The 2014 UCI Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday, June 29 will be a dream come true for four emerging mountain biking stars from Nepal as they look to take on their first-ever world championships.
Ajay Pandit Chettri, Narayan Gopal Maharjan, Raj Kumar Shrestha and Buddhi Bahadur Tamang of Nepal qualified for the largest event on the marathon mountain bike calendar via their participation in the Langkawi leg of the UCI Marathon World Series and are now eager to take to the biggest stage of their career.
"The guys are super pumped for Worlds," said team liaison Jenny Caunt, a former Australian who now heads up Himalayan Single Track in Nepal. "This is such a huge dream for these riders!"
"We have been working for five months now to get funding and support for the team to get to South Africa and the riders have been training with Ton Evers so they are really excited!" she said.
Headed by Ajay Pandit Chettri of MTB Nepal, the four have spent the recent months preparing for this year's Worlds in the tough conditions of the Kathmandu Valley, their hometown in Nepal, as well as the Annapurna Region and hope that their training at altitudes of 1,300 to 2,600 meters above sea level will pay off in Pietermaritzburg.
"The Kathmandu Valley has some great trails and good hills which the guys have been preparing on.
"Of course they've also had to deal with the varying conditions we experience year round. From extreme heat to extreme cold as well as the yearly monsoons - which turns all the trails to slop - it can be pretty testing for the guys!
Apart from the testing weather conditions during training, there have also been countless off-the-bike issues the team have had to overcome in order to make the journey to South Africa.
"The main problems we've had are budget for the riders and the lack of coherence when it comes to support for cycling from the relevant local bodies," said Caunt. "A lot of this has had to do with the political and economic situation in Nepal and the lack of publicity for cycling here.
"There is very little understanding and support coming from the Sports Council but fortunately we managed to overcome these issues recently and cannot explain just how grateful we are for all the help we have received along the way in getting our guys to this point!" she said.
The Nepalese may not turn too many heads with their pace or results come this year's Worlds, however the progress they have made in recent times and just to now be able to compete on a global stage is a remarkable achievement in itself.
"Hopefully the national team can perform well at this year's Worlds, and if we could perhaps get a rider into the top 20 that would be the ultimate dream!
"For some of the guys, this is the first time they have ever even travelled (abroad) let alone raced in such a huge race though, so understandably our expectations are such that just finishing the race is enough and hopefully they will gain invaluable experience from racing in South Africa that they can then take with them to the next race!" said Caunt.