Demand for adventure sports tourism is on the rise in Oman. Thanks to the mountain biking group for taking the initiative in promoting the adventure sport, it is catching the fancy of tourists willing to feel the rush of adrenaline.
According to Robert Tunbridge, a commissioning engineer at the Petroleum Development Oman: “The Annual MTB Race 2010 will be held in Muscat on March 11. The starting point will be near the eagle roundabout on Quriyat-Amerat carriageway, and the race will be begin at 3:00 pm with the commencement of registration an hour before the race. The race will cover approximately 15-20km (3-4 loops). So far, 25 mountain-bike enthusiasts have registered for the race.”
Robert added: “The race track will be marked by arrows ‘painted’ by flour powder and red plastic ‘flags’ hanging on the bushes. The track will be slightly technical but not difficult. During the ‘intro,’ loop participants will get a chance to familiarize themselves with the track. To ensure safety, it is necessary to put on helmets.”
Robert, who has pedalled his way from the foothills of Jebel Shams to the top, said, “Before the event, the circuit will be inspected and obstacles like stones, bushes, etc. will be removed.”
Supported by PDO, Oman Cycles shop, and Red Bull, the MTB race, the only mountain bike race to be held in Oman, attracts enthusiastic crowds to cheer the participants. The sport combines the thrills of mountain biking with the rugged beauty of the mountainside and villages.
The event is more a test of physical endurance and mental determination, where the amateur and professional riders will use their skills to emerge the winner.
The rapidly-growing outdoor recreational activity, mountain biking in Oman, had a very humble beginning in the early nineties when an MTB group was started by a group of enthusiasts.
The group now meets every Thursday afternoon and has some all-day rides during the year besides the annual MTB race. Said Marcel Khomic, another active mountain bike rider who helps Robert in organizing the mountain bike group: “The weekly MTB Ride routes that we use number around 15 different trails, which can vary in distance between 15 and 42 km, depending on the area and terrain, which varies from graded tracks, single tracks, goat tracks, and in some cases, prepared specific tracks to link MTB trails. We take in climbs, downhill, rocky and gravel terrain, easy flat areas, and sometimes technical rides. On some routes a short walk may be involved to link trails. The number of participants on the weekly MTB Rides can vary from 5 to 15 riders, although we have over 100 names on the MTB Distribution List. Most of the areas we ride in have been long-established trails that were/are used by local villagers, while some of these trails/areas were used by off-road motorbikes and rally cars in the past.
“The weekly MTB Ride start points are normally around [a] 20- to 45-minute drive away from the capital area, yet these areas are very scenic and challenging at the same time.”
Areas like Al Amerat, Al Hadja, Al Nahda, Al Ansab, Hammam, Jiffnain, SQU area, Al Khoud, Mabella, Ghala, Bausher, Nahfa, Sa’al, Jiffnain etc., and a little further away, Yiti, Al Hillo, Arqi, Quriyat are some popular mountain bike trails. Said Marcel, “Our all-day MTB rides with support cars have included Nakhl to Rustaq via wadi Abyad, Wadi Bani Awf/Wadi Sattan loop, Jebel Shams, Jebel Akhdar, Rustaq to Ibri, (pre-tarmac) Quriyat to Sur to Quriyat (pre-tarmac) return over two days and many others.”
The annual MTB Race has been held in several locations over the years and has been on a prepared, marked-out route with an average lap of 5 to 10 km, with the race having one sighting lap and 3 or 4 race laps. The event usually attracts around 20 to 30 riders supported by family, friends, and sponsors.
Robert is optimistic that mountain biking in Oman has good potential, as the terrain is ideally suited for the sport.
He added, “The government support is yet to come, and meetings with the officials of the Ministry of Tourism are yet to bring in any results. But we hope one day they will realize the importance of mountain biking in Oman.”
Though the MTB group has certain areas for their regular biking, they keep on exploring new trails.
Said Robert: “Some areas are linked to walkways, but, the activity is very engrossing and adventurous. We interact with villagers who offer us kahwa and dates.”
Now, with the availability of mountain bikes in Oman, the sport is also generating lots of interest among locals, though the majority of the mountain bikers are Europeans. It will take some more years before Oman is put on the mountain bike-racing map of the world.
For details, contact Robert on 00-968-99654342 or visit http://www.muscatcyclingclub.com .
Look for the best training for a triathlon competition.