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Portuguese cyclist Luis Leao Pinto crowned 'King of Himalayas'

Shimla: Top Portuguese cyclist Luis Leao Pinto comprehensively won each and every stage of the eight-day MTB Himalaya, in its 11th edition, to clinch the Men’s Solo as well as the Overall titles of the cross country, endurance race at The Ridge here on Sunday.

The 36-year-old Pinto, who won the race in 2013 as well, clocked 24 hours, 16 minutes and 29 seconds to complete the eight-day, seven-stage race, which had a day’s break in between.

German Andi Seewald took just 19 more minutes to finish second while Spaniard Pau Zamora finished third in 25:06:20 in Men’s Solo and Overall. Fourth place went to Australian Peter Butt, who clocked 28:05:22 to finish the 640-km race.

Seewald, 24, finished second in all but one stage where he came third. The 37-year-old Zamora, on the other hand, finished second, swapping the spot with Seewald, in only one of the seven stages while finishing third in six of them.

The Women’s Solo title was taken by Briton Catherine Williamson (30:45:21), who finished 11th Overall, with Portugal’s Ilda Pereira (34:33:32) finishing second despite being ill on most days of the race that was held from September 27 to October 4. Nepal’s Laxmi Magar came third in 42:27:53.

Kiran Kumar Raju, 28, came out as the fastest Indian, finishing ninth Overall in 30:31:57 followed by Shiven Sharma and Santosh Kumar Tripathy.

In the Team of Two category, top Nepalese cyclists Ajay Pandit Chettri, who won the Men’s Solo title here in 2010 and 2011, and Buddhi Bahadur Tamang clinched the top prize with a total time of 58:02:11.

They were followed by Tripathy and his American partner Walter Perryman to finish second in 72:59:55 while Belgian couple of Peter and Heidi Buttiens came third in 78:52:58.

And lastly in the Master’s Solo category, which is for riders aged 40 and above, 56-year-old Reimund Dietzen, who formerly participated in the prestigious Tour de France and stood on the podium of Vuelta a Espana thrice in the 1980s, snapped up the top prize on the class.

The German clocked 28:19:04 to top his category and finish an Overall fifth. He was followed by Italian Vanni Balboni (28:57:21), who finished an Overall seventh, and Telmo Falcao in third (30:42:08).

The race started and ended at The Ridge here and saw the cyclists travel through the countryside of Himachal Pradesh with night halts at Gada-Kuffer, Khegsu, Kullu Sarahan, Bahu, Gada Kushaini and Chindi.

The riders had to make their way through off-road and jeep tracks, broken tarmac, gravel, rocks, mud, sand, silt, water streams and moving traffic among several other obstacles. In the process, they also climbed a total elevation gain of more than 15,000 metres.

The highest point of the race was Jalori Pass at 3,250 metres above sea level.

This time the organisers, Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), received 88 entries from 15 countries, a number which is annually growing because of the appeal of the Himalayas. Hero Cycles are the title sponsors of the event.

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