What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think "Nordic"? Vikings? Nokia? IKEA? Ericsson? That's what I thought... probably not hurtling around the grasslands of Inner Mongolia on a mountain bike for three days and finishing yourself off with a marathon then. But funnily enough, that's exactly the kind of event that sports marketing company Nordic Ways has got going on throughout the year here in China and in fact, their most recent effort was precisely that.
The fourth Genghis Khan Mountain Bike Adventure and Grassland Extreme Marathon took place from 1-4 July around the remote town of Xiwuqi and runners and bikers from China and beyond, got to pass in the footsteps of that most infamous of Mongols, crossing the vast, empty grasslands with little more for company than the big blue sky and a scattering of sheep.
There's a great account of the event from Daniel Carruthers on his excellent blog danielcarruthers.com, a must read for anyone interested in biking in China. Dan is a Deaflympian living in Asia and the man knows his way around the biking scene here, both on and off road. The following images in this post come courtesy of Florent Fordos, who made his way up to Xiwuqi from Shanghai to take part in both the bike race and half-marathon:
Traveling to Xiwuqi, Inner Mongolia
The closest airport is Xilinhot and from here, it's two hours away by bus: Xilinhot flight schedule From the Xilinhot long distance bus station, departures are 06:00, 07:00, 07:40, 09:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00 and cost RMB 35 (Tel: 0479-8223592).
Alternatively you can pick up a taxi around either the airport of the bus station for a more expensive but marginally less bumpy ride. A car and driver can also be booked through travel agencies in Xilinhot (numbers listed below though you'll need a Chinese-speaker):
In Xiwuqi itself, local travel agent Liangyu can assist you with finding accommodation and airport transfers: 159 0479 1970 (Chinese only)