THE HISTORY OF MONGOLIA BIKE CHALLENGE
What an incredible journey the Mongolia Bike Challenge by Selle SMP 2018 was and it was an absolute privilege to share it with our rider from 22 countries! One of them could not have summarised it better - may we share this beautiful sentiment, which so wholeheartedly embraces the spirit of our event:
People from all over the world come together without even speaking the same language, we speak the same cycling language. It has been amazing!
Thank you, Elijus Civilis, for this wonderful conclusion about our event, we could not have summarised it any better! As we are all travelling back to Ulaanbaatar, we would like to once more congratulate all of our riders and our 2018 Winners from the USA: Khan Winner Ryan Standish and our Female Winner, Caroline Colonna. You have been outstanding leaders all week and are true Champions.
Looking back at the 2018 Mongolia Bike Challenge adventure
What an adventure it was - over 600 km and more than 9,300 metres of climbing through the wilds of Central Mongolia and the land of the mighty Genghis Khan!
The first stage was a 105 km marathon from Ulaanbaatar to the Geo Mandal Ger Camp in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, and at the front of the race after a tough battle and several strong attacks by Nicolas Raybaud (FRA) as well as Ryan Standish, it was Elijus Civilis (LIT) who claimed the first stage in a sprint finish by one second in 4h09:28. Yet, because of the GPM time bonus it was Standish took over the overall race lead by nine seconds ahead of Civilis and would hold onto it until the final finish line.
Day two was the Queen Stage and right after the start the first highlight of the day awaited the racers - a small silver sparkle on the horizon that finally presented itself as the magnificent 40m-high statue of the mighty Emperor Genghis Khan. The marathon took us on a circuit through the Nagalkhan Uul nature reserve, which is located South of our first base for two nights, the Geo Mandal Ger Camp. Standish kept a narrow lead in the Khans with a strong Master 1 rider marking his spot on the leader board: Piotr Kozlowski from Poland took the fifth place among the Khan riders in the line honours progress results.
In the female classification, Caroline Colonna from the USA established herself as the strongest rider this year, increasing her overall lead to a comfortable 1h38:14 - as an XTERRA Amateur World Champion and now Pro Racer she said it was the most divine event she had ever done. With six consecutive stage wins, she is our 2018 Female Khan Victor and with a huge smile she said about her first MBC:
The Mongolia Bike Challenge is back-breaking, it is devine and it is exceptional. It is a true adventure in self-discovery!
Day three was our River Crossings Stage, set within the characteristic Siberian tundra landscape of this area and racing in the Khan Khentii National Park to our remote Tuul River Camp. It was there that Nicolas Raybaud had a dream come true he said and that even though he was riddle with bad luck and mechanicals this year, he would take fond memories of this second MBC back home with him:
My favourite stage was the one to Tuul River, yes I won that day, but I really enjoyed spending time with the other riders. We were cut off from the outside world, so everyone came together as a family.
The fast fourth stage covered very remote paths heading South and leaving Tuul River and the Khan Khentii National Park for Steppe Nomad Camp, which is located in the beautiful Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve, approximately 130 kilometers South East of Ulaanbaatar, on the banks of the Kherlen River. Standish, Civilis and Ortiz really established themselves as the strongest contenders for the Khan Victory that day and it was them as well as Master 1 racer Kozlowski who sprinted for the line with the overall leader claiming it.
On day five everyone enjoyed a sleep-in in the comfortable luxury gers of Steppe Nomad Camp ahead of the time trial race start at 10 am. The riders were released onto the race circuit in 1 minute intervals in reverse order of the general classification: a furious chase and a thrilling race against the clock ensued.
The race course was peppered with rolling hills and two brutal climbs that forced many a rider to unclip and step off. Those steep ascents played right into court of overall race leader Ryan Standish who is a cross-country endurance specialist and increased his overall lead to 2:25.8 minutes.
So on the last day the atmosphere in the peloton was relaxed as it rolled out of Steppe Nomad Camp and a group of 12 riders was leading the way. The Central Mongolian surrounds, which had become so familiar over these last few days put up one last challenge, muddy roads and headwinds had to be endured as well as tough climbs. In the end as each of the riders raced towards the finish, flanked by proud local horsemen and finally realising what they had accomplished at the sight of the mighty Genghis Khan Palace, even the toughest couldn’t contain their emotions. One racer who was particularly elated was Antonio Ortiz who had raced so well all week and today finally achieved his ultimate goal of winning a stage. Standish and Civilis claimed second and third, respectively.
The two dominant riders of the 2018 event, Standish and Civilis had fought all day and raced hard. The two had become close and said ahead of the final stage that they really enjoyed the close racing at the pointy end of the field.
Standish and Colonna take consistent race leads across the final finish line
After six days of racing it was Ryan Standish who claimed the line honours and overall Khans race win in a time of 24h20:32.8. He admitted that on the way to the XIII Century Palace he had given everything to hang onto Civilis and that he didn’t leave anything out on track. At the finish he said that it had been an incredible experience, which left him exhausted yet very impressed by the achievements of his fellow riders too.
You know the win is awesome, but I think the biggest thing for me was to try something new and ride here for a whole week competitively, meet so many new people and make friends along the way. It is a great effort, I completed close to 30 hours on the bike and some of the riders here spent a lot more than that on the bike, so huge respect to them also.
In the end it was only +2:29.6 that separated Standish from his room mate for the week and runner up, Elijus Civilis. In third in the Khan category is the Spanish racer and final stage winner Antonio Ortiz (+7:11.2) ahead of the Australian Alex Malone in fourth (+1h14:31.0) and the French racer Nicolas Raybaud (+1h32:08.0) came in fifth.
After a total racing time of 31h48:02.8, the overall winning female of this year is Carolina Colonna:
This is very satisfying and a huge accomplishment for me. It's amazing and awe-inspiring, it lifts your spirit! You just realise that human nature is so powerful when you see how people do it all.
The female runner up is Brigitte Jenkner from Germany (+5h12:59.8) ahead of Pippa Bell (+9h09:22.0) and Melissa Roberts (+10h06:19.0) from Australia. Annemarie Ottingh from The Netherlands is in fifth (+12h42:16.6).
Congratulations to all finishers and category winners
One of the most outstanding racers of the 2018 MBC was Master 1 rider Piotr Kozlowski from Poland. Not only did claim the victory in his category, but placed fourth in the overall line honours as well with a gap of +40:17.7 to Khan Winner Standish. Together with Elijus Civilis and Daniel Tegin he also takes out the Teams Classification with a combined racing time of 77:43:52.60 for the Baltic Vikings.
Arnaud Sottas from Switzerland is the Sportman Winner in 26h45:38.1 and the Italian Alessio Bonnetti wins the Master 2 classification in 29h31:12.7. Santiago Remartinez Escobar from Spain is the winning Veteran in 28h03:19.8.
In conclusion we are so proud that the riders who started as competitors on day one, finished as a big family together on day six. It was our reward to be celebrating the spirit of this event together with our riders and the crew, celebrating each others achievements.
“Someone yesterday was comparing delivering a baby to riding the Mongolia Bike Challenge. If I think about the MBC, I have been in delivery for 7 years, and this year’s edition is the child, the product of all that hard work. This has truly been the best edition yet. I cannot express the happiness I feel here today in front of all of you, the finishers of the 2017 MBC…”
- MBC Founder Willy Mulonia final address to the 108 participants of the 2017 Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Selle SMP at the closing ceremony. 13th Century Camp, Tor Province, Mongolia.
Many an MBC have shone but this edition literally glittered, featuring a daily cascade of blue skies, clear trails, scintillating racing up at the head of all the classifications and heroic efforts of willpower and determination by those whose main aim each morning was to get through the day in one piece and to make the time cut.
Make no mistake, there was plenty of blood, sweat and tears going about, with one rider suffering a half-dislocated shoulder, a few cases of high fevers sweeping the camp, the usual stomach issues here and there and a few scrapes from falls too. On not just one occasion a rider crossed the finish line in a cloud of tears, that curious mix of exhaustion and elation engulfing them, a singular feeling that only one whom has battled against both the elements and their own fears to reach safe harbour can attest.
There may well be races as demanding as the MBC in their own way, but it is the vastness of the environment that makes this event unique. Without flora about the trails and hills even climbing up a 2km hill can seem interminably long, each pedal turn moving you mere inches, and a 30km flat ride through a valley big enough to fit three major airports in it feels like a trek across Wyoming. And yet this is the appeal of this landscape, the wide sweeping vistas, the utter lack of the sounds of the modern world, the remoteness that makes digital communication impossible.
It is not so much that you experience Mongolia, rather, you are engulfed, encompassed by it.
To gaze upon the clearest and closest Milky Way that most of us have ever seen, to think about our early ancestors doing the very same whilst creating gods to explain the wonders in the heavens, to set out each day on a voyage where human is pitted against environment and the self, carrying the water and meagre food supplies needed to survive, and to dream, indeed, of the infinite, unknowable universe of which we are a part - well, this, rather grandly put, is the Mongolia Bike Challenge!
Our heroes were all. From MBC 2017 winner Elijius Civilis and his humble and humorous character, to the indefatigable Schartz Aloyse and his utter joy at getting on the podium for the first time in his life, to Alessia Candellone and Giorgio Marini on their tandem, to mother and daughter Jenny Anderson and Kia King who crossed the line together after the final ITT, and to John da Costa who out behind him the bad luck and disappointment of two previous attempts to receive his finisher’s shirt and also the loudest cheer of the night, all are heroes.
We, Race Director and the crew of the Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Selle SMP 2017, salute you.
You are our motivation. Our champions. Heroes all.
The 2016 Mongolia Bike Challenge by Selle SMP is over. We are done, and we we are definitely dusted. Legs are tired, backsides are weary, and just about everybody is ready for a hot shower and some room service! Yet, as with all the previous editions of the MBC, this year ?s race will live long in the memories and, corny as it sounds, in the hearts too, of all who set off from Ulaan Bataar just seven short days ago.
There were so many fantastic stories from this year ?s event that it would be impossible to recall them all. However, if you will grant us a bit of your time, we will tell you one or two.
There was Sarah Fawcett from the UK. Sarah had not ridden bike in any meaningful way since childhood when she decided late last year to enter the MBC 2016. Then she had a car accident and was out of action for several months, meaning that she could not adequately train for the event. But she did not let that stop her. Day after day, she pushed those pedals around, struggled and fought against the hills, the wind and her body ?s demands to stop. And every day she came in just under the time limit, exhausted but happy, and then she woke up again the next day and did it all over again.
Then there was Sergio Santiago Monje, who arrived at the Bayangol Hotel with a knitted puppet attached to his rucksack. At the start of the first stage he had the puppet attached to his camel bag, and at the evening meal it was attached to his belt loop. Wherever Sergio went, Nacho went too. The puppet ?s name was Nacho, and it represented a real boy named Nacho too. Nacho is the son of one of Sergio ?s friends, and this little boy has a kidney disease called DENT, an incurable disease that affects just 200 people worldwide. Because it affects so few, there is almost no government funding available to find a cure for DENT. And so, Sergio rides to raise money for Nacho and other DENT sufferers, selflessly peddling how way over the Mongolian steppe, refusing to give in to the tiredness and to the hurt, riding every day for Nacho.
To Sergio we gave the Fair Play award that we present to one rider who displays not only courage but also selflessness during the event.
There was also Neil Reynolds from Wales. Neil also was riding for a charity, Friends of Cancer Victims. He does one ?big ?event per year, and at the 2016 MBC he raised over $10,000 US.
It is stories like these, and indeed, people like this, that make the Mongolia Bike Challenge what it is. Yes, it is a race, and the boys up the front, such as Payson McElveen, who won the event, and Nicholas Pettina who fought hard to come in second, always put in stellar performances, astonishing the rest of us mere mortals with their efforts. Yet the MBC is about a coming together of people from all over the world, from all walks of life, from contrasting experiences, cycling abilities and even lifestyles, to pit themselves against the route and to experience the majestic beauty of Mongolia.
Speaking of the landscape, we were treated this year to almost perfect riding weather. One of the highlights was the 40 kilometre long valley, wide and flat, that ushered the riders on its carpet of lush, swaying grass towards the finish line on Stage 4. Another was the climb on Stage 3, situated in a protected area that sees not only almost no tourists but also hardly any Mongolians. Long and challenging, the grassy slopes are punctuated by huge rocky outcrops that rise up to tower over the riders as they pass by, huffing and puffing up towards the summit, where they are greeted by a refuelling station and a sweeping, open descent that is the definition of joy on a mountain bike.
And who will ever forget the night sky on the last night, after we had finished the awards ceremony at the 13th Century Ger Camp? As we left the large hut where the finishers were awarded their splendid Rosti MBC jerseys, above us was a picture perfect Mongolian sky, with the Milky Way low to the horizon, so close and clear you felt as though you could reach out and touch it. Stars simply filled the sky. It was monumental.
We always talk about the MBC as being a family, and that is something we hold firm to. It is neither a cliche nor a marketing ploy. As with all families, there will be ups and there will be downs, there will be great moments and there will be not so great moments, but, ultimately, the bond between those who ride the Mongolia Bike Challenge goes strong and goes deep, as with any family.
Lord Tennyson, in his famous poem Ulysses, finished with these lines: To seek, to find, to strive, but not to yield. That may well be the true motto of the Mongolia Bike Challenge. To all those who took part, to all the companions who helped out, to all the Mongolian staff, from the doctor and the nurse and all the drivers, we, the crew of the Mongolia Bike Challenge and the race founder, Willy Mulonia, salute you. Truly, you are the MBC.
To all those of you thinking of coming next year, well, we would love to see you and to meet you out here on the Mongolian steppe!
The Mongolia Bike Challenge. Where the impossible becomes possible.
Though we believed the exceptional weather and great atmosphere amongst the participants of last year's Mongolia Bike Challenge would be just about impossible to match ever again, it has to be said that the 2015 MBC not only matched it but in fact exceeded the 2014 edition.
Brilliant blue skies filled with those classic postcard-perfect clouds left the riders with great suntans and big smiles, whilst a convivial atmosphere during and post-race saw many new friendships forged and once in a lifetime memories planted, here in the land of Genghis Kahn.
"I wouldn't give up a single kilometer of this beautiful race," said Luc Van Aelbroeck of Belgium. "It is an experience I'll never forget. The organisation has also been first-class," he said.
Not only was this the warmest MBC to date but it was also the fastest, with the GC winner Nicholas Pettina of the Italian national squad commenting on this after the final seventh stage, the day he won his fifth stage in total.
"Yes, this year was faster than last year," said Pettina. "The Mongolian riders really forced the pace early on in each stage."
The local riders showed up in depth, with several having come straight from racing in UCI road races at altitude in China.
What some lacked in technical skills they more than made up for in fighting spirit, with Bolor Endene Enthaivan in particular impressing. At just 21, This was Enthaivan's first ever MTB race of any kind, so to take a stage showed immense promise.
Another rider who shone was Ryan Sherlock, the current Irish National MTB XC champion. Coming home in 2nd, Ryan put in a great ride to secure that Team 3 award for his Selle SMP Team. "It's a great race, nowhere near as scary or hard as I thought it would be," said Ryan. "When you're racing along at 29km/hr for the average, as we did on this last stage, you soon cover the distance. Really enjoyable race and an unforgettable experience."
Others expressed similar sentiments, commenting on the great food, weather, accommodation and in particular the scenery. "This is like no other place I've ever been," one of the rider's companions said after the closing ceremony at the 13th Century Ger Camp, a traditional Mongolian camp set amongst startling rocky outcrops and endless green hills.
"I've never experienced a place so vast, so open. You feel anything in possible out here."
Even an epic MTB race!
The top three riders in the race were:
1. Nicholas Pettina
2. Ryan Sherlock
3. Miguel Silvestre Iniesta
Whilst we say chapeau wholeheartedly to these great riders, it is true that every single finisher deserves a winner's jersey, for each fought and was determined to finish their very own amazing journey.
Each day the riders who had finished the Stage already would drop whatever they were doing to come cheer in the final rider.
"It's the only race I've been to where the results don't really matter. After the race, you can see the first placed rider and last placed person sit and talk about their experience. This is special."
This, indeed, is the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
To all who finished the 2015 MBC, we salute you!
The 2014 edition of Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge has come to an end. 61 racers rode 7 stages through dust, mud, extreme cold and heat to earn the coveted Finisher jersey after 900 km and 14.000 mt of climbing.
Two-time Canadian XC champion Cory Wallace won the overall for the third consecutive time over Italian standout Nicholas Pettinà after a hard-fought battle, with young Czech Jiri Krivanek completing the podium.
All the riders and staff put their heart and soul to make this, according to Race Director Willy Mulonía, the most exciting and overall best edition of the Challenge.
The 2013 Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea concluded with Stage Seven today. The route was 86 kilometres with 1400 metres of climbing and brought the athletes to the 13th Century National Park Historical Ger Camp.
In the Men’s Elite Category, Pau Zamora (Buff-Niner) attacked on the first GPM and brought Wallace (Kona), Ortiz (Selle SMP) and Sager (Jamis) with him. The four GC leaders battled it out for the rest of the stage with Wallace riding away from the group to take the final stage by 50 seconds over Sager. The Final GC standings remained unchanged with Wallace retaining the Pink Jersey for the second straight year.
Ortiz finishes second overall followed by Pau Zamora in third. In the Women’s Category, Sonya Looney (Topeak-Ergon) made a charge midway through the race to take the second GPM and was able to hold on for the stage victory. In the GC, Catherine Williamson (Bizhub-Energas) took the Pink Jersey followed by Looney (Topeak-Ergon) and Erin Greene (Endura NZ), respectively. Maral-erdene Batmunkh, Altansukh Altanzul and Munkhtulga Erdensuren (Genco Tour Team) took the Yellow Jersey for the Team of Three GC Category.
Note: final team results will be updated to reflect this. The remaining GC category winners include Thomas Vandendaele (Sportsman), Tom Smets (Master 1), Timothy Goulding (Master 2) and Robert Bleeker (Veteran).
It was a beautiful and dramatic finish to the 2012 Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea. After weather problems earlier in the week, the ninth and tenth stages were completely redesigned by the organizers - athletes stated that the final stages were two of the best of the whole race.
It was a battle from the start of stage ten as riders fought for final positions in the overall classification. At the finish line it was Wicks (Kona), Wallace (Kona) and Zamora (Buff). Cory Wallace won the overall classification and is the new 2012 Champion. In the women’s race, Elisabeth Adamson (Australia) won the stage and took back the pink jersey, becoming the 2012 Champion. Full results below.
The final stage of the 2011 MBC started at 7:30am with emotions running high. 59 riders took the start line and headed toward Karakorum, home to the most important Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia. 104 fast but difficult kilometres lay ahead of racers with a tough hill climb bonus at 9.5 km.
Canadian Tom Skinner (NOP System/BC Bike Race) made it to the top first, with nice gap on the lead group. The pack reeled him in though and shrunk in size after another tough climb. They flew threw the Mongolian countryside on a fast and flowy track for the middle part of the race. At the second refill station at 80km, Dutch rider, Roel Van Shalen (Orbea) attacked and gained more than a minute on the field. The chase pack consisting of Marzio Deho (Olympia), and the Canadians, Cory Wallace (Kona) and Craig Richey (NOP System/BC Bike Race) pursued and passed him on the last climb.
At the finish it Marzio Deho winning stage 9, with Richey second and Wallace third. Deho claimed the overall win for the second year in a row. In the women´s race, Melinda Jackson won stage 9, followed by fellow Australian, Turi Berg, with Rafaella Canonico taking third. Spaniard Albert Casadevall won in the Sportman category.
Final show for the 92 bikers of the Mongolia Bike Challenge’s first edition. The overall leader, after the bad experience of the yesterday’s stage, doesn’t want take risks and tries to get an important gap on the competitors. Taking the opportunity of GPM, located just after the start, sprints in climbing and begins his solitary stage, as he has usually done in this race in Mongolia.
The stage is really fast, with ground compact and fluent. You cross green grassland, with herds of horses and yak pasturing. In some points it seems to be protagonists in a western movie. The official finish line is on top of the hill that leads the city of Karakorum. From here the bikers of the Mongolia Bike Challenge are collected in a single group to cross the streets of the old capital during the Gengis Khaan empire. They arrive in front of the spectacular monastery of Erdene Zuu, the first Buddhist centre in the history of Mongolia, surrounded by 108 magnificent “stupa”.
A magical place that contains the mystical and deep sense of this unforgettable adventure in Mongolia. The classifications don’t change. Marzio Deho wins the first edition of the Mongolia Bike Challenge, being the winner in 6 of the 8 stages of the race and winning 7 of 8 mounting awards. In the women category triumph for Stefania Valsecchi, from Italy. Tears of happy and moments of strong emotions fill the shots of the photographers for a momentum worth to be framed, that most of the bikers will keep in their heart for a long period. A rough, majestic and austere Mongolia has been the background in 10 days of adventure and sport.