Stages 3 and 4 of Mongolia Bike Challenge 2017 have now been run and won. With plenty of drama taking place over the past 2 days we now have a change in leadership for both the women’s and the men’s category.
I last wrote reporting on the ‘queen stage’ of this year’s race, however now 2 days deeper into this race it is evident that in fact all stages are worthy of ‘queen’ status. The racing, the terrain and the conditions have not let up for all involved.
Day three in Mongolia
Stage 3 finished in the very remote Tuul River campsite, with again close to 3000m of elevation and over 115km of racing this was going to be another long day in the saddle. French rider Nicholas Bayraud took the race by it’s horns and went on a solo attack only 10minutes into the race.
His gumption earned him a long period off the front of the race before being caught by main GC protagonists Elijas Civilis and Gosse Van Der Meer. This trio then worked together for a short time before Van Der Meer attacked on KOM 2 hoping that he could put a sizeable gap into Civilis before the impending descent which he admitted was not his strength. This tactic paid off with Van Der Meer extending a considerable gap and then committing to a solo ride to the finish “I averaged over 30kph for 1 hour after the descent”.
However, drama struck when Van Der Meer took an incorrect turn 10km from the finish line. Civilis whom was chasing did not make this same mistake and solo’d in to victory, with a frustrated Van Der Meer crossing the line 10 minutes afterward after he had remedied his route miscalculation.
Justin’s weapon of choice in Mongolia? His Norco Revolver FS
The courageous Frenchman Raybaud also was led astray and lost close to an hour after a serious route miscalculation. The results for the stage would be Civilis in 1st and Van Der Meer in 2nd and myself in 3rd in the ‘Khan’ category after Being helped to the line after a crash by Spanish rider Oedi Gil.
This put Civilis into the leaders pink jersey. This is significant as Elijas Civilis is the first ever Lithuanian to compete in this race and has just recently returned from winning the world 24hour pairs MTB championship.
In the women’s race, there was also a changing of the guard. The super strong Jo O’Shaughnessy from Melbourne, Australia put in an epic ride on stage 3 to overtake German rider Elke Willerstein for the stage victory and the overall lead.
Day four in Mongolia
Stage 4 was the longest of the race this year with a total of 128km to be covered. With many tired legs on the start line, the excitement was somewhat dulled by another long day on the cards. A 30km climb started the day before a more or less flat run in to the finish.
Which would have seemed reasonably straightforward. However racers were faced with extremely rough road conditions for the first 30km before being hit by an unrelenting headwind all the way to the finish line.
Many had expected today to be relatively fast but the conditions lead to another long day in the saddle. The men’s GC podium remained unchanged with Civilis and Van Der Meer finishing in a group of 9 with Van Der Meer taking the sprint for the stage victory.
Jo O’Shaughnessy again had another super strong day putting more time into her GC lead.
What’s to come in Mongolia?
With 2 stages remaining, this has shaped up to be one of the most exciting Mongolia Bike Challenges in history. Race Director Willy Mulonia said tomorrow’s stage although shorter at 88km “will have a lot of riders very nervous, with many very steep, short climbs”. This may play into the hands of the cyclocross specialist Van Der Meer.
It is at this stage approximately 4 days into a stage race that I honestly face the most distress. The start line is long behind but the finish still seems so far away. The body is saying STOP, STOP, STOP but the reasons that brought you to the race is what will fuel me to the finish line.
Many riders appear to be in the same mindset as myself, with every rider bringing their own story/ reasons to such an epic event as the Mongolian Bike Challenge. Definitely a race like no other on the calendar.