On June 13th the World lost one of its rising cycling stars when Nepal’s National Mountain Bike Champion met his last day on this earth. Narayan Gopal Maharaja fell off a dam while in a race in Sri Lanka and drowned in the river below. I hadn’t cried in years but I was shedding tears the next couple days as the emotion was too much to keep inside.
Narayan had become a brother of mine after racing against him in recent years all over the world including South Africa, Malaysia, India and Nepal. This past winter I was lucky enough to spend 5 months in Nepal and our relationship tightened as we raced hard against each other over a dozen times. We also enjoyed countless training days together and lots of good times off the bike around Nepal. There was no-one in the world I enjoyed competing against more then Narayan as he raced his heart out and truly loved what he was doing. The positive energy radiated off him as he was able to uplift anyone who was lucky enough to be in his presence. I had the upmost respect for how he balanced the business part of racing with the more important part of having fun, and enjoying each others company while we did what we loved.
My Nepalese is nearly non-existent, and Narayan’s English was pretty rough so there weren’t many words between us, but we had a tight bond that didn’t need much verbal communication. It was something special to be so close to someone like this, especially someone who had grown up on the other side of the world in such a drastically different culture and environment. He came from one of the toughest situations in this world, poor as could be, in one of the world’s poorest countries. One of his biggest dreams in life was to support his family and he did everything he could to make life better for them. He also had a dream to be a top mountain biker and he found a way to balance his full time job and family time, with the training needed to become one of Asia’s top XC racers. After a number of near misses, he finally obtained his life long goal of becoming Nepal’s National XC Cycling Champion this past March. It was an inspiring ride as he launched a last lap comeback to take over the lead and bring home a dream. He was a true champion, had little ego, and went humbly about this world doing things the right way.
The Nepali racing scene is the tightest one I’ve experienced on this earth as the riders treat each other like brothers and sisters. The Nepalis look after each other amazingly well and stick together through thick and thin. This tight group let me into their family this past winter and it was one hell of a winter to remember. It was inspiring how hard they worked in their day to day lives just to make things work in their economically poor country. They’d always find time for their passion and the group rides we went on together were full of laughter from start to finish. A lot of times cycling can be a pretty independent sport with different cliques forming and egos getting in the way of a good time. The Nepalese have found another way and after racing hard against each other or training all day, they band together and head out for Dhal Bhat dinner and joke around about how the day unfolded.
These guys and gals are the salt of the earth and Narayan was in the heart of it. This world could use more people like Narayan who had found their passion and had really come alive in doing so. So many of us go through this life trying to figure it out but we never really realize what it is all about. Narayan was one of the few that seemed to have it figured out as he always put people first. His positive energy poured into the World wherever he went as he was always 100% present. He taught me it’s not about the money you have, the things you’ve collected, or the ego trip you’re on, but it’s truly about enjoying what you have , wherever you are, and making the best of it. For a guy that came from such a tough situation to be able to spread his light like this, there is no excuse for any of the rest of us not to try do the same.
I miss you Narayan, you were a Brother that I cannot replace. I thank you for everything you taught me about this world and how to live here. I’ll see you again one day, and I’ll look forward to that reunion as I know we’ll be laughing and joking around together, just like the last night we saw each other in Kathmandu in March. My thoughts are with you and I’ll be riding my ass off down here for you as long as I’m able to.
Rest In Peace Dai.
* Narayan may be gone but we can keep some of his dreams alive. Narayan’s biggest dream was to support his family, thus NCRR – Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue have set up a fund to do this.
Please click on the link below to donate if you can help his family out. Thank You.