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MTB Kerala: Canada’s Cory, German Naima Win Men’s & Women’s Races

In Sports
December 24, 2019

Adapting well to the tropical conditions that stand in high contrast to the winter chill in their countries, Canadian Cory Wallace (1:43:27.664 hours) and Iranian Farzad Khodayari (1:43:33.288) rode to victory at the 6th edition of MTB (Mountain Terrain Bike) Kerala by finishing first and second respectively in the men’s international category.

The women’s segment of the India’s biggest competitive cycling event, too, wove a similar narrative when German Naima Madlen Diesner (1:23:42.932) and Nepalese Laxmi Magar (1:37:37.490) emerged the topper and first runner-up amid loud cheers from the crowd at the Priyadarshini Tea Environs near this hill-town 3,000 feet above the sea level.

Indians Shiven and Kiran Kumar Raju finished third and fifth in the men’s international category. Chandigarh-based Shiven (1:53:51.054) and Bangalorean Kiran (1:54:34.258) thus emerged the national champion and runner-up in the national segment. Devender Kumar of Uttarakhand was the second runner-up (national), while Buddhi Bahadur Tamang of Nepal (1:54:03.788) came fourth in the international section.

The MTB’s international and national races were held together, with both spanning the same distance: 38.4 km (eight laps of the 4.8-km track).

A total of 78 men in both the international (14 countries including India) and national segments covered the tough stretch of red-earth roads with loose stones, pedalling along the 4.8-km lap eight times. It was five rounds for the 24 women. Among them, Poonam Rana (1:44:53.490) of Uttarakhand, Maharashtrian Priyanka Shivaji Karande (1:49:58.096) and Joysna (2:03:02.868) of Karnataka finished third and fourth, thus making them the topper and runner-up in the women’s national category of MTB 2019. The next four were all from Kerala: Ginimol Joseph Kerala (2:07:26.683), Saisree A P (2:08:58.116), Preethi B K (2:08:58.158) and Binila Mol Giby (2:12:37.902).

The men’s race was flagged off by Kerala Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally. Sri Lanka Cycling Federation President N Karunaratne flagged off the women’s race.

The December 20-22 event, which held the amateur trial round and finals in the first two days, was organised by Kerala Tourism under the aegis of the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society (KATPS), Wayanad District Tourism Promotion Council and the Cycling Federation of India (CFI). Held in rugged Pancharakolli village eight km away from this town of northeast Kerala’s Wayanad district, MTB Kerala is India’s pioneering cycle event listed under Swiss-based UCI, the 1900-founded world body governing the sport.

The top winner of the international segment got a purse of Rs 1.5 lakh, while those finishing second, third, fourth and fifth won Rs 1 lakh, Rs 50,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 20,000, respectively. The winner of the national-level cross-country race (men) secured Rs 1 lakh, followed by Rs 50,000, Rs 25,000, Rs 20,000 and Rs 15,000 for the first, second and third runner-up. The women’s section winner got Rs 50,000, while those finishing second, third and fourth secured Rs 25,000, Rs 20,000 and Rs 15,000, respectively.

Men’s international champion Cory, who was trailing behind Iranian Farzad, attributed his MTB feat today to his forte in long-distance racing. “I typically conserve my energy towards the final laps. That worked here very well,” said the biker from Victoria in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Farzad revealed that he reached warm-weather Kerala only the previous day from Tehran that had temperature at zero degree Celsius. “In the last couple of laps, I could hear my heart thumping. I knew I had to slow down,” he added.

Kiran was last year’s MTB Kerala national champion, two notches above Shiven. Happier this time over their improved show, both the young cyclists spoke of “rising standards among us Indians” in the sport.

Naima, 29, who became the women’s international champion, said “smooth descends” helped her win the race. Nepalese Laxmi, 31, the first runner-up, said “that 1-km stretch of steep climb was tough as I had expected.”

A total of 102 cyclists from 14 countries including India vied for honours on Sunday in the national and international segments, with men and women participating separately in deviation to an earlier decision that the races would be gender-neutral. A UCI meeting on Friday chaired by Lee Li Chia, President of Commissaire Panel of the body, chose to split the races for men and women separately.

The event saw participation from Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Uzbekistan besides the host country.

Mananthavady MLA O R Kelu inaugurated the closing ceremony, where actor Tovino Thomas was the chief guest. Manathavady Municipal Chairman V R Pravij presided over the function attended by Asian Cycling Federation Secretary-General Onkar Singh and his CFI counterpart Maninder Pal Singh besides KATPS CEO Manesh Bhaskar, top bureaucrats and members of civic bodies.

Earlier in the day, Minister Ramachandran, legislator Kelu and Kerala Tourism Deputy Director K Radhakrishnan spoke at the inaugural function that was attended by Thavinjal panchayat president Anisha Surendran.