Each year hundreds of riders flock to the mountains of Nepal to train for downhill mountain biking, but It is not just foreigners that this extreme sport has become popular with, it is rapidly developing a dedicated following in Nepal itself, where the natural landscape provides the perfect conditions for competitive and recreational biking. In fact only 2 weeks ago Ajay Pandit of Nepal won the Tour of The Dragon race in Myanmar, and just last weekend Palpa played host to Nepal’s first ever competitive Urban Downhill Race.
The Palpa Urban Downhill Race saw 26 mountain-bikers from 5 countries racing through the winding streets and forests of Palpa, each competing for a chance at a prize pool worth more than 60,000 rupees. Beginning in the steep forest on the outskirts of Palpa, riders had to navigate a series of steep dirt jumps before the course wound down into the city, cutting through alleyways, down stairs and across main streets. If the course itself wasn’t challenging enough, weekend rains had made the track dangerously slippery, and indeed before the race had even begun two riders had already been eliminated due to broken bones.This potential for personal injury is an inherent danger in mountain-biking, but for some riders it is exactly this added element of risk that makes urban downhill racing so exhilarating. One of the competitors, Vincent Shrestha, a rider of Nepalese and Danish descent, admits that adrenaline is a part of what initially attracted him to Urban downhill racing. He also adds that “We rode through the alleyways that locals walk everyday so their presence make all the riders pumped up to do their best, which made for a fun race”
The event even captured the curiosity of the locals. A number of the youths volunteered to help ensure the course was clear at all points and those who hadn’t volunteered lined the streets to watch and cheer on the riders. In the end it was 15 year old Chris Keeling, the youngest rider in the competition, who took first place. And although only one person could take the first prize, for some riders just making it down safely counted as a win. With the overall success of this even the organizers from Switchback are already planning next years race which will not only include the urban downhill race but also a cross country mountain bike race and likely an even larger prize pool for riders to compete for.