Asian Enduro Series Nepal 2018, the third edition of its kind organized by Gnarly, successfully concluded in the hills of Nagarkot, along the eastern rim of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Almost a hundred international participants and half as many Nepalese riders took part in the heart pumping action on 8 special stages. The race by far is unprecedented in Nepal in terms of foreign participation for a mountain biking stage race.
The first two days of AES Nepal were practice, and the second two days were race days, with eight enduro special special stages spread across Nagarkot. Each of the race days had four stages, on steep and technical terrains. Battered by rain, the trails were slippery which saw a few crashes here and there. Set on a backdrop of lush hills and mountains peeking through the clouds, the ambience of the race was lit with professional and recreational mountain bikers. The days started quietly with everyone focused on the day ahead but each evening saw an influx of exhausted, muddied and elated bikers, treating themselves to Arna Beer while Gravity Nepal’s team sorted out any mechanical issues.
Defending the title of Men Elite category Rajesh Magar stated he was thrilled to be racing many fast international riders. “I felt confident on the stages but other riders were amazingly fast,” said Magar talking about his performance on the first day. “The margin on the first race day was only 15 seconds with the next participant, which made me reconsider my approach on the second day. Luckily, everything went smoothly despite some unplanned skidding on slippery trails.” Magar eventually went on to win the Men Elite title; he is also one of the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
Pelden Dorji from Bhutan successfully defended his title in Master A category, and mentioned that the race was bigger, better and more competitive than last year. “It’s heartening to know that many bikers around the world now consider AES Nepal as one of Asia’s most exciting enduro bikers in this race! We’ve been quite excited for participation of young Bhutanese riders as well, who could do with some exposure.” Indonesian bikers Fitriyani Riyanti and Chandra Ariavijaya took the Women’s and Master C title respectively, while Karma Sherpa bagged U18 title. Speaking about the race organization and stages, winner of Master B category Herman Mann from Singapore said, “This is my third time racing in AES Nepal, and each year there has been improvements, especially on the trails and marking. They are amazing this year and just the way I love to do enduro biking.”
But not everyone came to secure the podium, most want to just ride with like-minded folks and enjoy the ambience of Nagarkot. Bangladeshi rider Niloy Chowdhury said, “Last year I mistook apple cider for beer, so in the evening of the last race day, I had a bit of an adventure after just one bottle. But this year, I had great fun in complete sobriety. I also had a lot of photos of myself taken, which makes me really happy.” Likewise, Filipino participant Jannoki Sorellag pointed out, “The event was very well organized and it’s been amazing to be here… good people, good food, good trails and good times!” Of this year’s Asian Enduro, Ujjwal Pujari said, “Tight switchbacks, nerve wracking drops, slippery trails, exhausting uphills, battles with sweat and pain and the accomplishment! That’s what the race has been for me!”
The first day of practice saw overcast sky and light drizzles. Normally dry this time of the year, the trails were slippery and added more challenge to the awesome, steep and gnarly trails. The lead medic of AES Nepal, Jagannath Timilsina from Freedom Adventures spoke of the safety preparations of the race, “Every few hundred meters, we had a medic on standby with army personnel. At every end of all eight stages we had a doctor and an ambulance ready. Generally in landscape like Nagarkot’s communication becomes tough, but we had radios and extra runners, and for a handful of minor incidents, we were able to attend to the cases swiftly.” For any emergency incidents, AirLife Rescue was ready to dispatch for heli rescue services, while Smart Paani’s water stations provided clean water to participants on tough liaison climbs.
Nagarkot’s weather throughout the race was windy, chilly and some rain – quite uncommon for this time of the year. Despite all odds, almost 130 participants championed the trails of Nagarkot, making Asian Enduro Series Nepal 2018 a massive success, with inquiries for AES Nepal 2019 already flowing in. Gear up, rip down!
WINNERS of AES Nepal 2018
1st Pelden Dorji / Bhutan / Team Bhutan / 28:53.42
2nd Mark Alexander Beedham / UK / 30:03.05
3rd Akkharadej Chantema / Thailand / Trailhead / 30:18.30
4th Septian Hermansyah / 30:52.94
5th Dan Ben Wallace / UK / 31:24.20
1st Herman Mann / Singapore / YetiBT-Seven7 / 28:59.76
2nd Tsang Chi Kong / Hong Kong / 30:30.83
3rd Amir Jamin / Brunei / Brunei Enduro Racing Team / 32:06.05
4th Suryanto Penthil / Indonesia / 32:17.78
5th Mutakin Takin / Indonesia / Batik Air Racing Team / 32:52.25
1st Chandra Ariavijaya / Indonesia / 35:27.09
2nd Nirakar Yakthumba / Nepal / Pump / 40:29.15
3rd Upendra Rana / Nepal / LifeCycle / 43:20.92
4th Stephane Marcel Yanne Yver / France / 45:12.49
1st Rajesh Magar / Nepal / Yeti Fox Team / 26:43.73
2nd Yoris Sahara / Indonesia / Batik Air Racing Team / 26:59.99
3rd Yadi Mulyadi / Indonesia / INDURO – Indonesia Enduro / 28:05.81
4th Suman Tamang / Nepal / Gravity Nepal / 28:15.18
5th Prabin Rai / Nepal / 28:30.76
1st Karma Sherpa / Nepal / Gravity Nepal / 30:28.45
2nd Kiran Rai / Nepal / Himalayan Single Track / 30:30.39
3rd Deepak Jimee / Nepal / 30:52.36
4th Rinku Thakur / India / 30:52.78
5th Tandin Wang Ghaley / Bhutan / Thimphu Mountain Biking Club / 32:13.38
1st Fitriyanti Riyanti / Indonesia / Batik Air Racing Team / 33:46.29
2nd Resti Nova / Indonesia / Batik Air Racing Team / 34:55.13
3rd Nishma Shrestha / Nepal / 35:54.79
4th Usha Khanal / Nepal / Himalayan Single Track / 44:24.56
5th Liyana Binti Zakaria / Brunei / 47:20.16
Words and Photography by Anuj D. Adhikary