How does 867km through some of Mongolia’s most challenging terrain grab ya? If you’re a masochist like Kiwi racer Erin Greene, then an endurance event like the Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge that starts next weekend on the lonely steppes of Mongolia is a dream come true.
“I Googled the toughest races in the world once and this one was in the top 10,” Erin said.
“When the opportunity came up to race it, it was just too good to let it pass by.”
Nigel Blanchard and the team from Traverse Sports, who distribute Endura clothing and MuleBar in New Zealand, agreed and threw their weight behind her campaign.
The Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge is set across seven different stages spanning “seven different worlds” or landscapes in Mongolia. The longest stage is 175km and it takes place on day four – the pinnacle of four consecutively longer stages.
“It is a stage of incomparable beauty and will be a huge challenge for even the strongest of riders,” the organisers explain.
Over the seven days of the event competitors must ascend a total of 12,410 vertical metres.
“It will be a very strenuous physical trial and a test of psychological endurance which will try every racer,” claim the organisers. “We have designed a course that every passionate biker may desire: extreme deserts, mountain passes, unspoiled rivers and scenery of rare beauty.”
Erin is earning a reputation as an elite endurance racer – she has competed in two Cape Epic’s (both unfinished for different reasons) and has her training programme pointed at the 24-Hour Worlds to be held in Canberra in October.
“I’ve had a lot of help from my coach Val Bourke in Wanaka and I feel ready for this. I’m working ski patrol at Coronet Peak so I get three day weekends for most of the winter where I do my longer riders and I train after work the rest of the time for up to two hours either in the gym, on the bike in the garage or out night riding.”
Erin said riding the technical trails in Queenstown through winter could be difficult, but this season had been very mild and all the tracks were rideable.
The climbing does not concern Erin – the hilliest day at the Cape Epic took place across a lot shorter distance so she anticipates more manageable gradients in Mongolia.
“I saw one stage finishes with a 28km climb – I thought ‘wow, that’s massive – the Remarkables road is only 14km’, but when I looked at it more closely you’re only climbing 800 or 1000m so it’s not even as steep as that road,” she explains.
Erin said she knew a few of the other girls from Cape Epic who would be racing in Mongolia and she was excited to have the chance to race with current 24-Hour Worlds champ, Jessica Douglas.
“It will be quite cool to race her before going back to Worlds.”
While the adventure is a big part of it for Erin, she’s not going to the Mongolian Steppes for a holiday tour.
“Generally the bigger and longer the days and the hillier and tougher and nastier the stages, the more I seem to get into my element. Long, flat roads are not my strength, but I anticipate lots of them on this race – it’s just part of the challenge for me.”
Erin said she had very little knowledge of the terrain or what to expect. She knows the temperature can range from 3°C to 30°C and last year the race encountered snow and floods.
“My main goal is the 24-Hour Worlds in October, so I am treating this as part of my training. Having a race like this to look forward to helps with my motivation and it’s pretty good training. Even if it turns out not to be perfect – it will be a great experience.”
Erin said that while it was a training ride she wanted to make the most of the chance to race against the top women.
“I’ll be giving it everything I have got, but I don’t really have any expectations,” she smiles.
“It’s very different to a 24-hour race, but it will definitely give me a chance to learn the other girls’ strengths and weaknesses.”
Follow Erin’s progress through her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/egreeneathlete.
Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge by Stage:
Stage 1: The Kings Stage 120km with 2900m climbing
Stage 2: The Jalman Stage 126km with 2240m climbing
Stage 3: The Khan Khentii Stage 148km with 2000m climbing
Stage 4: The Marathon Queen’s Stage 175km with 2540m climbing
Stage 5: The Time Trial 45km with 1000m climbing
Stage 6: The Nomad’s Steppe Stage 167km with 1730m climbing
Stage 7: The Great Chinggis Empire Stage 86km with 1486m climbing