Due to massively flooding rivers the 2012 MBC was rerouted yesterday on a transfer none of us will forget. As a result Stage 8 was exchanged for a 12 hr transfer over a high mountain route the organizers had never been on before. Our convoy of 13 Russian ‘westfalia-style’ vans, 5 monster trucks and a tired Land Cruiser undertook an epic day of crossing high rivers and glorious mountain passes.
The first 5 km of the 180 km transfer took us over 5 hours. The day started off with the most reliable vehicle in our convoy, a newer Land Cruiser not starting and having to be hooked up and towed for the journey Next up was a monster truck getting stuck up to its nuts in a mud hole. Following that we hit a roaring river which was pretty high to drive across and required every Russian van to be towed across separately by one of the monster trucks. As the Russian Vans would hit the main current of the river they would lose footing in the rushing water and get swept downstream, dangling by the towline. It was a show. During this 2 hr procedure, we had time to do another stellar Yoga session with Ryan Leech, a game of Frisbee and then we walked around visiting Ger huts, tasting some foul cheese and Yak Milk.
It looked like the MBC was on the edge of defeat, but the organizers charged our convoy ahead and pulled off a huge feat and managed to carry on the race today. Willy, the MBC head organizer made a wise call on stopping our convoy at 6 pm after travelling a monumental 80 kilometres, well short of our destination. This allowed us racers to have a restful evening and enough time to be able to get ready for a race today. While us racers got our bikes together and shook off our travel legs, Willy and his crew set out into the night to scout out a race course. They rolled back into camp at 5:30 am, uploaded GPS tracks so we had a course profile to look at, and then turned around and headed straight back out to set up the feed stations and flagging. It was an unreal effort and at 8:30 am this morning the MBC carried on with Stage 9!
Stage 9 turned out to be one of the best stages of the whole race. Having seen the effort of the MBC organization to keep this race rolling, we made sure we up kept our part of the deal and had one of the hardest days of racing yet. It started out with myself sneaking in an early morning warm-up and then driving the pace out of the gun as the other riders tried to get their cold bodies back into race mode. My teammate Kris Sneddon followed this up with some solid efforts up the first climbs and all of a sudden we had a race on our hands. Pau (Team Buff) tried a few attacks with Barry Wicks(Team Kona) retaliating with one of his own. The only difference with Barry’s attack was it stuck. Pau chased for a while then looked back at the dwindling lead group for help. Barry would extend his lead, but then veered off course and got lost for a while which left the four of us now battling for the win. It was a rough day as my body was not firing on all cylinders while Pau and Carter (Team MBC Racing p/b Orbea-SMP) were putting in huge efforts to break us. In the end Kris Sneddon (Team Kona) would power away for the win with Carter and I rolling in 2-3 with Pau a few seconds behind.
The day ended up being probably the hardest fought stage all race and the course was top notch. It was almost unthinkable that this day could occur when just 24 hrs earlier we were stranded out in the middle of Mongolia with no known way out. The MBC is for real when they say they are going to pull off an epic bike race!
Tomorrow will start with an early morning transfer before racing the last 90 km to a huge Buddhist monastery in Karakorum. With just 90 km to race the end is almost touchable. This is Mongolia though and there are unforeseen adventures over every horizon!