By Agence France Presse
Riders from war-ravaged Afghanistan are bound to be the center of attraction in next month’s Tour de Pakistan, particularly since Indian cyclists were left out in the cold by organizers, an official said on Saturday.
The 15th Tour de Pakistan will be staged from the north-west city of Peshawar to Karachi with 78 cyclists, including 30 from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran and Nepal competing.
The route covers 1,655 kilometers (1,028 miles) over 11 stages from March 1-13.
Pakistan Cyclist Federation secretary Khawaja Idrees said Afghanistan will send six riders for the event.
“Afghanistan is sending a nine-member delegation with six cyclists and they will be star attraction,” Khawaja said of the event, which carries a total prize money of 10,000 dollars.
Khawaja said India was not invited as a protest at the snubbing of Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.
None of the eleven Pakistani players in last month’s IPL auction were offered contracts.
“We decided not to send an invitation to India as a protest for IPL action which was very humiliating,” said Khawaja.
The 14th Tour de Pakistan, held in November 2008 was won by Naimat Ali of Pakistan, with Haroon-ur-Rashid runner-up and Sri Lanka’s Meemanaga Perera finishing third.
The prize money is distributed among the top six finishers.