I’m sitting and writing this editorial piece fresh off a plane from Sri Lanka, feeling pretty raw about an incident where a fellow mountain biker lost their life in a freak accident.
In the middle of June I visited Sri Lanka to race Rumble in the Jungle, an adventurous 5-day mountain bike stage race held primarily in the stunning mountainous region of the tropical island. Mixing travel, meeting new friends and old, good food, beautiful scenery, challenging terrain, virgin trails and a glimpse of another nation’s culture and history, this was just the sort of trip I enjoy and one of the reasons I love mountain biking. Mountain bikes are a vehicle to so much more than just riding trails, they are a great way to see the world and meet new people.
There’s something about mountain biking that is a leveller. As our sport grows the people who take part are far more diverse. You can be riding or racing with a CEO, a student, a bricklayer, a fulltime pro or an athlete from a developing nation. On the bike, we’re all connected. You’re enjoying your surroundings, sharing the experience and revelling in the challenges and beauty of our sport. And you never expect someone to die while you’re doing that.
On 13th June, Narayan Gopal Maharjan was swept off a river causeway while in the final 25km of a bike race, where the strength of his ride would have seen him move into 2nd on general classification by the finish of that stage. Narayan would have overtaken me to claim that spot, and the race he was having to make up from a broken wheel on stage one was pure class. But he never made it to the finish.
The mountain bike community, especially those that travel, ride and compete are all poorer for the loss of Narayan, or any other MTBer. He was a champion rider who put his whole self into what he did. And those are the memories I will keep. I have been reminded, too, of the rich experience this sport provides all of us, the friendships formed, and the memories created.
So while I will mourn Narayan, and other friends and riders lost too soon, I will also cherise new friendships and memories that mountain biking is yet to present.