Nicholas Pettinà sealed an emphatic victory in the 2015 Mongolia Bike Challenge Nicholas Pettinà with a fourth stage win on the final day of the race. The result avenged his narrow defeat to Cory Wallace in last year’s edition of the race.
For the second year in a row, Pettinà claimed the opening stage and first leader’s jersey of the race firmly establishing him as the man to beat. In the absence of last year’s Champion Cory Wallace, Pettinà carved out a significant lead over ex-road pro Miguel Silvestre and Mongolian rider Bolor Erdene Enhtaivan on the opening day of the race and carefully protected throughout the remainder of the race. On Friday’s individual time trial he effectively stamped his victory with a storming win.
Going into Friday’s individual time trial, Pettinà’s had too much of a lead for his rivals to pull back – and indeed he extended that advantage with a power laden performance. However, there was significant interest in second and third place, with Irishman Ryan Sherlock sitting in third overall, just 1 minute down on Silvestre.
Throughout the race honours were largely shared by Pettinà, Sherlock and Silvestre, with the former two both claiming stage wins. Pettinà setup his overall position with a strong start to the race, winning stage one by 15 minutes.
Here’s a summary of how the race was won:
Pettinà stamped his authority on the race early. He carved a 15 minute lead on the opening stage. The Italian used his XC experience to full effect, pushing away from the lead group on the many descents on what was an incredibly hilly opener to this year’s edition of the race. A field of some 78 riders faced up to 113km which was characterised by sharp climbs up to 30% gradient for a total of 2,300m of climbing.
Pettinà claimed his lead over a lead group, which included his Silvestre, who took second, and Mongolian rider Bolor Erdene Enhtaivan who claimed third. Irishman Ryan Sherlock finished the day in fourth, with Yuki Ikeda in fifth.
The second day of the race offered a more sedate start, with the field wearied by the brutal opening stage. Despite staying together in the opening kilometres, attacks soon came as the leaders looked to push away on the 117km stage which would feature 2250m of climbing.
Several sharp 5km climbs preceded the first KOM of the day, which fell 52km into the stage. Pettinà was determined to add to his overnight lead again punishing his rivals on the sharp descents.
A rolling 30km stretch from the second KOM to the finish at Tuul River gave Pettinà the opportunity to push ahead of Silvestre and Sherlock, who took second and third respectively.
Pettinà’s run was broken on stage three by Mongolian rider Maral Erdene Batmunkh. While the Mongolian riders in the race have demonstrated strength uphill, their technical and downhill prowess has let them down. However, a 30km climb to the finish gave Batmunkh the opportunity to take the first win of the race by a local rider.
The stage was notable Ryan Sherlock’s presence on the podium, in third, alongside Pettinà in second. Sherlock had crashed heavily 10km into the stage in a freak accident. A stone thrown up by the rider in front bringing Sherlock down and resulting in 5 stitches at the end of the stage. In spite of heavy bleeding Sherlock still managed to finish third, pulling back time on Silvestre.
The Queen stage of this years race served up a relentless day of climbing with 2540m of ascent stretched out along the 165km stage.
Commencing with an almost 31km descent including the previous day’s finishing climb the stage got off to a fast start, with a lead group forming as the road reared upwards into the first KOM.
As the day developed Pettinà, Sherlock and Silvestre kept largely lock-step with one another over the 70km run to the base of the day’s second KOM and the highest point of the stage.
Here, Pettinà pushed away from his rivals, cresting the climb solo and beginning the final 50km of the stage. With Pettinà’s strength uphill and prowess on the descents, there was little Sherlock and Silvestre could do to stop the Italian as he claimed his third stage win of the race.
In spite of his injury suffered on stage 3, Ryan Sherlock claimed his first stage of the Mongolia Bike Challenge, in what was a punishing 168km course from the Kherlen River to Gun Galuut.
Despite only featuring 1730m of climbing the leaders group inadvertently added a number of kilometers to their day after taking a wrong turn shortly after the start. On a long, slightly downhill opening 80km of the stage a leading group of 8 rode 8km out of the way before being brought back on track by race officials.
Following their detour, the leaders got back to the front of the race at the first of three feed stations, there settling back into a rhythm at the front of affairs.
A gradual rolling ascent to a stage high of 1600m was managed by the front group, before a long decent to the foot of the final climb of the day provided an opportunity for Sherlock, Pettinà and Silvestre to shed their Mongolian rivals with their technical superiority.
The final climb provided a sharp end to the stage, with Sherlock cresting first with Pettinà. The two ran together on the largely downhill run to the line, with Sherlock outsprinting his rival to win the stage.
Few expected Pettinà’s lead to be challenged on the individual time trial, however many were surprised by the incredible dominance of the race leader over the hilly 47km course.
Starting last and adorned in the pink jersey of race leader, Pettinà destroyed the field, catching and passing most of the top-10 riders ahead of him.
Such was Pettinà’s dominance that really the only question of the day was who would finish the day second on GC. With a minute separating Silvestre and Sherlock, and a course suited to the later, it was expected that Sherlock would eclipse his Selle SMP team mate.
And so it proved to be. Sherlock turned in a strong performance, passing his one and two minute men to record a fast time. By comparison, Silvestre showed the signs of accumulated fatigue after 5 days of racing, losing a number of minutes and relinquishing second overall.
Yuki Ikeda by his own admission had his best day of the race, riding strongly both uphill and on the numerous descents protect his GC position.
The start of the final stage was notable for the blistering start of almost the entirety of the Mongolian team. A quartet of riders shot off the 1km uphill start, gapping most of the field and almost immediately creating a 12-man leading group.
As the field settled into a largely flat, tailwind-backed run across the plains, the Mongolians continued their aggressive riding, driving up the climbs that emerged 20km into the stage.
Sherlock admitted after the stage that the pace set by the Mongolians on the early hills in the 87km stage had him teetering on the edge of his limit. However, when the Irishman himself came to the front – ostensibly to set a manageable pace, the Mongolian riders dropped away, leaving he and Pettinà alone.
Pettinà proved the stronger of the duo, riding into Nomad Steppe Camp first to win the stage and seal his overall win. Sherlock finishing second, and confirming his second place on GC. Bolor Erdene Enhtaivan, however it was Silvestre who held on to take third overall.