Rolling under that start arch of Mongolia Bike Challenge Stage 1, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was here and this was finally happening. Getting to this point in time had been more of a challenge than I hardly dared to admit to myself, let alone the riders around me.
My training leading up the event was focused and with two weeks to go I was feeling strong. I had done a lot of hours on the road bike, working on moving my big enduro base to more high end intensity. I had also done some big and long hills on the mountain bike. Things were looking positive!
But somewhere between that good feeling two weeks before and the start line of Mongolia Bike Challenge, my health fell in a bit of a heap. Antibiotics and off the bike for a saddle sore. A terrible yeast infection. Then two days before we left the country I got some kind of viral chest infection. I started on a second round of antibiotics the day we flew out. Flying with a head full of mucus was heinous and I hardly got a wink of sleep due to the crazy pressure build up in my ears.
Walking around Ulaanbaatar I was in a bit of a daze. I could hardly keep my eyes open, I had a raging sore throat and ringing ears which I couldn’t relieve the pressure from. The city was confusing. There was so much construction going on; dirt and pollution everywhere. Old buildings that looked like once they had been beautiful but now were completely run down. Parks full of weeds and rubble which looked like at some point they had been nice places to relax. The traffic was a honking, hectic mess of SUV, luxury 4WD and Toyota Prius. Shops were boasting Gucci and Prada and things that I couldn’t quite comprehend would mean anything to nomads who were now living in suburbia.
That afternoon I was too sick to do anything. Seb ever so kindly put my bike together while I slept up in the hotel room, desperate to get some ounce of recovery into me before this adventure even began.
We loaded bags into the race vehicles and buses and headed out of the city. Ahhhhhh! It was a nice to leave the craziness behind and head for the rolling green hills. When we arrived at the enormous Genghis Khan statue, you could feel people’s moods lift.
In the lovely afternoon sun we went for a ride to freshen the legs (my first ride in about five days)! We explored our custom made Ger camp (Mongolian version of a yurt) before being treated to a fantastic opening ceremony and banquet. After a decent night of rest that was it, the gun was off and we were dashing away from the Genghis statue towards what I would soon find to be the toughest day I had ever experienced on my bike.
Stay tuned for a recap of our ups and downs, excitement, tears and crazy stories from seven hardcore days of stage racing around Mongolia.