, one of the unique events being held here in Shimla.
During the press presentation, on stage we had, Mr. Rajesh Kalra, Chief Editor of Times Internet Ltd. a journalist for two decades representing the Pedal Yatri group. Mr. Rajesh Kalra briefed the journalists about the tits and bits of mountain biking and how does he feel about it personally. Mr. Jasbir Singh from Jam and ketchup, who designed the logo for MTB Shimla and the official jersey as well.
Mountain biking is a pure adventure sport which has evolved into its present state involving safety measures, precision and skill.
We had to be prepared for the rider briefing after the press conference with the answers to all the questions the riders could have asked. We were all set with the facts and figures. Managing committee had made sure about the Ambulances, Bike Marshal routine, Feed Zones, and route over view. Samir had collected Garmin data for the track and also made GPS files available to the riders.
During the event MTB Shimla 2014
Next day was the flag off. 12th April 2014. After numerous practice sessions, the entry of our Chief Guest was timed to perfection. We had the RedBull team ready to serve the energy drink to the riders before the flag off. This was the quickest moment of the whole event as we had to stick to the schedule; we had a long day ahead.
After the flag off, most of the time went away in sweeping the track for all the banners we had put up, being environment friendly, we had a rule of time penalty to riders who were found littering, but all our riders were nature lovers as well and there was no such issue.
For me, it was a new experience writing Press notes for a live outdoor sports event. Tremendous support from Ashish Sood made everything look very easy. We live tweeted and updated the event proceedings to our Social Media handles as well. The press notes were sent timely to report the live stats from the event. Thanks to the smart phones.
Camping in Forests at Chail
Reaching the Hotel Chail Palace for our stay at the end of Day 1, the food was fabulous!! All the riders looked bright and shining at the dinner table after a long day of riding. To my surprise as I concluded with dinner and collecting photograph dumps from all official photographers, Samir told me they had tents and sleeping bags and we could go camping. PERFECT!!
We took our stuff and moved to a hill top! Surrounded by pine trees and flower beds. The view was ecstatic. It was dark already and we setup our tent with the help of flash lights. It was my first experience to set up a tent! Akhilesh Goswami and Manav Arora helped me with it. Pure fun!! My sleeping bad was missing out on the zip locker, but it was cozy enough for a sound sleep.
Rain and stormy winds woke me up; I had never felt this close to nature. All thanks to MTB Shimla 2014 that I could have such an amazing experience. I woke up and headed to the hotel premises to get freshened up and hit the restaurant for breakfast. I enjoyed my breakfast, they had everything a rider could be looking for and yes, paranthas for the fellows like me as well.
Such a picturesque view all around, as it continued to rain until after noon, we had a chance to admire the forest clad in mist and sun playing hide and seek through the clouds. Right when the riders were flagged off for the second day, we started to load their luggage and close for the day at Hotel Chail Palace.
Concluding day 2 at MTB Shimla 2014
Due to the rain, tracks had become more dangerous and the competitive area was cut a little short as we lost a lot of time. We started to follow the riders in the sweeping vehicle and I got a little worried about the prize distribution ceremony as the final presentation had to be settled down in my laptop with all the data, pictures and timings.
The managing committee at MTB Shimla, comprising of Mr. Mohit Sood, Mr. Akhil Puri and more made everything look so easy and the stage was all set when we reached the hotel.
The timings were all recorded and settled to satisfy all the riders on precision and transparency. The local boy Devender Thakur had won the race. All the riders competing for podium position were startled at the timing Devender clocked on the second day, trailing by 8 minutes and leading at the end by less than a minute. He was a real missile on the track. He was awarded by Deputy Commissioner of Shimla Mr. Dinesh Malhotra. Later on I went on to ask him,” Bro did you make a call at home”? “Yes”, he replied,” my parents knew I was participating in a biking race, they are happy that I won”.
I was bolstered by the simplicity of this guy. To be frank, I had never felt before how do the mountain biker take this sport. But as Vamini Sethi, women rider at MTB Shimla said, “It’s a total mind game”, it’s all about pushing hard to explore the hidden possibilities inside us.
After the event concluded, it was great to see the officials, volunteers, Bike Marshal, everyone sit together and share us and downs faced during the event like a family.
(Photo Credits: Ajit Kumar Shrivastva)
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