Mountain biking seems to be seeing a resurgence in popularity, especially with multi-day stage racing that provides riders with new experiences and adventures in exotic locations. Multi-day MTB stage racing is already popular in Europe and USA, and its slowly taking a grip on the Asia circuit. Its a perfect way to see and experience the country close up while meeting other like-minded MTB endurance riders from all parts of the globe. I had my first taste of MTB stage racing when I took part in the Genghis Khan MTB Adventure in Inner Mongolia back in 2010. It has now become a firm fixture on the China race calendar and is a sell-out event each year. Kris Van de Velde from Kuai Sports, is the race director working with Nordic Ways and was largely responsible for increasing the profile and image of the event that Chinese amateur riders as well as international riders make the arduous journey to the green flowing grasslands each year; it is also a perfect event for those riders wishing to try out stage MTB racing but are baulking at the larger far more challenging events like Cape Epic and the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
This year was my fourth time participating in the Inner Mongolia event and we led a team of five WTB riders (Wilderness Trail Bikes), including the defending King of Grasslands, Wang Lidong who races the three MTB stages and runs a full marathon! This was the third year that WTB has been involved in sponsoring this iconic Chinese event and it is hoped that this event will continue to grow and provide quality amateur racing. It is an event highly recommended for those wishing to make baby steps into the world of endurance MTB stage racing. This year I achieved my best result with a solid 5th placing on each day to finish on the 5th step of the podium for the overall, while rolling on the new WTB NANO 40c tires. After this event, I was immediately attracted to the idea of taking on the Mongolia Bike Challenge, which in 2011 it was a 10-day stage race traversing through the remotest possible Mongolian landscape in the world. It was also arguably the toughest and most adventurous stage race in the world with riders combating dust storms, icy rivers, and complete isolation from the current uber connected world we live in. It was a nomadic hard experience on a mountain bike through landscape that is virtually unchanged from hundreds of years ago. I raced in 2011 and yet again in 2013. The 2013 edition is a much more scaled down version when you compare it to 2011, but it still retains the beauty of the wild Mongolian Outback that is still in touch with the outside world. The stages are long and packed into 7-days of intense racing and the 2014 edition of MBC promises to be even better with its new mapped out route. If you are after a unique nomadic experience sleeping in the traditional Gers and cold showers daily after your long day on the MTB, then the MBC is highly recommended. I wrote some tips about endurance mountain biking with some input from Canadian National Champ and three-time winner of MBC, Cory Wallace. While the MBC remains one of the main-stays of MTB stage racing in Asia, there are other MTB stage races that are quickly gaining in popularity such as the Langkawi 5-day MTB event , held in September, attracting high level international professionals with the UCI points and lucrative cash prizes on offering. There is also the Yak attack and Trans Nepal, both in Nepal. In India there is the MTB Himalaya, which is held in late September. Australia also plays host to a couple of amazing events including the oldest MTB stage race in the world: Crocodile Trophy and the newest event Port to Port MTB. There is also the five-day Tour of East Timor. While the above mentioned events represent most of the key MTB stage races in Asia, it is by no means an exhaustive list. I envisage more of these types of events being staged around Asia as local governments and local enterpreneurs recognize as opportunities for promotion of sport tourism; its a way to put beautiful unique regions on the map. Stay tuned for more new events in Asia.