Stage 2 of the Mongolia Bike Challenge for 2017 was dubbed the ‘Queen stage’ for this year’s edition. Indicating that it is regarded as the most difficult of the race. Upon conversation with riders everyone fully agrees that they hope dearly there is no stage more difficult than today!
Day two in Mongolia
Many broken bodies came across the finish line, very relieved to have made it to the finish line. The stage was a 120km loop around the Erdene region of Mongolia including 3000m elevation gain. The most difficult part of the racing today was the gradient of the climbs. In Mongolia the dirt road/fire trail builders do not believe in corners, when a trail encounters a mountain or hill, the trail then traverses directly up the most direct route to the summit. Meaning the climbing today was by all accounts very, very challenging.
To be honest myself and many around me had to resort to dismounting the bike and pushing on numerous occasions. This race although only 2 days old has given me a good idea of the qualities required to complete or succeed at this race. Those without a solid foundation of mental toughness or desire to attain said toughness need not apply.
The demands of this race outside of the terrain and the competition is the mind games the conditions can play with you. As far as the eye can see it is unlikely you will spot a tree and the sheer enormity of this landscape can be very difficult to accept when the next rider you are chasing may be visible to you but still a good 5-6km away. Alas, the rewards for conquering not only the entire race but even today’s stage are a sweet sense of satisfaction and exhaustion.
All action on stage two of the Mongolia Bike Challenge
The race today although promising over 5.5 hours of riding was on from km0. An early attack from yesterday’s 3rd place Odei Gil from Spain ignited the pace and forced an early selection. This was then followed at the 10km mark by a 3 up attack from the day’s main protagonists CX rider Gosse Van Der Maar who had already clawed his way back from an early mechanical along with Lithuaninan Elijis Civilius and Frenchman Nicolas Bayraud. This trio would stay away for the duration of the stage.
Van Der Maar put in a blistering attack on the 1st KOM point of today that his companions were unable to follow. He forged a significant gap before a block headwind for the final 50km gave hope to the chasing Civilis. Alas, the guts of that attack paid off with Gosse taking the win ahead of his 2 breakaway companions.
The women’s race experienced a change on the podium today. The German rider Elke Willersinn again took the win ahead of Aussie former road professional Jo O’Shaughnessy and fellow German Christine Vollmer. The results of today’s stage in both men and women are matched with the current standings on GC. The time gaps are not great, meaning there is a lot still on the wire at this race.
Going deep in Mongolia
Today’s stage took me to a level of pain and suffering that I have not visited for a long while. After being dropped from the lead group on the very steep early climbs, I teamed up with fellow Aussie Dave for an epic 2 up work load along the flat headwind section between the climbing portions of today’s stage.
In the final 3 climbs I was completely spent, struggling to find any ounce of energy in the pins. Questions of ‘Why do I do this?’ entered my mind and stayed there until about 5 hours after the finish line when I started to feel normal again. I looked at where we are here and realised what an honour it is to be able to visit parts of the world like this. Only a sport like mountain biking can bring like minded people together in a baron, alpine desert between China and Russia. The Joy of MTB! I was glad to be pedalling my Norco Revolver again which had emerged from the baggage handlers den in Beijing airport and rode in to 7th place again today. Full results are online.
Another hard day on the cards for tomorrows stage finishing on the banks of a remote river. 3G and wifi may be non existent here.