Next month will mark the 7th occurrence of what is fast becoming a cornerstone of the international marathon mountain bike stage race calendar. The Mongolia Bike Challenge was first held in 2010 and spanned 10 days and over 1400km and was won by Italian’s Marzio Deho and Allania Vassechi. The race has since been shortened to 6 stages to cater for a larger start list and create a more exciting racing dynamic.
Classic races like the Crocodile Trophy in Australia have recently also taken on board similar strategies to change the demands of the race. The race starts and finishes close to the capital of Mongolia Ulaanbaatar traversing some of wild steppe country that typifies the country’s landscape, at an average of 1500m above sea level, every kilometre of this race will subsequently be very, very challenging. Each night of this race is spent in a remote traditional Mongolian ger camp.
Why I’m racing the Mongolia Bike Challenge
A race habitat very different to any other stage race on this planet – this year I will be competing in my first ever Mongolia Bike Challenge and although somewhat apprehensive about the challenges that lay ahead for me I am predominantly excited to be be heading to this obscure, difficult and interesting race. Why would a recently retired road professional with no real need to put himself through the rigours of stage racing anymore voluntarily sign up for such a demanding race? I thought of a few reasons.
1.Challenging my comfort zone in Mongolia
There is no other race in the world that traverses such remote and demanding landscape like the Mongolian steppe. As an Aussie living in relative comfort in suburban Sydney, exploring areas far from my comfort zone is something that I know will broaden my understanding of the world and the people in it.
I have travelled extensively via cycling already in my life and I know that whenever I am put through an experience that may at first seem to be rather ambitious or obscure I have ALWAYS returned wiser and very grateful that I had taken the leap of faith to put myself in a situation that may have initially seemed uncomfortable.
It is at these moments that I have learnt the most about the world and myself. I am excited to learn not only about the race of the Mongolia Bike Challenge but also the country and people of Mongolia and discover what life is like in this corner of the earth and what kind of challenges the locals here face day to day. I am sure it will be very different to suburban Sydney.
2. The spectacle of racing in Mongolia:
Since transitioning from professional road racing back to recreational MTB racing I have relished in the ability to choose my own race calendar and select some personal goals for the comparatively limited amount of racing I now get the opportunity to do. Last year I savoured the experience of racing The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge. This year the Mongolia Bike Challenge is my ‘spectacle’ race for the year. I love to have the opportunity to do races that even outside of the racing have the ability to create an amazing story.
Racing in and even just visiting Mongolia itself is a fairly remarkable experience that I am very lucky to have, this kind of experience regardless of what happens in the race always has the potential to create powerful stories. Races that not only take place in spectacular locations but also pose unique challenges at rider’s are what makes a race a spectacle. As someone who also does public speaking professionally I am very excited to partake in a spectacle as they always make for good stories.
3. Igniting the competitive spirit in Mongolia:
As most racing cyclists will attest we all have an eternal competitive fire inside us that needs to be extinguished every so often to keep us sane human’s. I do miss having that constant outlet for the competitive spirit, being able to completely spend all of your physical energy sources on something that brings meaning and satisfaction is something very therapeutic. I find a lot of purpose in my racing and am very grateful to have been allowed to devote a huge portion of my life to being able to fuel that purpose. Racing, in particular multi-day stage racing is something that is often very, very difficult, painful, exhausting, sometimes depressing and soul crushing whilst IN THE EXPERIENCE. However the satisfaction, happiness and stories that emanate from being able to look back upon the experience of conquering all those challenges is something I treasure. We get to learn patience in racing, patience in waiting for the happy parts to come.. Often in the weeks, months, years after the race.
In the meantime, I still have a lot of training and preparation to do in order to be ready for this truly epic stage race. Looking forward to being back in touch with an update soon..