Race for the Top – TDK 19

Tour de Khunejrab 2019

Due to Coronavirus Pandemic, many global racing events were called off, the fate of TDK 2020 seems the same, with rumors for the race being held later this year in October, which is something far from reality, considering harsh weather conditions up north.

With the ideal months behind us, let’s rewind and put some images from last year’s Tour de Khunjerab Cycling Race. Last year the tour was 4 days of racing. That’s 4 Stages of Karakorum Highway, with every meter going uphill and eventually ending at the roof of the world over at the Khunjrab Top at about 15,397 feet, which is 4693m of elevation.

4 Days of Amazing Photos and Activities from the Biggest Cycling Race in Pakistan

Right before the start we have the usual opening ceremony, riders doing their registration, team meeting and what not.

TOUR de Khunjerab 2019 – Inauguration Ceremony
The Army Band – TDK 19
Amongst The Giants – TDK 19
The Army Musical Band – TDK 19
Cultural Festivities – TDK 19

Some views of riders at registration desk before action.

The army team at registration desk – TDK 19
Bike check and registration – TDK 19
Rider from Switzerland participating in open category -TDK 19
Rider from Afghanistan with team Islamabad the backdrop – TDK 19
Rider from Sindh at the start of Stage One – TDK 19
Rider from Afghanistan – TDK 19
Rider from Open Category – TDK 19

Stage 1: Gilgit > Ghulmat (Rakaposhi View Point)

The tour Kicks off from Gilgit and ends with stage one in Ghulmat, Nagar over at Rakaposhi View Point, Rakaposhi has its own significance. Rakaposhi is the only mountain in the world that rises straight from beautifully cultivated fields to a height of 25,550 feet. From many places, this wonderful spectacle can be viewed right from the base to the top. In this stage, cyclists covered 68 km at an elevation of 850 m

Pack riding uphill towards Ghulmat.
Crossing one of many tunnels of KKH (Karakoram Highway)
Nadir Khan from Team Pak-Army feeling the heat.
Rider having some respite from the heat.
Team Islamabad facing drama in the form of first mechanical.
The pack crossing bridge in Gilgit.
Tour de Khunjerab 2019

There were people welcoming the riders whenever the tour crossed areas of population, that was something I haven’t seen anywhere in Pakistan before.

A warm musical welcome – TDK 19
Probably awe inspired ! – TDK 19
Future stars welcoming current legends of the sport – TDK 19
Pakistan Zindabad – TDK 19
Thank you for your wishes – TDK 19

Stage 2: Rakaposhi View Point > Duikar

The second stage of this year was first for the tour, a time trial stage with a tough uphill gradient (35 km at an elevation of 950 m). This stage proved to be the hardest stage, with many cyclists struggling behind and eventually disqualified due to cut-off time.

No the camera can’t show you this brutal gradient, you have to imagine the worst yourself.
A rider from Team Giglit – TDK 19
The face expression are deception, you can’t tell if he is suffering or smiling it away. – TDK 19

The above rider is local from Gilgit hence part of team Gilgit, I can’t tell if he is suffering or he is smiling it away, he is native raised with the giants of the region. But I’m not sure! my bet on the suffer-fest he is enduring.

A rider from Spain – TDK19
Age can’t come in the way.

I was told this rider is above or around age 50!. Impressive. Felt honoured to witness such tenacity and resilience at this age with bike in scorching sun at such a steep climb.

Awon from Team Islamabad pushing it hard – TDK 19
I’m satisfied with that I have achieved so far, a rider from Team Balochistan – TDK 19
*_* NO
Giving up to the brutal climb, perhaps he has find his solace in doing such! – TDK 19

NO! you can’t walk with shoes off, this is ultimate disqualification, but if the gradient is that step and a first for the tour what other option do I have?

Usman, one of the strongest from Team Islamabad finishing strong – TDK 19

Stage 3: Aliababd > Sost

With 92 km and 1,700 meters of elevation gain in the third stage, it leaves nothing for riders to regain some strength or recover from the previous stage. The more you climb up north the harsher it gets, with low oxygen levels and cold winds, it only gets difficult. The only bliss lies in the landscape we are surrounded by.

Team Srilanka, probably enjoying being among the giants of Karakoram and Himalaya – TDK 19
Team Pak Army doing the necessary prep at the start line – TDK 19
Can you imagine such at the times of covid? TDK 19
Team Islamabad at the start line – TDK 19

The generosity and hospitality was omni present throughout the tour

Warm welcome as always – TDK 19
Jami riding and supporting his team – TDK 19

The tour attracts everyone who loves sports, tourism and the north! The famous film director Jami spotted here with his BMC at the start of third stage in Hunza.

The race officials – TDK 19
The pack among the giants, somewhere between Hunza and Sost – TDK 19

Stage 4: Sost > Khunjerab

The final and toughest stage unfolds with 2,000 m of climbing over 84 km. This stage is hard for obvious reasons, low oxygen levels, and harsh cold winds top it off with sub-zero temperatures in different patches. It takes courage discipline and structural training months prior for an athlete to participate in TDK let alone win it. It tests the best of the best, saying it’s a physical challenge would be an under-statement, To shine in TDK you have to be both mentally and physically super fit.

Jami with Team Sindh boys. – TDK 19
Team SSGC all set and ready for action – TDK 19
Qasim helping Team KPK rider adjust his position. – TDK 19
Haroon (Race Official PCF) are you pointing at me? – TDK 19

The pack passed through dry and larger to life terrains, with snow capped peaks and temperatures going down mile by mile.

The peloton – TDK 19
Climbs leading to Khunjearb Pass. TDK 19
View of Khunjrab National Park – TDK 19
Team Afghanistan – TDK 19
Jami supporting team Islamabad – TDK 19
The tour ended with some good sportsman spirits on display as well, riders uplifting each other over the the top where any help is considered godsend.

There was a small ceremony at the end, after which the riders and support staff along with race officials rushed to Hunza for further ceremonies. Some visuals from the end below

They call it YAK – TDK 19
Performers in traditional North (Gilgit Baltistan) Dress – TDK 19
Telling folk stories through their folklore – TDK 19
I’m not coming with you.
Pak – China Border, The Khunjerab Pass – TDK 19

Over 90 cyclists participated in the 2019 Tour de Khunjerab with teams representing the provinces of Pakistan. There were also teams from government departments as well as two teams from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The event also featured an open category of individual cyclists from Pakistan, Spain, and Switzerland.