ASIA'S LONGEST CYCLING RACE ENDS IN KARACHI

Mar 15 - 21, 2010

Asia's longest cycling race came to its end last week in Karachi. The race was started on March 1 from Peshawar and cyclists after travelling through an astounding distance of more than 1650 kilometres in eleven stages across different cities reached the metropolis on March 13. The last stage had forty one cyclists to paddle bicycles to Karachi from Hyderabad. The tour de Pakistan cycling event was organized every year by Pakistan cycling federation, which is one of the oldest sports associations in Pakistan. Participants from all provinces as well as international contestants took part in the annual event. This year tour de Pakistan event was dominated by finishers from Sindh and Balochistan. The winner and runner-ups of last stage hailed from the two provinces. Zahid Gulfam secured the victory in the overall race. Asad Mehmood clinched the first position in the final stage starting from Hyderabad to Karachi and Abdul Wahab from Sindh secured second position while Salim Gul from Balochistan was declared second runner-up of the race.

'Race across America' is known to be one of the world's longest bicycle races covering a distance of over 3000 miles. Tour de France is another long-distance popular race. Tour d' Africue is however recognized for its longest route of more than 12,000 kilometres from Cairo in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa. The route map is changed every year. The reason for promoting and organizing spectacular long distanced races in the world is not only to indulge in another kind of sport, but also to educate people about the greenhouse gases emissions caused by mechanical ridings. Bicycle is in its entirety an environment friendly means of transportation. The bicycle sport is unfortunately also neglected in the country. Although, it is a health making sport besides imparting ways of reducing carbon emissions, the state of cyclists' health is in sheer danger while they chew tobaccos to boost up their energies. Facilities apart, they even do not have regular income out of cycling that requires nutritious diets and time-consuming workouts. Government and institutions should promote and support sports symbolizing environment safety.

Welcoming the contestants in the race, former Naib Nazima city government said sports activities should be continued. They show the physical and mental sturdiness of people, she added. Such healthy activities demonstrate people resolve to overcome crisis. After all, healthy people are responsible to bear the responsibilities of progress of society. Commending the perseverance of cyclists, she said they made a wonder as they travelled through such a long distance from Peshawar to Karachi. She said this was the Asia's longest race that culminated at the centre of Karachi. The successful completion of race is a proof of resilience of the people of the nation who have proved that they would not dither away because of the evil designs of terrorists. "We have to demonstrate that we are not frightened of coward acts of terrorism and we will not let terrorists bring to halt our social activities." She lauded at performance of the cyclists, appreciating particularly winners and runner-ups riders from Sindh and Balochistan. The victory of cyclist from Balochistan is an indication that its denizens have prowess to come ahead of all. She appreciated the winner of last phase of the race, who hails from an underdeveloped outskirt of Karachi, Manghopir, adding he has proved his sportsmanship by achieving the distinguished mark. It was despite the fact that Wahab must have not had proper tracks and facilities for workout, she remarked. She welcomed the participants in Karachi and expressed hope that such sports activities would continue to be patronized in the city.

Tour de Pakistan is an international event and the current race was the 15th event. Upcoming this year national cycling events include, 1st inter-provincial cycling championship (men), Punjab, 8th national women cycling championship, 58th national cycling championship (men), national level road cycle race (Quetta to Ziarat), 1st inter-provincial cycling championship (women), Abbotabad, national level road cycle race (Karachi to Hyderabad), national level road cycle race (Lahore to Sahiwal), and national level road cycle race (Peshawar to Rawalpindi). Two international races 11th South Asian Games, Dhaka and tour de Pakistan international cycle race have finished this year. (ts)