For the cause of peace and reconciliation seventy riders braved the challenging and winding path from Point Pedro to Tissamaharama throughout a five day journey which concluded last Sunday.
The race was organized and conducted by the National Mountain Biking Association (NMBA), Optimum Q International Pvt. Ltd and the Cycling Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) in partnership with the youth oriented movement, Tharunayata Hetak.
Riders preparing to begin the five day Unity Tour cycling race from Point Pedro to Tissamaharama.
The cyclists from Navy A dominated the five day event, with Nalinda Kumara coming first, Thusita Kumara securing second, and Janaka Hemantha settling for third position. The overall team championship was awarded to the Navy A team.
Of the seventy racers that took to their bicycles at the starting point only fifty managed to cross the finishing line at Tissamaharama. This was a testament to the grueling and competitive nature of the race, in which competitors who were unable to complete a leg within half an hour of the race leader were eliminated.
There were also several other races, such as the Open race event and the Under 19 boys and girls races, aimed at instilling harmony and identifying potential talent. “Though there were no riders competing from the North in the competitive team race event there were several who participated in the Open event and Under 19 race. I saw so much talent in those races,” Mr. Amal Suriyage, President of the NMBA explained.
Mr. Suriyage revealed that what impressed him most was how, with limited cycling equipment the riders from Jaffna had, they were still able to maintain impressive speeds.
Most of these riders from the North utilize steel ball bearings in their cycles. These components are vastly outdated and nowhere near as effective as the current cartridge ball bearings embedded in most modern racing bicycles.
Mr. Suriyage was so impressed by what he saw that he felt emboldened to confidently prophesize that “within one year we will produce a national champion from Jaffna.”
Mr. Suriyage and Mr. N. Karunaratna, a referee for the sport, said overall the race had been a success however they criticized the CFSL for not properly conducting the race. Both men said uneven bumps at some points along the race circuit were not identified in accordance with procedure. They expressed hope that following the CFSL election for office bearers, which takes place on the 30th of this month, the CFSL will properly organize itself in a manner that benefits the sport of cycling.