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Afghan cyclists on the road again

Afghan cycling enthusiasts, forced off their bikes by the Taliban, are back in the saddle. About 20 cyclists in full gear staged their first race in five years from the capital, Kabul, on Sunday after the city fell to forces of the Northern Alliance. Braving a potholed road that crosses the heavily mined former front line, they traveled 40 km (25 miles) north to the town of Charikar at the base of the Panjsher valley. The Taliban had outlawed public sports events in line with their strict interpretation of Islamic law that also obliged men to wear beards and women to leave their homes only

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By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright Reuters 2001

Afghan cycling enthusiasts, forced off their bikes by the Taliban, are back in the saddle.

About 20 cyclists in full gear staged their first race in five years from the capital, Kabul, on Sunday after the city fell to forces of the Northern Alliance. Braving a potholed road that crosses the heavily mined former front line, they traveled 40 km (25 miles) north to the town of Charikar at the base of the Panjsher valley.

The Taliban had outlawed public sports events in line with their strict interpretation of Islamic law that also obliged men to wear beards and women to leave their homes only in the company of a male relative and shrouded in a full-length burqa veil.

“During Taliban times we weren’t allowed to do sports, it was very difficult. Now with freedom we can do what we want, so we are organizing this race,” Mahmood Azani, of Afghanistan’s Olympic Committee, told Reuters television.

He said the race had been staged in honor of the late Ahmed Shah Masood, the Northern Alliance’s legendary commander. Two assassins posing as journalists killed Masood in a bomb attack two days before the September 11 hijacked airliner assaults on New York and Washington, D.C.

Northern Alliance and other forces have swept the Taliban from power in most of Afghanistan since the United States began military action against the militia on October 7 for harboring Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the September 11 attacks.

Copyright Reuters 2001