Image by: OTTAVIO TOMASINI
Since returning from Mongolia, I have been very busy with various projects on the go including getting started for the new term at Zhejiang University – thus I have not had the chance to completely finish my diary updates on the Mongolia Bike Challenge. Just Stages Eight and Nine remain to be told and they both still remain so indelible in my mind that it still feels like yesterday I returned from Mongolia!
Stage Eight – brilliant start
The start of this stage could not be more perfect for me as I managed to make a solo breakaway as a counter to a Cory Wallace/Marzio Deho move. When the duo was caught by the charging pack, they eased up slightly and this gave me the momentum to leap away to a massive gap. Despite my pedal issues, they were holding up in the early stages of the day, I reached the first KOM climb in first position after 8kms. The climb itself was not very long, just two kilometers, but very steep. About one third of the way up, I was caught by Wallace and Deho. I tried to dig deep to stay with them, but they were just too quick for me. I was quickly down to my granny gear and really suffering as I struggled with my 84 Kilos of body mass! At the half way point, the second group containing just four riders (Tom Skinner, Craig Richey, Rohin Adams and Alex Denham) came past me. I was still in a good position but could not stay with this group either.
Two more riders came up to me on the climb including the Spaniard Contador (the look-alike) and I was able to hold his wheel to crest the climb together. I knew that if I was with Contador, I would have a good chance of a good finish. But disaster again struck. I was leading the way on the descent and had made it to the bottom without any mishaps, only to hit something at speed to cause my front tire to pinch flat! It was a devasating blow as I was primed to catch the four riders in front with Contador – he went on to finish 5th for Stage Eight.
It was frustrating to see rider after rider past me as I changed tubes. Once I got going again, it was always going to be difficult to catch riders in front due to the fast flowing nature of the first 40kms. With my continued pedal problems, getting a good result was dashed.
Stage Eight had the most variety of all the stages and it was cooler/rainy weather which I did not mind. It was also the longest stage – 144kms, however I managed to ride an extra 10kms as I went off course following other riders who did the same. We all rode five kilometers up an interesting track that was very much like cow paddocks back home in New Zealand before we realized the mistake and turned back. I rode a total of 154kms for another big day in the saddle.
This stage was probably the most varied of them all and even having a really cool pine tree forest climb that we rode through. It consisted of some really neat downhill sections that were through some farmland that resembled that of back home in New Zealand. There was a really interesting ride through a large village before shooting back out into the countryside. There were numerous “farm” brooks and streams to cross that either required a wade across with the bike slung over the shoulder or to find the right line to actually ride across some. The stage finished with a super fast final 10kms after cresting the final climb of the day, averaging over 40km/h for the hard packed trails leading straight to the camp perched on what basically looked like a cows paddock with some nice rolling hills in the distance. I finished yet another 17th for this stage.
Stay tuned for the final stage report and more photos from the Majestic Mongolia Bike Challenge.