Podium sweep: Nepali mountain bikers dominate downhill raceSix more gold medals are up for grabs in cross country, road race and time trial.
Nepal’s Rajesh Magar, or RJ Ripper as he is widely known on the world cycling circuit, proved his credentials as one of the Asia’s fastest mountain bikers, as he finished top in the men’s 1km downhill race at the 13th South Asian Games on Wednesday.
In the race held at the Shahid Park Trail in Gokarna, the four-time national champion and 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year clocked 1 minute 49.33 seconds to win the gold medal. This is Nepal’s first gold in the discipline since it was introduced in the 2006 Games in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Nirvan Shrestha (1:50.080) and Prachit Thapa Magar (1:51.661) made a clean sweep of the podium for Nepal.
“Our predecessors were better than us, but they didn’t have the opportunity to compete,” said 23-year-old Rajesh, who is acclaimed globally for his skills.
Further asserting supremacy in the event, Nepal also claimed the top two spots in women’s downhill race where national champion Nishma Shrestha clocked 2:22.45 for gold while Jamuna Thapa (2:41.551) finished second. Yasodhara Madhukar (3:37.238) of India came in at a distant third.
Their impressive victories, the top mountain bikers say, were possible because of training and ample support from their coaches and the Nepal Cycling Association.
“In the past, we trained on our own. But the association arranged everything, including coaches and equipment this time around,” said Nishma, the 23-year-old new regional champion.
In addition, the athletes also say the home conditions also played to their advantage, despite last-minute preparations on the trail.
“The trail was prepared two weeks prior to the race. We got a taste of the trail and its sections, which was very helpful to us,” she said.
But dismissing those suggestions, downhill coach Umang Shrestha attributed the home riders’ success to their confidence and rigorous preparations.
“Even the Bangladeshi team have trained on the circuit for a week. Our mountain bikers have trained on many other demanding trails, including those at Hattiban and Nagarkot,” he said. “The results have come as expected.”
A total of 20 mountain bikers from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka participated in the race. Six more gold medals are up for grabs in the discipline including cross country, road race and time trial.
“I have many more targets in the future and one of them is to win gold at the Asian Games,” Rajesh told the Post. “We are capable of competing at the world stage if we get enough support from authorities.”