200km of fast flowing Mountain bike racing. 3 Stages. 2 Directasia.com riders. 1 Time Trial. Heck, you could run a marathon on the second day if you really wanted to. Inner Mongolia is astoundingly beautiful. You should race the Genghis Khan Mountain Bike Race by Nordicways.com. For photos and details see Team Directasia.com on Facebook or click the link below to Team Directasia.com on Instagram. We’re talking about the Genghis Khan Grasslands Mountain bike race. Getting there can be a challenge but If you make it through you'll end up literally in the middle of a wonderful nowhere. Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia.
It’s amazing. Horses galloped across the road and beside the bus as we drove into Xilinhot. The sky was electric blue. Small chubby clouds lazily sailed across the sky.
To the adventure. Alistair Haigh-Smith and I were there to race. The gun went off and we were flying. Too bad the other guys couldn't come because it was a blast...
Individual Time Trial.
The race started with a 5.8km time trial. The Mongolian National team SMASHED us. They smashed everyone. This was foreshadowing.
The prologue consisted of launching ourselves from the Nadamu Arena into the hard packed double track and sprinting our butts off around a giant grassy paddock. It was made even better by the beautiful sun and cleansing air. Alistair Haigh-Smith (Directasia.com) took our first top 10 with a 12:02.
The 'Ulanbaatar mountain bike armada’ (Mongolian National Team) as they’re called by the race director amazed, and filled the leader board with their names:
1. Baterdene Narankhuu (MGL) 10:39, 2. Bilguunjaral Erdenebat (MGL) 10:40, 3. Mendbayar Ulambayar (MGL) 10:41, 4. Gantumur Batorshikh (MGL) 10:55, 5. Baasankhuu Myagmarsuren (MGL)11:18.
Stage One…Nadamu Arena - Xiwuqi Cultural Square.
That afternoon we lined up for the first stage. 64k's across the rolling grasslands. The sun was scorching…you should see the tan lines. 400 Mountain Bikers toed the line at Nadamu Arena.
The starter yelled GO (the pistol wasn’t working)! Crashes happened almost immediately. Russian pro Ivan Brinko (Specialized) crashed coming out of the Nadamu Arena. Then we aimed our bikes at cresting a sharp little climb at the end of the first kilometre. The climb split the race and Hu Hao (Specialized), Fraser Young (Chiru), Alexey Chaklov, Daniel Carruthers (WTB) and the Ulanbaatar Mountain Bike armada started drilling the pace on the front. The race was reduced to 9 fluorescent bodies jetting across the rolling landscape.
At the 50 kilometre mark Hu Hao's front tire blew out. He held his bike upright but would lose the front of the race. With an act of true sportsmanship, Fraser Young (Chiru) stopped to give Hu a tube to get him rolling again.
Fourteen kilometres later the Mongolian Nationals took 1,2,3. Robert Lamb crossed the line for Team Directasia.com in 12th, Haigh-Smith in 17th but smiling...
Stage Two, 43km, Xiwuqi Cultural Square - Mongolian Yurt City.
A sharp blue sky greeted riders with temperatures hovering in the high 30’s. Sun screen would be key in our 43 kilometer crossing of the grasslands.
Todays stage rolled up and through the main road in Xilinhot towards the grasslands. Many hoped for a sensible pace to warm up the legs and take in the breathtaking landscapes. That sensibility was not available today.
With the sound of the starters gun, the front of the race was a sharp, pointy needle weaving it’s way up the main street. The race would take us over the anaerobic Nadamu climb again which initially split the field on day 1. Coming to the top of the climb the front group was reduced to 6. By kilometer 32 due to mechanicals and general attrition it was down to 4.
Specialized’s Hu Hao wouldn’t be beaten today and attacked the group hard in the final 10 kilometres to take an epic win over Gantumur Batorskikh (Mongolian National Team).
Alistair Haigh-Smith and Robert Lamb (both Directasia.com) crossed the line as a team in 13th and 14th. They worked fantastically well as a unit on the stage.
Stage Three, 96 kilometres, Xiwuqi Cultural Square - Xiwuqi Cultural Square.
13th and 14th seemed like Directasia.com’s lucky numbers in the grasslands. Again today Haigh-Smith and Lamb crossed the line, full throttle in 13th and 14th after 3:34:49 in the saddle.
During the fast stage we were confronted with a herd of cows on the trail, sheep and horses. There was also a bike orientation section (very few trail markings) and we really went ‘cross country’. With the lead group in the distance most of the day we pushed hard but the catch never happened.
Crossing the finish line we were elated. A big stage, 200k’s in 3 days on the Mountain bike and some incredible moments in Inner Mongolia. We’re looking forward to 2015 and coming back with a bigger team!