When one thinks of India, one pictures the overcrowded streets, snake charmers, the mystique and the Taj Mahal. Well, in today’s world, mountain biking is picking up pace in this subcontinent. The mighty Himalayas seem to be the first thing to cross the minds of anyone who thinks of Mountain biking in India, followed by the hills of the Western Ghats down south. The Indian subcontinent surprisingly has much more to offer.
Having rad mountain biking potential in corners even the riders of the country did not know about.

The ruins of Polo forest in Gujarat
The ruins of Polo forest in Gujarat
Rennen im Süden (29 von 41)

One such corner was Polo forest in Gujarat. Set in the West of the country, Polo forest was a part of the ancient Vijaynagar Empire which suddenly ceased to exist. Nobody to date knows why the mass populace vanished, leaving behind ruins of majestic temples and fortresses and has left historians in a fix. Since then the forest has been used by fleeing emperors, wanted criminals and has endless eerie stories attached to it. Today it is a beautiful forest surrounded by hills with peaceful village inhabitants, ancient 10th century ruins, Nomadic “Banjaras”, cattle, snakes and wild animals.

Rennen im Süden (3 von 41)

Until the mountain bikers discovered it and decided to have a gnarly race set in the rugged terrain. Uphill EMG, a company based out of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, called me on the 1st of January asking me if they could pull off a 151km three day mountain bike stage race in a remote part of their state of Gujarat and wanted to call it “The Impossible Race”.

A GPS was necessary, but not a guarantee..
A GPS was necessary, but not a guarantee..

Well, I personally had never been to that part of the country and took on the challenge. Hence, the reconnaissance began and we stumbled upon amazing trails to ride in the vastness of the hills of Polo. Even armed with a GPS, we sometimes ended up slightly lost and confused as the woods were a challenge to navigate through. After spending almost a month we decided on the three days of challenging 50 kilometer tracks.

Riders being briefed on the race
Riders being briefed on the race

Most riders were apprehensive of participating as they did not know what to expect in terms of riding in a region where they never thought riding existed. Also the dates coincided with exam dates for many of the young riders who could not make it on the first year. In the end we had a turnout of 16 riders from all over the country who braved The Impossible Race.

16 racers stepped up to the challenge!
16 racers stepped up to the challenge!

On the 13th of March, as the riders began to arrive at the base camp, the organizers were shaken as they received a letter from the forest department which read that due to some circumstances, the Local Forest Department could not allow us to conduct the race on most of the trails we had decided upon as they lay in Super Reserved Forest and a permission had to be taken from the Central Government.

The thorns were ruthless!
The thorns were ruthless!

After marking 151kms, we had to tweak all the trails making sure we were not trespassing any forest territory which drastically brought down the difficulty level. But, to our surprise, at the end of the three days, even the seasoned racers from India were spent and were stoked on the riding we had to offer.
Being a GPS navigated race, we made sure nobody was lost, and there were Aid Stations/ Checkpoints at every 15 kilometers of the track making sure the riders and their bikes made it to the finish line.

Rennen im Süden (22 von 41)

The trails had derailleur breaking rocks, two inch long thorns and enough technical sections to make the little tarmac sections connecting some trails feel like heaven. Over the three days, the riders went through relentless hikes, fast downhill sections, technical single track, river crossings, snakes and the constant fear of huge thorns impaling the tires.

Rennen im Süden (18 von 41) Rennen im Süden (17 von 41)

During the entire three stages, there were several riders who lost time due to technical issues, majorly flats and some broken parts. One rider had to sit out day one due to a broken rear derailleur. Most of the race was dominated by two riders from Imphal (the far North East of the country), namely Naorem Jayanta and Premchand Singh followed by a tough battle between Ajay Padval (Pune), Abhishek Purohit(Mumbai) and Sri Ram(Mumbai). Strangely enough, all five of them were aboard scott steeds.

Rennen im Süden (28 von 41)

At the end of the third leg, Naorem Jayanta, Premchand Singh and Ajay Padval graced the podium in the respective positions.

Rennen im Süden (38 von 41)

1st – Naorem Jayenta (Imphal, India) Total Time 10:41:00
2nd – Premchand Singh (Imphal, India) Total Time 11:25:26
3rd – Ajay Padval (Pune, India) Total Time 11:29:00

“A real kickass way to start the year! Finally some Real Mountain Biking. Other races in India should look at The Impossible Race before setting its routes” – Ajay Padval, 3rd Position, Scott Sports India, Pune.

Rennen im Süden (34 von 41)

“We’re stoked to introduce a new vista for the riders in the country and are even more stoked that the riders loved the riding in this new region. Never before had this place been under the radar of mountain bikers but now, with the Impossible race we have brought it to the riders who have the thirst for adventure behind the bars of their bikes. We are already working on The Impossible Race 2016 scheduled in January and we are certain it will be much more gnarly and are looking at riders from across the globe” – Race Director, Gael Couturier and asst. Race Director, Prateek Singh.

Rennen im Süden (27 von 41)

Given this, the trails for next year will be much more rugged, will include more steep hikes, longer singletracks, and will be more Impossible to complete.

The Impossible Race on Facebook

Words Prateek Singh Photos: Shivam Roy / Uphill EMG

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.