The tales from the Mongolia Bike Challenge are often those of an epic nature. Epic distances. Epic struggle. Epic vistas. And epic reward.
It’s quite possible that the third stage of the 2015 Mongolia Bike Challenge will also be known as truly epic. The 135km stage started along a trail known from previous editions for being remarkably boggy and swampy, to the extent that two riders almost disappeared last year after heading into it head first.
Thankfully this year the rains have lessened and the trail was much drier and more manageable, allowing a fast pace from the start, much like the last two stages.
Soon after the start, a leading group of 12 emerged containing all the favourites, including Nicholas Pettina, Ryan Sherlock, Yuki Ikeda, Miguel Silvestre Iniesta and the Mongolians Bolor Erdene Enhtaivan and Maral Erdene Batumunkh.
This group battled it out for the first of the day’s two GPM/KOM points at 31km with Pettina taking a close sprint.
By the 80km point the group was down to 8 riders due to a relentless pace which saw Ikeda lose contact with the front group. 90km later Iniesta suffered a mechanical but was able to fight back on. However, with 10km to go on a long grueling uphill the Mongolian pair put in a joint attack and began to distance Pettina, with Sherlock a little further behind.
Unfortunately a puncture scuppered the chances of Enhtaivan but Batamunkh pushed on to take the stage with 1.30 over Pettina, with Sherlock riding through the pain of a slightly gashed knee to take 3rd.
Today, racers faced the Queen Stage, a 170km epic ride through more of the countryside that is this majestic Mongolia. We’re awaiting more tales from the epic race.
Full GC standings are available online.