Khanchendzonga stage race returns

Over nine days, racers will wind through the foothills of the Himalayas, covering 430km and 14,000m of climbing in the shadow of the third highest mountain the world Mount Khanchendzonga. India's state of Sikkim and the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation are partnering to sponsor the Khanchendzonga Mountain Bike Challenge from March 20-29.

Singletrack, village back roads and jeep tracks will comprise the route through the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range. Contestants will always be within site of the race's namesake mountain as they race each day from one small village to the next. Like other major stage races in Europe and the US, this one will feature two-man teams and an international field. However, unlike the other races, the Khanchendzonga event will be comprised of stages between just 37 and 71km, and it will offer a solo racer category.

Organizers will use the race to highlight the cultural riches of the region. The relatively short stages will let participants have time to enjoy their surroundings off the bike - including visits to Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples. With Nepal to the west, Tibet to the north and Bhutan to the east, Sikkim's isolation has created a unique culture separate from the rest of India.

The race will also offer helicopter rides to the race's start, an Indian Airforce Air Show and a day of site-seeing after the race is over. Racers will compete for US$25,000 in prize money.

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