Capitalising on the highest ever tourist influx to Kashmir this year, the state on Tuesday earned the distinction of holding first-ever cycling event with participants from across the globe. The event has the Valley back on the world sports and tourist map, besides further instilling a sense of security among visitors from foreign countries.
The cycling event - 'Tour-de-India' - was flagged off by chief minister Omar Abdullah at the banks of picturesque Dal Lake.
"This has put the state on the cycling map of the country. The participation of cyclists from various parts of India and other countries is highly encouraging," said Omar.
The chief minister asked the organisers to make "this landmark event an annual feature to make cycling more and more popular among young generation. The participation from overseas will further improve the situation," said Omar.
Reputed cyclists from India, Thailand, UAE, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ireland and other countries participated in the event, the first leg of which was held in Mumbai some days back. As many as 120 cyclists of international repute took part in the second leg of 'Tour De India'. Several cyclists from Kashmir also participated in the event.
"It will boost cycling as well tourism in the state," said a Kashmiri cyclist.
The race is being held in three cities of the country - first leg was held in Mumbai on Sunday, while the third and final leg will be held at Greater Noida on December 9.
The Kashmir leg, second one of the event, on Tuesday saw cyclists paddling 26 km in each lap and covering a distance of 168 km. Reputed teams like Astana and Lotto also participated in the event.
Omar said the event is part of the endeavour to dispel apprehension among tourists about the situation prevailing in the state.
Around 12 lakh tourists have visited the Valley so far this year. With winters on, the occupancy of hotels is highest ever in the past two decades, since militancy broke out in 1990.
Buoyed by removal of travel advisories by Germany and Japan, the government is making efforts to attract more foreign tourists in years to come.
"The government wants to showcase state's beauty and potential of sports and adventure tourism in a renewed and befitting perspective," said Omar.
The state government had closed down roads for traffic on Tuesday for the cycling event, which was being covered by more than a dozen international media channels.