Daniel Carruthers comes in 7th at the 1,200-kilometer Mongolia Bike Challenge.

LONG-DISTANCE MOUNTAIN BIKE races are steadily increasing in popularity as mountain and cyclo-cross riders seek out harder and tougher endurance races on rarely ridden trails. This past August’s nine-day, 1,200-kilometer Mongolia Bike Challenge definitely met those requirements.

Taking places on the steppes of Mongolia where Genghis Khan led a short but fast conquest of central Europe, China and the Middle East in the 13th century, the course begins in the Dalanzagad in Southern Mongolia and traverses the Gobi Desert through the Khanghai Mountains to eventually finish in Karakorum, the site of Mongolia’s first Buddhist Temple.

The nomadic Mongolian life seemed largely unchanged from ancient times: the traditional round white gers, or lodges, shepherd communities living off the land with their yak, goat and sheep, and horse riders frequently on bareback. And as one of the many proud riders, having conquered the nine stages of the MBC with an Orbea Almer 29-er bike as my trusty weapon, I finished seventh, only 10 minutes behind the winner. However, it felt like I could keep on riding. I was well and truly broken in after coming to terms with the epic event being over, but had photos to prove that I had done it to completion.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

The lead bunch is strung out over some very rough ground. / All images by Ottavio Tomasini.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

Riders awoke 5:30 am each day with sunrises like this.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

The lead-group suffering over the Mongolian Steppes.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

There were plenty of camels in the Gobi Desert.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

It was hard going for many competitors, some having to resort to walking.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

One of the many Mongolian vistas.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

There was quite a few of these rickety wooden bridge crossings.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

The trail became easier to ride on in places once left the borders of the Gobi Desert.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

Shaking out the ice while packing up on Day 8 of 9.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

Passing by "Death Row."

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

It was important to keep the chain clean and well-lubed to tackle each stage.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

The lead trio during Stage Five.

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Mongolia Bike Challenge 2011

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