Day 6 & 7 in Mongolia - Stage 3 & 4

1265635 10151800441493350 1248521487 oDay 6 in Mongolia – Bigger than yesterday!
Stage 3

On paper todays stage was 148km
2000mts of climbing including the final 28km being a long climb to the finish which is nearly at 2000mts above sea level.

We had some rain last night and even as the sun was setting the thunder was clapping loudly over the range. Whilst our rain appeared to be negligable, the excess water on the lumpy bumpy roads would deliver proof that it did in fact rain.

I felt reasonably good to start with and stayed with the front group for at least 5km before the landscape became more predictable allowing for them to power away.

It was a cold day, perhaps around 5 degrees celcius at 7:30am and the wind was bitter. I had decided to wear a thermal undershirt, arm warmers and a wind vest over my jersey. This was perfect whilst I was riding and was able to regulate temperature with zip up or down on the vest.

As we were nearing around 15km I started to catch a couple of guys up front whilst a 2 caught me. It always works out this way for me, so it spurred me to push harder and then dropping one of the guys and enabling me to catch another. I reached the first KOM at 31km feeling pretty good for day 3 into this race. On the profile for todays stage it looked like it was all down hill from here for at least 60km. YEEESSSS!

Ok so it was downhill although quite wet and boggy.
Imagine the kind of grassy plains you see at the top of an alpine region that water just sits on. Well this had water running all over it and what was once double track appeared to be a myriad of lines that disappeared into several equally boggy quagmires.
There were riders ahead of me getting their front wheels stuck in bog holes and going over the handlebars. It was good to see and use in my own judgement of lines to take.
All the while this trail was trending downhill allowing me to pedal a little, roll a little and use momentum to get me through rather than just muscling my way down.

After this downhill which lasted around 2-3km but took nearly 10-15mins to get through I then entered into this delightful forest with trees and rocks and a peaty ground surface and then dropping suddenly into a straight down the hillside freshly made double track made by the support vehichles going through first up this morning. Really Really steep!
Finally I was back down at a level ground with a river to cross. Once over the river the double track wound its way downwards at about -1% gradient with a tail wind. Yippee, the elevation profile suggested that from now on we trended downhill in this fashion for about 60km before a quick uphill and then down again before beginning a 28km uphill to the finish. As I was enjoying this fresh burst of energy from a rewarding trail I encountered Norm on a bike, he was going to be doing filming of all the riders making their way through the next 60km section.
Great I thought, I get to see Normie boy for a few minutes. Instead he tells me the finish line is about 100mts up the road, the race is over early as there is a big river crossing that all the vehichles let alone riders and their bikes wont be able to get through.

Damn! I was having a hoot and feeling really really good today. Oh well, it is what it is. Now we stopped and waited to find out what to do we ate the food at the feed station and hypothesised about what might happen.

In my mind I was silently thinking the only way out is the way we came down and that is not going to be fun and possibly a lot of walking involved. The saving grace is that the race is now over and we will be doing it as a bunch getting back to wherever at a controlled pace.

And so it is communicated to us that indeed this is what we must do and lets go now before we get cold and so we can find a family with gers that will “welcome us” and keep us warm while we wait to make the next decision.

20km later we arrived at the family with many gers and we were welcomed with warm fires, and a place to dry our wet socks and shoes. Support vehicles arrive later with water and food from feed stations. Peanuts, chips, pretzels, water, coke...all the essentials for fire side commaraderie.

We were all spread out in 3 gers and eventually we escorted out to our destination a long long way away. If we had been driving on graded dirt roads like in Australia, it would possibly have been at least 1hr quicker, but these roads have lumps, bumps and massive pools of water right in the middle of them. Then because of this the road or double track becomes a selection of 2, 3 or sometimes 4 different lines the vehicle can take.
These vehicles and their drivers also love to race each other and choose a different line and see who makes it back to the road proper first. All the while about 6 of us are in the back holding on for life so we dont bounce up and hit out heads on the roof of the car. Its not relaxing at all, in fact we all said we would have preferred to ride out bikes if we could of.

1264085 10151803343218350 1216882140 oWe start out talking about our bike hero stories, where we lived to tell the tale after a near death experience, then we got talking about was around 3pm by the time we left the gers and with snack style food and water in our bellies we were hungry for a meal.

So of course we started out discussing how it would be awesome to just have a bowl of fluffy white rice with soy sauce, then onto the kinds of foods we dream about whilst racing or when we have been deprived, similar to this situation! We all agreed that a home cooked roast with vegies sounded good but then again so would nachos.

Unfortunately no matter how much we spoke of the dream food, it never appeared but our Mongolian driver did stop and get out a box of biscuits that we ate until we had our fill.

Speaking of our driver, what an eclictic mix of music he played the entire 3.5hr trip. Everything from what sounded like true Mongolian music through to Mongolian Hip Hop and then typical western music too.

It was not until around 7:20pm that we arrived at the camp site and true to the word of the elevation profile, it was nearly 2000mts above sea level and a damn long climb to get there. Impressive views. Impressive location. Impressive chill factor! Chamois time was now 12hrs and there was no way known any of us were up for a cold shower tonight.

And so begins the scramble to grab my bags and secure a pre made tent. I chose a 2 berth one for Norm and I, though I had no idea what time Norm would actually arrive. All companions and non essential staff got left behind for the second pick up. Once I got to my tent I did a baby wipe wash down and put my grubby gear into a bag to be washed at a later date. Next important survival need was food and plenty of it. I think tonight we were all far hungrier than when we actually raced.

9pm came round and I decided to go to sleep without my ear plugs so I would possibly hear Norm on his arrival. Around 1am I heard the vehicles turn up and was able to show Norm straight to bed.

What a day...we managed and survived and it was a much harder day on our spirits and bodies than a hardcore 148km.

The only thing I knew about tomorrow was that we were having a 7am breakfast and an 8:30am start – bonus sleep in!

Day 7 – Mongolia time is ticking away sooo so fast!

Mongolia Bike Challenge

Stage 4
The facts on today:
Not entirely known.
A distance of 125km was touted about and we would drop from 2000mts to 1200mts as our final destination.

The start was a downhill for approx 28kms – exactly what we would have climbed. It was fast.

It was cold. I wore my Ground Effect ¾ length merino wool blend knicks then my bamboo sleeveless undershirt and on top of that my ice breaker long sleeve thermal, then my liv/giant bib knicks, jersey and arm warmers and then windvest and light weight rain jacket.

I was going warm today – I didn't care if I sweated bad, it was so cold, around 2 degrees celcius when we started and it was downhill with a tail wind for a long time.

Lets just get to the point, it was a smash fest. It was a strong mans day, big strong boys pushing hard gears grinding along at 50+ km per hour for a large portion of the ride. I myself was able to manage 30+kmph including all the climbing as well which would equal about 1800mts of it.

The route was so fast today the challenge was keeping hydrated and carbed up as opportunities to drink and eat were very minimal.
My day consisted of bunch hopping and dropping and being dropped and regaining groups and eventually finishing solo. The terrain was actually quite amazing today, not that it hasnt been before however it was just so large and expansive.

There was one last long winding climb up over what looks from a distance a small hill however these “hills” often turn out to be just steep enough and long enough to hurt bad. Once over the top of the last climb it was time to grab the grinder gear and let it go like mad.
Some sections were so fast and rocky it was hard to see riding the hard tail, my focus was on forward vision, early preparation for the corners and thinking light and floating over the rocks and avoiding using the brakes as much as possible. It was fast. Not steep, possibly around a -5 to -6% gradient.
The bonus was not only the gradient but also the 15-20kmph tail wind. When it was safe I would look at my speed and realise that this day would be over quicker than I thought if this kept up.
Eventually this rocky fast downhill ended on a fast wide double track which kept dropping elevation at around -2 to -3% gradient. Not so fast but big dog pedalling upping the speed over 50kmph on dusty double track.

I soon happened upon the final feed zone, refilled my bottle and went off again.
Within a few minutes I saw a sign – 1km to go to the race finish! What? This meant we were going to finish the day just over 90km, not 125km. Ok then, lets get this race day finished!

Coming in around 3hrs 40mins it was a blessing to have the afternoon to wash dirty clothes, rest weary bodies and refuel on what was missed out on yesterday.

Catherine, Sonya and Erin are still in 1st, 2nd and 3rd with me coming in 4th. A better day again finishing with less time gap.

We camped near a river and slept in gers on dirt floors, a sheep was slaughtered at the back of the tent and we ate it for dinner in various forms of food on offer. It was infact our best meal all race and many people agreed.

Tomorrow is going to be 95km loop so we get to rest our heads here for 2 nights.

Results from todays stage: