'Love and sun' brings back Tour de France rider to India

Five-time Tour de France rider Reimund Dietzen first came to India in 2006. The love for the country's "beauty and abundant sunshine" has grown over time and the fit 55-year-old is back to rekindle his passion for cycling and compete in the MTB Himalaya mountain biking race.

PTI| Updated: Sep 24, 2014, 17:50 PM IST
'Love and sun' brings back Tour de France rider to India

New Delhi: Five-time Tour de France rider Reimund Dietzen first came to India in 2006. The love for the country's "beauty and abundant sunshine" has grown over time and the fit 55-year-old is back to rekindle his passion for cycling and compete in the MTB Himalaya mountain biking race.

Dietzen was enamoured with India's landscapes after exploring Rajasthan on his maiden visit and he returned to explore South India in 2009. "And I am back again. The only difference is that this time I will be racing in the mountains. Though my last professional race was 24 years ago, I still ride around the world for fun," Dietzen told PTI here today.

Thy shy German is not comfortable talking in English but doesn't shy away from an honest attempt. "I like India. The sun is shining here all the time. It is beautiful. That is why I am back," said the former Germany road race champion who took part in the celebrated Tour de France in 1982, 84, 86, 87 and 88.

What was his best performance in the world's most popular cycle race? "It was bad," he says. "I think 84 was the best result when I finished 60th. But once I came second in Tour of Spain," says Dietzen of another event famously known as Vuelta a Espana. 

He doesn't like it if you ask him about doping in cycling and especially Lance Armstrong, who admitted to doping last year and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

"I am not going to talk about any other guy or Armstrong. I say doping is bad and it used to happen a lot during my days but now it is not so much. There are now stringent checks and nobody can get away from it," feels the man who also is a director of a cycling team back in Germany.

He has to talk about the cycling scene in India when he is in India. "I don't see many riding sports bikes on the road. There are not many areas where you could ride too. I guess the culture is not there. It has to start from school where you cycle in groups. Clearly there is long way to go and this races like this one (MTB Himalaya) is just the beginning," says Dietzen.

He headlines the foreign line-up of the six-day race that starts from Shimla on September 27. The others are Sonia Lopes, the first and only female to win non-stop 500ml Portugal Bike Race, Canadian champion Cory Wallace, his countryman John Funk and Andreas Hartman of Germany.