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Centre for extreme sports Shambhala - the mountain biking universe

George Georgiev

In the Tibetan Mythology and the Buddhist tradition, a mythical and at the same time real world called Shambhala exists. You can enter this universe, which is in another dimension and is always close to us, only if you have clear heart and mind and you are in complete harmony with yourself and the rest of the world. Few months ago Shambhala found its own place in the material world, right here in Bulgaria. Just 130 km east of Sofia at the south foot of the Central part of the Balkan Mountain range in Sopot town. I am talking about the centre for extreme sports “Shambhala”. This is the best thing for the extreme sensation and it was high time, such park to appear in Bulgaria. And when I say “Centre for extreme sports”, I don’t mean one of the improvised equipments, made solely for advertisement for some of the vacation complexes situated nearby. This is a real centre for extreme sports, created for those, who know what it is to take a risk and are completely aware of the responsibility of it.

Sopot is a favorite site for Paragliders from all over Europe, for a long time, because of the propitious air currents and the big declination – 800m. But what literally detonated the society of extreme adrenalin seekers, was the announcement of the competition for extreme biking in the disciplines “Downhill”, “4Cross”, “Cross Country” 3 – 4 months ago. The official competition was announced for 4 – 5 and 6th of May and these dates were not only kept, but also turned to be very appropriate, not only for the atmosphere conditions, but also for the date 6th May – the day honoring St. George. International participants were also expected, mainly bikers from Russia.

There was no way for me to miss this significant event in the history of mountain biking in Bulgaria, and together with my friend, also a bicycle fan, we started from Sofia, early in the morning on 4th May. The car was literally squirting, stuffed with our bicycles, spares, equipment, tent, and above all our elevated mood. After an hour and a half we were on the lift station in Sopot, in the camping site. I have visited the site two months earlier, to try the trail which was then in process of construction, but this time when I went out of the car, I was stunned. Organizers of the event were based in several tents, looking like Mongolian yurts. There were many colourful posters and flags around, several paragliders were rambling in the sky, people were pottering around all the time, bulling, assembling and repairing their bicycles and equipment. Me and my mate hurried to sign in for the downhill discipline and to take our numbers. Immediately afterwards we took out our luggage and started working over our bikes, until they got great outlook and in impeccable technical condition. When we were ready with the technical preparation we got on the lift, to start the long expected and very necessary training.

We felt the real challenge when we got to the top. I didn’t leak fake illusions, because I knew how hard the trace is. However this did not help me to ignore the dreadful feeling that seized me when I looked at the sharp stones and steep verticals, we had to pass. Of course we couldn’t finish without several falls, happily nothing serious, but when we finally reached the final I was very hesitant whether to continue in the competition. This was definitely the hardest, technical and brutal terrain, ever made in Bulgaria. I quickly overcame the moment of hesitation and just a minute afterwards I headed up with the lift again. Two more downhill followed so I gained confidence and got used to the terrain. We got tired and decided to finish the trainings for the day. By dusk, we putted up the tent and while we ate a solid dinner, the organizers announced a pleasant surprise. Later in the night, in the cinema hall of the town they were going to show the premier of the film, shot during the last competition in Vitosha Mountain.
We hurried to prepare ourselves and headed for the hall, in the centre of the town. And here the organizations, again had taken a perfect care of everything. We had a mini cocktail and later the show started. The film was long expected and acted extremely stimulating for the fore coming competition. I had to admit that the organizers have tried to present world class sciences.
After the inspirational film, it was time for us to make a round of the pubs in Sopot, famous for its delicious food and cheap prices. This time we didn’t stay till late as usual, but by way of example we headed to our tents, just before midnight, because we were very tired and two hard days were coming for us.

We were awakened early in the morning by the cheerful song of the birds. We crawled out of the tent, still sleepy, but the fresh morning breeze woke us quickly. We washed ourselves, had breakfast, prepared the bikes, put on our equipment and started for the lift. A real whirlpool followed. Downhill after downhill, after downhill, trundle, rolling about, dust, stones, flat tires, fixed tires, new acquaintances and never-ending conversations, of course about bikes. Both me and my mate didn’t get when the sun stated to set and the megaphone announced the start of the qualifications in the “4 Cross” discipline. The hard cross country competition has just ended.

We rowed along the trace for 4 cross, whose obstacles and jumps could be compared to a motocross terrain. This discipline is extremely dangerous, which makes it very attractive. After the competitors went down for individual time and started grouping in four. An hour later, after very beautiful stunts, speed virages, dizzy flights and numerous falls, the first three to finish were two Russians and one Bulgarian. The event was followed by rewarding ceremony and Champaign. Meanwhile some of my friends from Sofia arrived in the site for moral support and to celebrate st. George’s day together. This was more than great, because as I expected, they came with guitar, a lot of food and drinks and were all in great mood. We lighted a huge fire, where we cooked incredible grilled meat, salad and of course rakiika (local spirit drink), wine and beer, upon personal request. After midnight came 6th May, everybody said “Nazdrave” (cheers), and I and one of my friends were showered with water, for our name days. Than, I was very sorry, as I had to withdraw from the improvised celebrity dinner, as I needed to gain power for the finals on the next day.

And it surprised us with clouds and wind, which we later learned to overload the limit of the lift in its upper station. However, me and my mate managed to complete two more training downhill and went up again for the qualification. The wind at the top was really strong, which slightly affected the preliminary plans. The final of the competition was announced instead of the qualifications, as the lift was already stopped. The sequence of the downhill was arranged and everyone waited for their big moment to come. I will not comment my downhill, as I had a flat tire in the middle of the trail. I had to continue, although I had lost my small chances for successful position. The most important thing is that I managed to finish without serious injuries, something that happened to many of the best competitors in the event during all three days of the event. Those who reached the first three positions, showed incredible ride, great skills and high class, on a terrain that made even the bravest and rashest thing for a while.

The reward ceremony was also filled with emotions, and the best thing was that all prize positions were taken by Bulgarian competitors. The third position in the king class – “Downhill - men”, was deserved by a participant from Russia. I have to admit that the Russians showed great skills during all three days we spend in training and competitions; they were serious tread for the Bulgarian teams and individual competitors. I cannot miss the fact, that the leader among men – Dimitar Gaidov, except pure happiness from the first place, got very attractive material rewards. Additional 500$ were added to the award fund, together with a pass for all of the equipment in the extreme sports centre “Shambhala” for life.

I don’t know weather my mind and heart are clear, whether I am in harmony with myself and the rest of the world, but I am thankful to the destiny, that let me in the world of “Shambhala”. Those three days, the competition, the atmosphere, the presence of my closest friends and everything else were my greatest experience, ever since I first starting the mountain biking thing. The best thing is that from now on “Shambhala” opens doors to all, whose restless spirit seeks this, which is incomprehensive, but is exactly what makes us happy. “Shambhala will help you discover it.”

The pictures are provided with the kind cooperation of mtb-bg.com, the official Bulgarian Mountain bike web site.

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