Race Information

Training Service

Crank Punk Coaching Systems: Official coaching provider for The Mongolia Bike Challenge.

"Would I recommend Lee? Absolutely. I’m not saying the other coaches aren’t any good and won’t help generate results, but the way CrankPunk teases performance out is amazing." - 2014 MBC finisher Chris Hodgson


Cycling coach, ex-professional road and MTB racer, freelance cycling journalist, brand consultant and Communications Manager for the MBC,  Lee Rodgers is the man behind Crank Punk Coaching Systems (CPCS).

He's also known by his alter ego, crankpunk, which provides the name for both his website www.crankpunk.com and for his coaching business.

Lee is offering coaching packages to all participants in the MBC event. 

Having ridden the event in 2013 and 2014, Lee not only knows how to prepare a rider for multi-day events thanks to his own racing background, but is also an invaluable source of information on the particular demands that racing in Mongolia brings.

CPCS offer three different coaching packs:

  • The 1-2-1 Plan: A fully personalised training plan that is followed up by weekly Skype calls.
  • The In-Betweener: Fully personalised with contact via bi-weekly emails and a monthly call.
  • The MBC '15 Plan: A pre-written plan tailored for all riders of all abilities, with guidance provided via online documents.

Get in touch to inquire about taking up our special offer to train with Lee through his email at communication@mongoliabikechallenge.com.

Also, read about Lee's 2014 MBC here on VeloNews.


The Mongolia Bike Challenge is regularly listed as ‘the world’s hardest MTB stage race’, and whilst those of us who have completed an edition of the MBC take a huge slice of pride in finishing the race and telling out friends about it, the truth of the matter is this:

It’s not really as hard as they make out.

So how did the MBC achieve such iconic and scary status in the world of MTB stage racing? 

There are a few factors that, combined, might lead one to believe that this is in fact the most challenging race on earth but that, when considered in isolation, show that it’s not as scary as all that.

First, there is the location. Yes, Mongolia as indeed very, very far away – from the middle of America or Europe. But, is it really too far? From Denver to Beijing takes 13 hours. Ulan Bataar is then under two hours away. There’s no need to take slow-moving trains or to get on a yak-wagon – unless you really want to. If anything, it’s all a little too painless and comfortable – surely traveling to one of the world’s most exotic locations should be harder than that?

Well, it isn’t. Just about the toughest hurdle you have to handle is the Customs Officers in China (faces made of stone and personalities to match) and three to four airplane meals. Then, boom, you land in UB and get the ubiquitous photo taken with the Genghis Khan Airport sign behind you and you’re off – the MBC awaits.

The first evening you’ll stay in the perfectly decent Bayangol Hotel just a few hundred meters from the center of town, where you have plenty of time to pick up your race numbers and to set up your bike, and to get to know your fellow participants. 

The two times I rode the race, in 2013 and 2014, there was just one night both times in tents on slightly bumpy ground, but to be honest the rest of the week the accommodation was very comfortable, staying either in a ger or in huts with beds at the various stopover points. Sure, the showers could have been warmer in most places and the toilets are nothing more than holes in the ground covered by a little tent, but it isn’t exactly hard living. A little rustic maybe, but it all adds to the experience!

One of the delights of the race is the great food served up by the likes of the Rosewood Kitchen. After a long day in the saddle, climbing off to delicious hot food in big servings is a serious treat. 

Out on the trails there are adequate stops provided by the organization to get fuel in your belly and water in your bottles. There’s also always somewhere there with a wrench or an Allen key to sort your bike out and see you on your way.

The mechanic service provided by Bike Heroes every night, if you take up one of their packages, is brilliant. Absolutely the best I have ever used and an extra service I thoroughly recommend. Many also swear by the massage service that is also on offer. 

The trails themselves are really not too challenging. I rode the TransAlp race in 2014 and was scared half to death most of the time! Also, the hills aren’t too long – there are none of the 10km + climbs you get in Europe and the USA.

Being a roadie, the MBC 2013 was my first MTB race in 22 years and I had only had my MTB bike for 2 weeks prior to the event. Fact it, the MBC is the most like a road race for XC bikes that you’ll ever come across. The trails are mostly wide single track or SUV tracks, with the most challenging aspects being riding in time to time over sand and through rivers. 

In this way the MBC is a brilliant first race for people eager to get into MTB stage racing. 

The speed at the front is very very fast – I can attest to that as I was usually up thee until about halfway each stage until I got dropped like a heavy brick. In fact, the competition for all the categories is fierce and you need to be on your game to get on the podium each day.

However, most of the riders at the MBC, whilst ‘racing’, are in fact simply enjoying the challenge of getting to the finish line in one piece, and the incredible views on offer all day long. Wild horses race by you, yak look on wondering what the heck you’re up to, eagles soar above and all the while Mongolia happens right before your eyes. 

The cut-off time each day is very generous and allows for riders of all abilities to take part in an unforgettable experience. Last year we had one rider who had only been riding  - and I mean ever – for 6 months, and he finished well inside the time cut each day, to great applause too, I might add!

The weather can be terrible, that much is true – it’s cold sometimes and can be terribly wet and foggy. But hey, would you rather be wet in Mongolia in August or Seattle or Yorkshire in May? 

Choices, choices!

So yeah, whilst I tell my friends that I just completed The World’s Hardest Race when I’m back and nursing a pint of beer at the bar – I know that actually, with a few months training, anyone can do it. This is the beauty of the race, aptly named a challenge.

Come, give it a go. It’s be a terrible shame to miss out on this amazing experience.

Lee Rodgers is the Communications Manager of the MBC and the official coaching provider, through CrankPunk Training Systems. Head to CrunkPunk to get in tough with him about getting yourself ready for the 2015 MBC.

Winter Training: LSD vs. High Intensity Training – a viable shortcut?

The Mongolia Bike Challenge is an amazing race but it is also a long one. So, unless you have 30 hours a week to train, how to get ready for this kind of prolonged daily effort? Without doing Long, Steady Distance (LSD) four days a week, can you get through the challenge? If you're unsure, read on...I learned early on, as a fresh-faced (some would say angelic) 15 year old that if you ask 10 different cyclists a question about training you’ll get about 26 different answers.

As a beginner or even intermediate cyclist – and indeed, in some cases, even for pro riders – the sheer volume of different training regimes and routines out there can seem overwhelming. One good performance will have us swearing by our training schedule, yet a bad one the next week will just have us swearing. Some will tell you to ride 500km a week, others 200, or to climb 38 flights of stairs three times on a Monday but never on a Wednesday, whilst some swear by gym work and others say it’s a hindrance.

There’s even one UCI WorldTour team now whose management has its riders running twice a week, whereas the vast majority of pros i know haven’t run for anything other than the front of the line at the buffet table in their whole lives.And then there is the advice you will hear from supposedly expert club cyclists, many of whom seem to talk the talk but have never walked the walk. I don’t mean to sound tetchy but there’s a lesson to be learned here – open your ears and eyes but also keep a whiff of sense and your wits about you.

Cycling is a like a religion, I think we can all attest to that – but just as you wouldn’t wander into a religious convention and follow the preachings of every charlatan you meet, that same approach is needed with training routines. Pick and choose. Try stuff, see if it works, if it doesn’t, discard it. If it does, tweak it so it fits you, and not vise versa.Train for your upcoming event, or with at least one eye on it. This is something i come across often. You see a guy who races once a month in short sharp events, no more than 30km, training 300km a week without any interval training. Or another doing long, even-paced rides of up to 120km on a daily basis, training that is great if you are going on a bike vacation but not iof you are looking to compete..Or I meet a guy who tells me he is a terrible climber and hates the hills as a result, and yet in training he avoids climbs like the plague, then complains when he’s dropped on every group ride that goes uphill.

These guys are not training too smart, not are they working on their weaknesses.It is also important to be realistic in terms of what you can handle, both in regards to your body and your time schedule.Are traditional training methods best? Nope. Just because something has been around for a long time doesn?t mean it’s right. Like intolerance. Or poverty. Or Ferrero Rocher.Many years ago cyclists believed that smoking actually opened up the lungs, so they would often have a cigarette just before the race – or even during. It was only in the late 50s that interval training became popular (there is a great moment in this Jacques Anquetil documentary where a domestique talks about his coach telling him to sprint for every other telegraph pole on the way home – despite being sceptical, he did, and won the next race – suddenly, he says, everyone was doing it).

Until then, very few really understood the benefits of sprint and threshold training.Nowadays, and especially in autumn, you will hear many a rider people talking about Long, Steady Distance – otherwise known as LSD (stifle the flashback jokes please!)LSD is something you are supposed to do in the winter months, to build stamina and to alter the body and the way it uses your fat and glycogen stores so that you can race more economically in the race season. LSD training was originally developed for running, but it has been adapted to cycling and has, since around the mid-1950s, formed the cornerstone of any ‘serious’ cyclist’s base training.The idea is to attain a good base of stamina from long slow rides, then to gradually decrease distance and increase intensity as the season approaches. Many cyclists swear by LSD as the perfect method to increase stamina as well as the body’s ability to more efficiently burn energy.Rides of 4 or 5 hours are traditionally recommended, but new research suggests that any LSD ride less than 6 hours will not actually increase the body’s ability to store glycogen nor increase stamina too much more than a 2 hour ride would.

The research suggests that the body can gain just as much benefit from shorter, more intense rides (such as the Hour of Power [HOP] and High Intensity Interval Training [HIIT]).Let’s save that debate for a moment and look at what LSD really entails.The accepted wisdom says that your MHR (Maximum Heart Rate) should be at around 65-80%, and you should not be out of breath when riding. your cadence should be at around 90-105 rpm. The ride should ideally be between 6 and 8 hours long. It has been shown that LSD training of sufficient duration improves your peripheral adaptations. In not-really-layman’s terms, this means an increase in capillary density, more myoglobin, more mitochondria, and an increased ability to use free fatty acids as fuel and an increase in glycogen stores.What does that really mean? You may well ask. Myoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein and an increase in this leads to more oxygen being stored in the muscles.Greater capillary density leads to more oxygen being supplied to the muscle and decreases levels of lactate acid (the stuff that makes your legs feel dead or ‘soft’).Mitochondria are our aerobic engines and having a lot of these mean that our body uses less glycogen stores – therefore we can exercise for longer.Glycogen is a fuel derived as glucose (sugar) from carbohydrate and stored in the muscles and liver. It’s the primary energy source for high-intensity cycling. Reserves are normally depleted after about two-and-a-half hours of riding. If you do your LSD properly though you can increase the body’s ability to store glycogen, so, you increase your stamina through increasing the body’s glycogen store. And that, in a nutshell, is what LSD is and does.

Many professional riders who do not work any other job use this in the winter months and have found it to lead to success. But, i will reiterate, these adaptations can only be achieved from riding 6-8 hours or more, regularly. Quite obviously, however, very few of us have the luxury of being able to ride so long every day. Going out and doing 4 hours isn’t going to cut it, even though that is still a long ride.Some though feel that LSD has its drawbacks. one facet of the argument is that the more the body does something, the more efficient it becomes at just that thing. For instance, if you ride 180km at 20km/h every day, your body gets used to that. I have seen direct evidence of this, with a young road rider who rode 100km every day at near to 28km/h, then wondered why he got dropped in a 50km race where the winner came in at 42km/h average. LSD has its place, if you have the time, but must be part of a structured plan that adapts as the season approaches.Another aspect is that the science of cycling and of the human body has improved greatly since the 1950s.

New studies have shown that tremendous increases in muscle mass, VO2 max and stamina can be made from high intensity interval training (HIIT). Recent research has suggested that intervals at below the maximum output could be just as beneficial as those carried out at maximum power – perfect for winter training when maximum-intensity intervals may be too demanding on the body.One published scientific study took a close look at interval training optimization in endurance-trained cyclists. in this investigation 20 endurance cyclists were split into five groups, each performing a different high-intensity interval workout twice a week for three consecutive weeks. Surprisingly, this research revealed that sub-maximal intervals (8 x 4 minutes per workout at 85% of peak power output, with 90-second recoveries) produced the same improvement in 40k time-trial performance as a greater number of shorter but much more intense ‘supra-maximal’ intervals (12 x 30 seconds per workout at 175% of peak power output, with 4.5-minute recoveries). It was unclear why these sub-maximal, ‘aerobic’ intervals with longer duration, lower intensity and shorter recovery, improved endurance performance as much – in an event lasting about an hour – as traditional ‘anaerobic’ intervals.However, the result was increased performance, that much was clear. What is also interesting here is that, if you are a seasoned cyclist, high volume training alone won’t lead to continued increases in mitochondrial density.

Several studies suggest that for well-trained cyclist and triathletes, high-intensity interval training is necessary for achieving increased mitochondrial density—no matter how much time you have available for training. What does this mean for us as cyclists? It means that you can achieve similar results with high intensity effort as with very long, slow distance riding, and at as fraction of the time.I personally utilise the indoor trainer a lot for my winter training, doing a mix of intervals with 30 minute and one hour TT style efforts at on or just below threshold efforts also thrown in, 2-3 times a week. This usually means 2 hours on the trainer, sometimes 3, and, in extreme cases such as when i broke my hand just before the a big race in February 2012, I was doing up to four a day, averaging 25 hours a week for three weeks (and going quite, quite mental!). Whilst that was crazy (and very mentally taxing), 1 and a half to two hours on the trainer will suffice. I also throw in 3-4 hour rides twice a week, with recovery days completing the week. I never ride more than 5 hours, yet my results through the seasons strongly suggest that the HIIT type training in winter brings similar benefits to LSD – at least that is what I have found.In my personal experience I know some riders who ride up to 35 hours a week in winter and have achieved great results, whilst the same is true of those riding only 8-10 hours a week (relatively speaking, as one group is made up of full time pros and the other is comprised of top amateurs). Length of event, duration of season and personal goals all play a role in deciding exactly what kind of winter base training are suitable for each individual rider.

If you do go for the shorter duration training this winter, be prepared to suffer. HIIT training and riding for a solid hour at threshold indoors does little more than hurt, and hurt bad!Ultimately, the best way to train is to listen to all the advice then go out (or in) and try it for yourself. never underestimate the power of that muscle in your head.As ever, I'm available for a chat about the MBC and for training for the event.

Please contact me at communication@mongoliabikechallenge.com.

MBC 2014 finisher Chris Hodgson on CrankPunk Coaching Systems

by Chris Hodgson

I was the most skeptical guy you could find where personal trainers are concerned, believing that getting fit and strong was just a matter of application and consistent hard work.

Not a spring chicken anymore, I’d happily get stuck in to biscuits, chocolate, a bottle of single malt and plenty of beer and wine every winter – well let’s just say enough to put on 10kg over my summer weight.

Then every spring I’d start to loose a few kg and more or less make it down to 93 -95kg for the summer and take part in whatever race plan had been born out of some alcohol induced bravado shared with my mates during the winter in some pub or other.

The particular mates I am referring to in this case had done the Cape Epic the previous year and I suspect doubted my chances of completing the Mongolia Bike Challenge without any kind of formal preparation, so they conned [!- cp] me into signing up with Lee Rodgers, the official coach of MBC.

Both of them then continued with their previous coach…

Joking apart, I had managed to take part in some decent sportives such as L’Etape du Tour and some multi-stage events with Hot Chillee so I wasn’t a complete slug by any means, but I had been susceptible to cramp and hills were not my forte as you’ll appreciate. Lee and I set some goals and agreed that the Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge was the main target, and that was it.

No power meters, no concentrating on heart rate, no sticking overly rigidly to the schedule – the plan was designed to fit my life, not the other way around. If it was pouring with rain and blowing a force eight gale, no problem, we switched to some indoor work instead of a long ride.

No crazy diet either, although I confess my partner Lucy is a nutritionist, of InsideOutHealth, so my diet is pretty good (except for the above mentioned vice or two ). Lee actually said early on, ‘don’t worry your weight will drop naturally’ and I remember thinking, ‘I hope he’s right’.

Now I am not saying I didn’t put the effort in and most certainly did my fair share of early morning starts but strangely, I never got tired of training. Don’t get me wrong either, there were plenty of times I pushed myself when I was supposed to take it easy to but somehow Lee always knew what was going on, which was remarkable given he only had my training notes (which where almost unintelligable ) and our weekly call to go by. I won’t give the game away here, but enough to say the results were pretty good for me, even if I say so myself.

First race, two months in, La Rioja in Logrono, Spain. The field where all on 29’ers and most were pretty fit looking apart from the Pros who looked, well, like Pros. and me and my mates in the Vets’ section at the back.

I took my old Specialized 26″ tank but in spite of coming in from a bar at 3 am the morning before the race, we made it to the start – just – and to my surprise, I wasn’t getting dropped and actually gained a few places throughout the day to finish about 30mins behind the slower of my two friends.Second day, I crashed quite heavily so although I finished the stage sadly had to withdraw on day 3. ( Sorry Lee I did that all on my own).

However it was enough to know that some progress was being made and there was some previously unrealised power in those old legs.

Next major mile stone the London to Paris, organised by Hot Chillee and four months into my training with Lee. Anyone who has ridden this will know that when your in group 3 the group 2 pace seems very similar and yet try and hold it for 3 days with all the GC, Sprints and red sections (climbs), that’s another story. My goal was to complete the ride in G2, something which I had failed to do twice before, having to bailout to group 3 due to cramp ( honest ). Well, this time I finished a credible mid field in Group 2 – very happy with that.

Finally, Six months on and the Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge was upon us. I was now down to around 85kg give or take and feeling pretty tuned up. It has to be said that the three weeks prior to the race found me on business flying out to Hong Kong to London, NY and then back to London, and so by the time we got back out to Beijing for the final leg of our journey to Mongolia I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen, if you know what I mean.

Then, the Race.

Well, I just got stronger and stronger. There was one 170km day, after which I said to the organiser, “Willy, well done, you nearly killed me today” but in truth I was relatively fresh and the next day, another 170Km, I went even harder.

So would I recommend Lee? Absolutely. I’m not saying the other coaches aren’t any good and won’t help generate results, but the way CrankPunk teases performance out is amazing.

Look out Wiggo, there is a buffalo (albeit a skinny one now) on a bike and he’s coming!

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