Mountain biker jumps roadblocks to showcase Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Mountain biker jumps roadblocks to showcase Sri Lanka

Phil Evans (left) with Deepal Perera  (Manager Media Relations and  Communications SriLankan Airlines)
Phil Evans (left) with Deepal Perera (Manager Media Relations and Communications SriLankan Airlines)

An internationally acclaimed mountain biker has gone into extremes to project Sri Lanka to the world as he plotted a 350-mile course along terrain that may be alien to millions of natives.

Phil Evans who hails from the British Isles ventured deep into leopard-infested places in the south central part of Sri Lanka to plot his course that was to attract more than 30 hardcore mountain bikers for a five-day race that is scheduled to begin in Kuda Oya in the forested district of Moneragala.

Evans’ target by enticing the mountain bikers is to prove that he discovered a region with some of the best undiscovered places ideally suited for adventure sport second to none in the world.

“Sri Lanka is a lot more diverse than other countries”, said Evans. “It is mountainous with many river crossings and the wildlife on the way is unique”.

Evans, a onetime teenage cycle mechanic, created a concept called the “Rumble in the Jungle” not in Africa but in Nepal and soon switched to Sri Lanka where he found working with the island’s airline SriLankan Airlines and a sports tourism promoting company Lanka Sportsrizen, a dream come true. “Mountain bikers like this part of the world and this is where they find the perfect sporting adventure”, said Evans who also co-founded an animal charity called Helping Paws Worldwide.

Among the setbacks in plotting the course in Sri Lanka that Evans had to overcome was winning the trust of native villagers in some of the remotest parts of the island who were not as welcoming as he would have expected.

But to Evans nothing was a hurdle as he wasted very little time in proving his credentials as a propagandist for Sri Lanka much to the delight of the villagers and their fun-loving offspring who are expected to line-up with flags to greet the bikers from countries like France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the US, Australia and Switzerland when they pass by their humble dwellings.

Evans, the chief plotter who calls himself the race director, was also able along with his Sri Lankan hosts to convince wildlife authorities to permit riders cycle deep into game sanctuaries while crossing numerous elephant corridors with an assurance that no harm or havoc will be caused in the protected zones while guaranteeing the safety of competitors.

“These are places not seen by the average tourist that we also have to preserve”, said Evans.

Most of the mountain bikers Evans said are high-end earners who have invested between 5000 and 10,000 US dollars on a single bike with the latest gadgetry prescribed for the steepest of terrain and the most rugged of country-sides that can be prone even to natural disasters.

Although they will be equipped with the latest in navigational devices like Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the mountain bikers will be required to follow signs and displays to find their way from stage to stage covering the most picturesque districts of Moneragala, Badulla, Nuwera Eliya and Kandy over the course of five days.

Organisers have also restricted the number of participants which means that five specially selected Sri Lankan mountain bikers will join a seasoned cast of foreign experts in making up a total of 39 adventure seekers.

“Only those who are well experienced in riding through such demanding situations have been picked to go the course. This race is designed to give a unique and life-changing experience in a region with plenty of natural places not seen before”, said Tilak Weerasinghe the head of Lanka Sportsrizen.