Leaving Canada behind in the peak of summer is never easy to do but there was a flight to catch to Mongolia for round number five at the Mongolia Bike Challenge!
The first couple years the race was 10-12 days long, covered 1200-1400 km and would take us into the depths of Mongolia covering areas such as the Gobi dessert, the Altai mountain range and uninhabited valleys deep in the countries heart. We were at the mercy of the land battling dust storms, getting stranded by flooding rivers and riding are bikes over 9500 ft mountains in rainstorms. There is virtually no infrastructure outside the capital city of Ulaanbaatar in what is the worlds least densely populated country so when things go sideways out there they go all the way sideways.
Over the years the race has transformed and has found a winning formula with a more manageable six day course covering the popular tourist sites in the rolling and and pristine national park area just east of Ulaanbaatar. Taking advantage of the already built up tourist camps the racers are treated to relaxing in gers and a more hospitable environment to recover from are hard day of racing across the plateau. Mongolia is already wild enough as it is so a little comfort doesn’t hurt and allows us racers to focus more on the racing part then the adventure side of things as that part seems to be in no shortage over here
Racing in Mongolia is one of my favourites places in the world as the local Mongols are down to earth and some of the hardiest souls you will ever meet. The majority still live a nomadic lifestyle and the peacefulness and beauty of racing across such a wide open and pristine environment is hard to match. The history over here is some of the deepest in the world, highlighted by Ghengis Khaan as he and his warriors once had the biggest empire in the World. Part culture, part adventure, part racing, the Mongolia Bike Challenge has all the bases covered and is truly worth at least one visit in anyones lifetime as it’s a place like no other!
After triple flatting out of the lead on stage seven of my first MBC and having to settle for 2nd, I rallied back to take three consecutive titles from 2012-2014. Last year I opted to switch it up to focus on races in Colorado and Costa Rica but Mongolia wasn’t forgotten. I’ve been excited ever since at the opportunity of returning to Mongolia and will be looking forward to battling last years champ Nicholas Pettina from Italy and the other top riders from around the globe for the coveted Pink leaders jersey.
The journey over here has been solid in itself starting back in Jasper with some home cooked meals and big training days. Meanwhile, Derrick and the crew at Freewheel cycle were building up my new Kona Honzo carbon hardtail and Dave Macdowell at Wild Mountain who’s been supporting me for over 20 years was arranging a new light weight TNF jacket. One by one all the pieces were coming together.
After blowing up my first truck on route to Vancouver and getting rescued by my buddy Daniel on the side of the highway near Valmount it was back to my Dads ranch in Mcbride to pick up the other truck which I had better luck with. From there it was onwards to Kelowna to dial in the new bike with Luke Way at Balance Point Racing and some tweaks to the body with Shannon Snow at Valeo health clinic.
Next up was a four hour drive with the country music blasting en route to Vancouver for a couple comfy nights at Accent Inns near Vancouver airport. This was the perfect basecamp to rest, regroup and run around picking up gear with a stop at Kona Canada headquarters to fix a few things on the bike. The boys there were great helping pull it all together with a full team effort. Things still went a bit sideways but Dik Cox and his son Seth made some last minute arrangements and did a drop off of a few key parts at Vancouver airport just hours before my flight out Wednesday morning. Thanks guys, those parts will make all the difference!
It’s weird how things always seem to come down to the line when heading out on these big trips. When your headed to Mongolia and beyond you need to pack like your headed to the Moon so I guess a little running around can be expected! I can’t thank the team back in Canada enough for all the support in getting this trip launched!
Off into the Mongolian Abyss.