Ask a keen mountain biker about international MTB stage races and they will likely list off some of the favourites: ABSA Cape Epic, Transalp, BC Bike Race. Maybe the Crocodile Trophy. There are some that get missed though, a few notables that bury great memories into the minds and MTB souls of those who have raced them. The Transylvania Epic. Beskidy MTB Trophy, Alpentour Trophy and the Sudety MTB Challenge.
I first raced the Sudety MTB Challenge in 2009, when it was an 8 day event. The prologue took place as torrents of water rushed from the heavens into the Polish town of Nachod and the surround hills. This same weather system halted the start of the Transalp bike race that year, forcing riders to find their own way out of Mittenwald as the mountainous route was too dangerous. For those of us further east, we had a week of damp trails, humidity, and lots of quality mountain biking ahead. After our shoes dried out!
Racing the Sudety MTB Challenge is about racing somewhere you probably wouldn’t visit otherwise. The mountain range that sits between Poland and the Czech Republic has amazing vistas through rock formations, ornate towns, old military outposts and enough challenging climbs that you will wish you were in the alps so you can just get the climbing done in one or two massive climbs as opposed to 20 fairly significant ones.
In 2011 I ventured to the Sudety again, this time with Ant White, the founder of Mt Zoom. I had’t raced with Ant before, and we were both interested as to how we would race together in the new format of a prologue and 5 stages. Maybe we would be better racing as two solos instead of a team? In the end, the pure mountain biking on offer kept us racing alongside each other in high spirits, enjoying the travel opportunity, the racing, and the challenges presented to us.
For 2014, the Sudety MTB Challenge celebrates its 10th anniversary. Alongside the full distance race, you can also race just half of it – perfect for those newer to the sport, or low on annual leave.
The course ventures away from the typical schotter trails that you might be familiar with from the alps, and the old trails and old forest roads serve up a combination of rock, loamy soil, roots and mud that you would expect from a mountain bike race.
The 10th edition sets to build on the success from the past. This is a race where you get to cross borders, race either solo or in teams, and stay camp style or in local hotels. As a travel experience, I would recommend it. As a race experience I would also recommend it. If you’re free from 27th July – 1st August, you should give it a try!