Islamabad: One of the world’s highest altitude cycling competitions will take place in Pakistan from June 27 to June 30.
More than 70 Pakistani and international cyclists are set to take part in the Tour de Khunjerab 2019 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
“This is the biggest cycling event [and it is] being held on the roof of the world. The cyclists will begin the race at about 4,500 feet [1,400 metres] in Gilgit and conclude at a record high altitude of 15,500 feet [5,000 metres] above sea level,” Gilgit division commissioner Usman Ahmad said at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.
The highest road altitude ever reached in Tour de France is 2,802 metres whereas the Tour de Khunjerab’s final stage starts at 2,800 metres and finishes at 4,700 metres.
The second edition of Pakistan’s international cycling event has been launched after huge success of the 2018 event, which was well received by local and global cycling federations, he said.
Talking to Gulf News, chief organiser of the event, Ahmad said: “Two international teams from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are also part of the event along with 11 local teams from Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh,” and some government departments.
The event is being jointly organised by the government of GB, Pakistan Cycling Federation and other partners to promote sports and tourism in the region.
During the grand tour, the cyclists will cover a distance of nearly 280km, pedalling past Pakistan’s most scenic mountains such as Golden Peak, Lady Finger, Rakaposhi and other mountains.
In the first leg of the race, they will cover nearly 68km starting from Gilgit (altitude, 1,500m) and ending at Ghulmat (2,000m) in Nagar Valley.
The second 35km stage from Ghulmat and finish in Duikar (2,900m) will test the individual strength of the participants. On the third day, cyclists will pedal 92km from Aliabad (2,200m) to Sost (2,800m) in Gojal, Upper Hunza.
The final day of the event will include an 84-km ride from Sost to Khunjerab (4,700m).
The race will culminate at Khunjerab Pass (4,700m), the highest paved international border between Pakistan and China at an altitude of 5,000 metres, which is considered to be the toughest stage. The event will include elevation gain from 850 to 2,000 metres.
“The highest road altitude ever reached in Tour de France is 2,802 metres whereas the Tour de Khunjerab’s final stage starts at 2,800 metres and finishes at 4,700 metres which is a big achievement,” said Pakistan Cycling Federation vice-president Haroon General.
The race is said to be demanding which is why trials were held in different cities to test the strength of participants, he said.
“It will be challenging and tiring experience but cyclists will also appreciate and enjoy the dynamic and diverse scenery and mighty peaks.”
Amateurs are also allowed and welcome to ride behind the race provided they pass the fitness test.
This year, the organisers have also invited certified cycling officials and referees to judge the race in a bid to attract global cyclists.
“We are satisfied with last year’s security, medical and other arrangements and this year more and better facilities will be made available,” said Haroon, a professional cyclist.
Tour de Khunjerab 2019 (TDK) is a multiday stage where there will be winners each day as well as a final winner who will be awarded a prize of PKR one million.
“Tour de Khunjerab is much more than a cycling event. It introduces the participants to our unique culture, music, food and the natural beauty of the region,” said GB Tourism Minister, Fida Khan. “Through the cycling event and sports activities, we aim to promote GB as adventure tourism destination” Fida said. Besides boosting tourism and economy of the region, the event is also aimed at engaging local youth in sports and healthy activities.
Appreciating the government’s effort to promote sports, 70-year-old cyclist and adventure lover, Khawaja Zaheeruddin said, “engaging youth in sports and adventure activities is essential in today when mobile games and app have taken over the real life physical activities. Sports have clear social, physical and mental health benefits.”
Last year, more than 100 cyclists in 12 teams participated in the event in which Team Balochistan’s Abdul Razzaq won the title.