THE HISTORY OF MONGOLIA BIKE CHALLENGE
“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.