We've featured Hangzhou-based cyclist Daniel Carruthers and his blog biking in China and beyond. He's taken part in the 500 kilometers in seven days (at Christmas!) but this time, he's moving things up a gear with the Mongolia Bike Challenge, sponsored by Orbea.
Kicking off on August 2, 2011, it's one of the toughest endurance cycling races in the world and Daniel will be pitted against top pro-riders to tackle 1,200 kilometers across the vast Mongolian steppes. What has he let himself in for?
The 2011 Edition of the Mongolian landscape in which 68 tough, endurance mountain bikers representing 15 countries will do battle against a stunning backdrop that takes in nine "different worlds" of vast, virgin landscapes from deserts to mountains and grassland to lakes. With world-class riders like Kona Factory's Cory Wallace, Team NOP Sytem/BC Bike Race's Thomas Skinner/Craig Ritchey, and Italian National Mountain Bike Champion, Marzio Deho (winner of the inaugural event in 2010) all taking part, you just know it's going to an awe-inspiring ride—and if you're still not convinced, check out this video of the Mongolia Bike Challenge 2010 and this run down of a typical race day.
The way of life in the region remains in many ways unchanged from the days of the mighty Mongol Empire and with nomadic life still a key part of Mongolian culture, riders will be passing through a landscape peopled by modern day nomads, and their camels, sheep and cattle grazing the grasslands. It's a test that will push riders to the very limits of physical and psychological exertion... let's hear from some of my fellow athletes about the upcoming challenge?
"Me and my mate Thomas Skinner are representing North America to fight it out on what is arguably the toughest mountain bike stage race on Earth. 1,200 kilometers over nine days, all at elevation with a huge amount of climbing is going to give me plenty of opportunity to put some big deposits in the pain bank. Add a little interest on those deposits and I will be ready to rip it up come September back in North America" says Craig Ritchey.
And for Cory Wallace?: "Mongolia is going to be an experience I'm sure I won't forget anytime soon. Everyday is going to be a slow moving movie as we pedal through different landscapes and probably seeing some crazy sights. I've never biked beside a yak, or through a herd of them. I really look forward to meeting the local people and experiencing the way they live. I think that will be really cool."
When it comes to strategy, Ritchey will be bowing to experience: "I saw some fast stage race veterans are racing the Mongolia Bike Challenge this year," he explains. "I think my plan will be to let Marzio dictate the pace and I will just hang in and try to avoid any mechanicals. The race is long and epic so who knows what is going to happen. I have finished the last 67 races that I started so I definitely won't quit but I am sure it is going to have me crawling into the pain cave numerous times."
"Bottom line is that I am stoked to have the opportunity to race the Mongolia Bike Challenge. I have always thought Mongolia would be an amazing place to visit and until the creation of the Mongolia Bike Challenge the only way to see the country by bike would be on a self supported tour."
"Loading down my bike with a ton of gear just doesn't appeal to me. The history of the country and Genghis Khan is amazing. I would like to get my hands on a traditional Mongol bow. As a kid I did archery somewhat competitively and would be game for a little off the mountain bike archery. Hopefully we can get some fun post stage activities going around the camp. Canadian on a bike versus Mongolian on a horse archery competition?" he quips.
For my part, I am excited to be invited by Orbea and the organizers of the Mongolia Bike Challenge, and to have this once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in such a fantastic event. I'll be there for the dual purpose of racing and providing daily updates as the racing unfolds which will appear on Cyclingnewsasia and also on my Bikedan in Asia blog. I am also relishing the fact that I will be racing on an Orbea Almer 29er that will have a special edition 'MBC' SMP saddle—thanks to sponsors Selle SMP and Orbea.
In fact, SMP has generously provided SMP saddles for all entered competitors and Orbea have put up two Almer 29er mountain bikes as grand prizes for lucky athletes. Furthermore, Orbea has also provided all competitors with special race editions of their Odin helmets that make you look very much like a Spanish warrior about to go into battle!
Stay tuned to Bikedan in Asia for my blow-by-blow account from the course as I join the rest of the challengers to ride the Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011.