For two months he axes trees in forests and for the rest of the year he is on off-road cycling tracks in inhospitable terrain across the globe. Two-time Canadian marathon champion Cory Wallace, who last week won the Hero MTB Himalaya rally spanning a six-day, over 500 km journey, said his victory has made him taller than the peaks.
"It's my first experience, but capturing these towering Himalayas really makes one taller than these peaks," Wallace told IANS in an interview.
Billed as the third toughest mountain biking event in the world after the Trans-Alps Challenge (Europe) and the Trans-Rockies (Canada), the MTB Himalaya, the 10th in the series, was flagged off from Shimla Sep 27 with 69 intrepid riders and concluded at the starting point Oct 3.
Participating in the mountain biking (MTB) for the first time in India, Wallace, who is leading the race from Day 1, said the rally was more professionally managed.
"I am travelling across globe competing in the toughest MTB races. Here the organisers are more professional. Moreover, the terrain is perfect for high-altitude training," said the three-time champion of the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
For Wallace, who is both biker and traveller, the mighty Himalayas, breathtaking routes and the vibrancy of India were what attract him to this race. Of course, a sea of people.
"Here people are everywhere. In my country there is a lot of wilderness. I like this country as people here greet you with warmth."
"Of course, food is interesting. It takes a few days to digest the species. It (participating in the MTB Himalaya) is the best way to see the culture and backcountry beauty of India," said the 30-year-old biker, who is ranked 18th in the world.
Wallace was riding on a 9.7-kg carbon fibre mountain bike of Kona's King Kahuna model, his favourite bike. The 11-gear machine with large 2.2 inch tubeless tyres cost him over $3,000.
He spends two months in Canada for cutting trees and the rest of the months for cycling and participating in race as a professional rider.
"In routine, I daily spend three to four hours a day cycling through terrain in and around rocky mountains of Canada."
"Cleaning and keeping the bike in perfect condition after completing every leg in a race is important. Then concentrating for the next-day leg is more important," he said.
"The track here is technical and single. It is mentally challenging too," he said. "In Canada, the terrain is rockier and inhospitable but tracks are not developed in such large number as in India."
In Nepal, he said, the biking tracks are more developed compared to the (motorable) roads. "Here roads are not so bad."
Up next is the Crocodile Trophy to be held in Australia Oct 17.
"After my high-altitude training here, I am rushing to Bali (in Indonesia) to relax. Then I will compete in the Crocodile Trophy," he added.
According to Mohit Sood, president of the Himalayan adventure sports and tourism promotion association, the club that organized the Hero MTB Himalaya rally, the race comprised 21 bikers from Nepal, Holland, Bangladesh, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Belgium, Poland and Britain.
The highest point in the rally was the Jalori Pass (3,223 metres) in Kullu district. On an average, a cyclist pedalled 80-90 km every day with one day of rest and had to ascend 2,000-2,500 metres each day.