GUWAHATI, Dec 11 - Away from media glare, a group of dedicated young people who have been promoting cycling as a sport and recreation besides a mode of sustainable urban transport, have also successfully introduced a new adventure sports � mountain biking � in the State.
Into its third edition, the Assam Downhill Championship which will kick off in the rugged terrain of the picturesque Bortila (Hengrabari) hills in the heart of the city on December 20 has elicited response from a large number of mountain bikers from across the country.
Many mountain biking enthusiasts from the city and outside are already sweating it out in the practice sessions at the �Monkey Temple Trail� at Bortila, which is accessible from the Borbari area of the express highway.
�Mountain bikers from across the country are gathering here to showcase their stupendous skills in mountain biking at the Assam Downhill Championship 3.0 � a first-of-its-kind event here � on December 20. We are also having a trail run on December 19 in which several top endurance runners will participate,� Bikash Doley of Spoke Hub, the organiser, told The Assam Tribune.
Around 40 mountain bikers took part in the event last year.
Doley said that they have been developing the trail professionally since 2019 under the guidance of senior national champion Gautam Taode from Maharashtra.
�We have been able to nurture young talents like 14-year-old junior national champion Malav Dutta and senior national champion Ismamul Howk. Both are riders who were discovered and nurtured in the Assam Downhill Championship and went on to win laurels for the State. We as a team are very happy with the way the event has progressed over the last three years and has established itself as one of India�s best downhill cycling events in a short span of time. We have a vision to have Asia-level top 10 athletes by 2025,� he added.
Malav who is a Class IX student, reiterated the potential of mountain biking in Assam and said that with proper thrust and promotion, it could attract lots of young people into its fold.
�It is an exciting sports and cycling as a whole has immense health benefits. And we have the perfect terrain for mountain biking here,� he said.
The biking trail cuts through an undulating hilly stretch of 935 metres and an elevation drop of 500 metres. For the audience too, it is a thrilling experience to see a cyclist hurtling down the narrow serpentine hilly tract at great speed, negotiating sharp curves and rocks.
�The riders will be further tested by a lot of obstacles and hurdles along the trail. A ramp will be put at a strategic point which will cause the bikers to be airborne over a long stretch, adding to the thrill,� Arshel Akhter, Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati, said.
Akhter added that biking both as a recreation and sports has tremendous scope in Assam and the North East and the need is to promote it vigorously. �With its hilly terrain, mountain biking can emerge as an exciting adventure sports. Even in State capital Guwahati which is surrounded by dozens of hills, this sport has immense potential,� he said.
Avid cyclist and organiser Pratibhu Dutta of Pedal for a Change said that the past one year or so had seen a change among city-dwellers who are increasingly taking to cycling - for health reasons, for transportation and sports. �This is a refreshing change and we need to give it a further push,� he said.