Sri Lankan Airlines held Sri Lanka’s premier mountain bike stage race, ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ successfully for a third time in a row recently. The race takes riders from hot and humid jungles, through mountain hugging tea plantations and across the islands highest plateau. ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ not only succeeds in showcasing the vivid landscape of Sri Lanka but also promotes a carbon neutral sport to further cement the airline’s commitment to become a carbon neutral airline in time to come. This year’s race attracted over 35 riders from 15 different countries. It has become one of the most highly regarded races amongst the international mountain biking community.
Rumble in the Jungle’ is an annual cycling event that stretches out over 4 days. This race is not only competitive, but also offers a thrilling experience to international riders as they get an authentic local experience riding through the country. Along the race, riders need to wade across rivers, ride through dense jungle, which is home to wild elephants, leopards and snakes, tackle 1000+m climbs and negotiate bone clattering rocky descents. Intense humidity, leeches, baking sun, torrential rain, mud, sand, rock and over 7000m of ascent combine to make this race the adventure of a lifetime, on one of the world’s most idyllic islands.
The first phase of race was from scenic Kuda Oya to Haputale, starting on the flat southern plains of the island, just 100m above sea level, entering virgin jungle where riders battled prickly and dense vegetation and tackled numerous river crossings. Upon leaving the jungle, the route climbed rapidly for close to 30km before reaching the highest point of the day at 1650m, finally descending through working tea plantations to Haputale.
The next stage was centred around Haputale and ‘Lipton's Loop’ and was characterized by a 1200m descent over 16 km, mostly over super rough terrain; at the bottom of which was a verdant jungle. A brutal 700m climb, followed later by another 500m climb took riders back up to 1850m above sea level for a final descent back into Haputale through working tea plantations.
The next stage stretched from Kalupahana to Nuwara Eliya, taking in Sri Lanka's highest waterfall, Bambarakanda; crossing the highest plateau, Horton Plains; and finishing in the highest town, Nuwara Eliya. This stage started with a 17km, 1300m climb, the majority of which is on rocky trail. At 2100m, once on the plateau, the temperature dropped dramatically and the area was shrouded in mist. The plains are host to a large Sambar deer population and home to one of the world's most endangered primates, the Slender Loris. A scintillating descent down from the plateau and another 17km ascent through the New Zealand farm brought riders into Nuwara Eliya.
The final leg of the race, the Ramdoda to Kandy stretch was ‘Down Time’, with over 2600m of descent. After a 20km, 900m descent group ride on the main road out of Nuwara Eliya, the race commenced from the Bluefield Tea plantation with a tough 8km, 500m ascent. After this it was practically all downhill for the next 48km, dropping 1100m through remote villages back into the lowlands. The race finished in Kandy.
At the end of the race in Kandy, the riders took the train to Colombo, where they gathered at the Galadari Hotel for the closing ceremony, during which the winners were announced by SriLankan Airlines.
In order to deepen the impact of the sport, SriLankan Airlines flew down famed cyclist Cory Wallace for the event, the 24-hour Solo World Championship title winner, which served to enhance great interest in the race this year. The champion cyclist shared his knowledge at an event organized by SriLankan Airlines, called ‘Ride with a Pro’, which witnessed the coming together of clubs such as Vroom, Pedal Pushers, Boralu Boyz and the Air Force to not only learn from the best but to ride alongside a world champion. ‘Ride with a Pro’ was held at Spinners in Thalawathugoda.
Cory Wallace is a renown cycling champion. Hailing from Canada, Cory is a pro mountain biker with quite a number of titles under his belt. Among his most recent, is winning the World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships. Cory grabbed the championship convincingly beating the 7 time champion Jason English by 1 lap.
The airline has implemented many sustainable environmental programmes under it’s “planet friendly SriLankan” initiative, with this mountain biking event being one such. SriLankan Airlines’ Voluntary Carbon Offset programme, ‘flygreen’ has been recognized as one of the notable green aviation climate solutions by ATAG (Air Transport Action Group). ‘flygreen’ allows the airlines’ passengers to neutralize their individual carbon footprints by purchasing carbon credits.