Today was the Official Opening Ceremony of the Mongolia Bike Challenge where all 68 athletes rode from the hotel by police escort to the historical Sukhbaatar Square where 15 beautiful Mongolian girls, each with a country flag in hand, were awaiting the athletes. The Sukhbaatar Square, in the middle of Ulaanbaatar, is highly significant as it is the site where Mongolian ‘hero of the revolution’, Damdin Sukhbaatar triumphantly declared independence from Chinese domination. There is a Statue of him astride a rearing horse and pointing at ‘Modern Mongolia’!
We were all escorted to the steps, led by our respective Mongolian beauty, for a large group photograph. When this was completed the Mongolia Bike Challenge was officially opened with a series of traditional Mongolian cultural and musical performances. When this ceremony was completed, we all made our way back to the hotel to pack the bags and load the bikes onto the vans.
My pretty escort that carried the New Zealand Flag (more photos of the Mongolian beauties later)
Since Stage One begins in Dalanzadgad, some 540kms south of Ulaanbaatar, we have to transfer by air tomorrow morning while the bikes have all been loaded onto rugged four-wheel drive vans along with the duffel bags containing all the personal gear. They are all being transferred to Dalanzadgad, a 12 hr overland journey, and will be waiting for us when we move into camp at the site of stage one. It is certainly shaping up to be an epic adventure and judging from the crowd here at this event, most riders are hard-core and fully expect the 2011 Mongolia bike Challenge to be one of the toughest mountain bike events in the world, if not the toughest outright! One guy I spoke to from Canada said that he was looking for something tough, something that could potentially break him. He said he did Transrockies last year, and found that tough but wanted something tougher. The Mongolia Bike Challenge was the event that jumped out at him after he read it in a magazine.
Others agreed and also added that the allure of Mongolia, the remote places, and the attraction of meeting like minded ‘crazy’ people. ‘Back home, people think we are crazy when we do our long mountain bike expeditions and I feel like the odd one out but here at this event, I am surrounded by tons of ‘crazy’ people who are here for the adventure and comradeship’. The race is 1200kms long, and is very long for a mountain bike stage race. I have done 10-day long road tours before and found it very tough going; but this will be on another level of toughness and pain-threshold over nine long days. A key to easing the pain would be to find a good bunch of riders to ride with. Once you drop off and ride solo, it could be a very long day!
Once I leave Ulaanbaatar I will have very limited internet access and my website will be updated where possible during my nine-day mountain bike race across the Steppes of Mongolia.
My Orbea 29er Almer bike equipped with Sram double X and rear WTB Nano 2.1 tire that will fly across the Gobi Desert and Grasslands. I had to run both my tires with regular tubes after unsuccessfully trying to run them tubeless. The Chinese made tubeless sealant I bought was useless! Bring on the Mongolia Bike Challenge!
Maximus the Mechanic is going to work his magic for all the riders at the MBC event. He is pictured here working on my bike.