crankpunk on the Mongolia Bike Challenge, featured in Action Asia magazine

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Have I told you just how amazing the Mongolia Bike Challenge is? If it’s not on your New Year Resolution list to get entered then I might have to disown you.

And if you are interested you can contact me, I have a special offer whereby you can get some euros off the entry price.

Anyway, to get the juices going here is an article I wrote that featured recently in Action Asia Magazine, Asia’s leading adventure sports publication.

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ACTION ASIA MONGOLIA

The sun was setting as he rode, painfully slow through the velvet dusk, in to the camp, perched high up on a hillside overlooking the hushed valley that the other 78 competitors had already ascended.

It was 6:23pm when he crossed the line, sore and aching, weather-beaten and filthy, covered in the dust of the Mongolian steppe.

His total time for Stage 4 of the Mongolia Bike Challenge was 10 hours and 40 minutes. He’d beaten the ten-hour cut-off time for the 170km route by just 20 minutes. 25 or so of us were waiting for him, and we cheered and hollered as he crossed the line.

Heck, we yelled like he’d won the damn thing.

In fact most of us had long since finished, hours earlier. He hadn’t won, not even close. Dead last he was, and yet he was the hero of the day.

The rider, Thomas Youngman, had entered the race on a whim, after finding a battered old MTB left by the previous tenants when he moved into his new apartment. That was 7 months ago, and yet here he was, dragging that very same steed hundreds of kilometers over the Mongolian steppe.

Just one more incredible story from the 2014 Mongolia Bike Challenge…

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The Mongolia Bike Challenge is a 7-day mountain bike race that covers an eye-watering 900 kilometers and 14,000 meters of climbing. Stages of the 2014 edition ranged from a 46 kilometer time trial to a massive 175km slog over too many mountains to mention. The overall race was won by Canadian Cory Wallace for the third time in a row, a remarkable achievement.

Yet outstanding though Cory’s and the other front-runners’ rides were, the real story of this event lies not in the kilometers raced nor on a piece of paper with times noted and listed, but in the profound experience that only riding a bicycle over the vast Mongolian landscape can bring.

This isn’t just a bike race. Listed in the top ten hardest MTB events in the world, it is an epic journey. Now, epic is a much maligned word but that is what it is. It’s akin to a climb up Everest, a canoe adventure down the Amazon, a trek across the Sahara and an expedition to the Antarctic.

Similar to those immense adventures, the true story of the Mongolia Bike Challenge is one which must be undertaken to be truly understood.

The long, painful ascents up to 3,000 plus meters, the hair-raising descents, the endless kilometers on wind-battered plateau accompanied by wild horses, overseen by eagles, and what it takes for the men and women who sign up for this crazy challenge to get through it all – this is the real story of the MBC.

“We spent 10 years making this race work,” said Race Director Willy Mulonia. “And we did it. I wanted a race that not just tested you but that could change your life. It doesn’t matter if you are the first one, the winner, or the last one. I don’t say ‘Come and race’, but, ‘Come and live the experience.’ A result is a piece of paper, you can throw it away. But the experience, that will stay with you forever.”

This all takes place in a landscape so vast, so mesmerizingly beautiful and so seemingly infinite that it truly takes the breath away. In a curious way, Mongolia seems to experience you. It envelops your senses and fills your mind with its rawness. It is the world before we messed it all up.

We rode through cowboy-movie canyons, climbed up through moon-scape scenery, careened down rock-strewn descents and waded through raging rivers so cold that the valleys rang with our child-like whoops of excitement and joy. We slept under canvas and under stars, ate our food with the utmost thanks and made friendships that we won’t forget too soon.

And Thomas Youngman? Amazingly, he completed the event. Now that’s a story…

Tom Youngman. A nutcase I am proud to say I know!
Tom Youngman. A nutcase I am proud to say I know!

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