Stage 3: 112km. Leaving our second base camp in the dust behind us, we ripped down a false flat through endless Mongolian pastureland. The lead group swelled to 20-30 riders as the riders were enjoying the cool morning air and the vistas surrounding them. It was the calm before the storm as riders chit chatted and tried to take in the good moments before the real racing broke out. Heading into a tight valley, Barry Wicks went to the front and dwindled the lead group to 9 riders. The next 40 km was spent riding up and down small Mongolian passes with the odd Ger hut pitched on the valley edges. It was very similar to riding up in the high alpine back in Canada with green grass, wildflowers and fresh breezes of some of the cleanest air on earth.
Going into the only KOM of the day the pace picked up as the three of us Kona guys and Pau from Team Buff raced for the 30, 20 and 8 second time bonuses. We were able to sweep all the time bonuses and then took a moment on top of the pass to fill our bottles at the well stocked aid station and take in the spectacular views surrounding us. This was momentary before we charged 60 km/hr down a ripping descent into the semi-desert landscape below. In the distance we could see a huge sand dune, resemblance of the legendary Gobi Desert which is still a couple hundred km to the south of us. My bum cried out when it saw the sand as last year at this race, sand = endless washboard riding. Not this year, the track was smooth and the lead 4 of us were able to nail down the last 40 km into the finish where Pau (Team Buff) took the win with Kona coming 2-4 again.
Camp this evening is on a small rise overlooking a very desolate landscape. We are near the desert, but there is still greenery around, although not much else. A few riders have commented on how the Mongolia Bike Challenge (MBC) should advertise itself as a cleansing retreat from the chaotic, technological worlds most of us come from. No internet, phones, TV or any other noise to distract us from the location we are at in the moment or the great people surrounding us in this camp. It is really cool to get away from it all, race your bike for a bit, and eat copious amounts of food.
The diet in camp is really healthy with fresh salads, millet, pasta, fruit and some of the best meat any of us have ever eaten. The meat here is probably as free range and organic as possible on this earth. And it’s surprisingly fresh considering were 3 days into the race. It raises suspicions if some of the herds of sheep and cattle we passed today may have been missing a member. Only the MBC chefs know the answer to this one.
Tomorrow we will once again set out into the unknown as we will head further south into the ever more desert like landscape. In one hand we are in a big bike race, but in the other hand we are in the middle of one giant adventure none of us will soon forget.
-Cory Wallace (Team Kona), 2nd MBC 2011