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Bikerumor Interview – Harlan Price and the India MTB Stage Race

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india mountain bike mtb stage race 2009 harlan price sikkim indian tourism bicycle cycling advocacy adventure travel himalayanI spoke with Harlan Price, a pro rider that we interviewed at the MTB Oktoberfest recently, about the India Stage Race that he’s working with as the U.S. ambassador for the event.  Some of our recent posts (here and here) show the growing interest in stage races, and this one seemed particularly interesting due to the location and huge purse.  Here’s what he had to say about the event:

BIKERUMOR: First up, what is the India Stage Race and how did you get involved with it? 

HARLAN: The India Stage Race is actually called the Khanchendzonga Mountain Bike Expedition. I Titled the blog India Stage Race to make it easier to find, for people who couldn’t remember how to spell Khanchendzonga. 

The event is a nine day stage race through the foothills of the Himalayas in India’s northern state of Sikkim. The stages travel from village to village and are between 15 and 40 miles a day. Sikkim’s tourism department is responsible for the race, and their main goal is to show off the country. Having shorter mileage compared to other big stage races is supposed to allow participants more of the day to enjoy each location they stop in. It will be a fully supported race with aid stations, lodging and meals provided. At $500 it’s a bargain considering you are getting 12 nights of accommodations. It should be made clear that during the actual race, the sleeping arrangements will be two man tents. 

I got involved because I am interested in adventure travel and was looking for a chance to go overseas to new places and race a mountain bike. I wrote the tourism department to see what the race was like and somehow I ended up being the US liaison for the race.

Read “more” to learn about the $25,000 cash purse, see where in the world Sikkim is and more…

BIKERUMOR: Was there really a $25,000 cash purse for the 2008 event?  What’s the prize in ’09?

HARLAN: I looked up what was documented for payout and it didn’t add up to $25,000. Somewhere around $15,000. But I might not have seen all the payout. That was only to the top three of each category. For 2009 the payout is supposed to be $25,000. Still, it was almost $2,500 for first place in 2008. From what I’m finding out, when dealing with India you have to take a certain amount of things with a grain of salt. My goal is to try to get some clear answers on things. Their website last year was confusing, and I’m trying to clarify as much as possible. I put in advice, but am not sure if everything gets through the channels. 

BIKERUMOR: Is there a cap on participants?  How many people raced it 

HARLAN: There is no cap, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Last year 68 people signed up but only 31 went.

india mountain bike mtb stage race 2009 harlan price sikkim indian tourism bicycle cycling advocacy adventure travel himalayan
Sikkim is in the northeast corner of India. Click on the image to enlarge map.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the weather in India like in March?

HARLAN: It’s spring and post monsoon season. Because it’s in the foothills of the Himalayas, the weather can be warm and humid at lower elevations and cold and wet higher up. Sikkim has a diverse range of climates from subtropical to high tundra. They advise visitors to be prepared. 

BIKERUMOR: Is the entire course marked, or are participants required to navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint?

HARLAN: It’s marked, but last year some people had GPS devices provided by the organizers.

BIKERUMOR: How much of the course is singletrack?

HARLAN: That’s a good question. I’ve done enough races to know that different people have different views of what is singletrack. From what it sounds like there is some, but I sort of see it as an adventure similar to La Ruta De Los Conquistadors. It can only be done on a mountain bike, and it’s still challenging and rewarding. 

BIKERUMOR: Are the promoters worried about attendance given the recent terrorism in Mumbai?

The promoters are saddened by the happenings in Mumbai, but Sikkim is about as far away culturally and geographically within India as you can get. I asked my Sikkim contact and he assured me there was nothing to worry about. Sikkim is a peaceful state that is far removed from the rest of the country. Of course the attack on Mumbai can’t help create confidence, but not going would be like a foreigner not taking a trip to West Virginia after 9/11 because it would be in the US. The biggest news in Sikkim are people protesting China’s stance on Tibet.

BIKERUMOR: Once there, would English-speaking travelers have any trouble getting around, or do enough people there speak English?

HARLAN: The thing about India is that it was a British colony just like us, so the official language is English. Sikkim is a little more isolated, and there will be a wide variety of different regional languages, but English is the common thread.

BIKERUMOR: Will the race website be updated for 2009, or should people just check the blog?

HARLAN: It is supposed to be updated by the 15th of this month. I’ve been waiting to make a big press release till that happened, but they have been taking a while. The new site is www.sikkimmtb.com. (Editor’s note: the old 2008 website is here, Harlan’s blog on the event is here.)

BIKERUMOR: Are there pics from this year’s race anywhere online?

HARLAN: That’s a rare commodity. I’ve been trying to find post race pics, but they are scarce


BIKERUMOR: Unrelated…any good roadside finds on your rides lately?

HARLAN: Nothing I could bring in the house. (Editor’s note: Harlan’s blog occasionally contains pics of some of his road- and trail-side finds)

That concludes the interview.  I don’t think this video is from the event, but it shows some of the terrain and scenery from that part of India.


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