Silk Road mountain Bike Race 2019

images by SRMR

Day 1 9am (Kyrgyz time) on the 17th August 2019 saw the start of the second PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race. Of the 135 riders stood ready at the start line, with nothing less than 1,705kms of rough mountain terrain and 27,000m of climbing ahead of them this year, there was a complete mix of experience and wide range of ages with many riders returning from last year to do it all over again. 

The pack started to spread out soon after leaving Bishkek. With the Kyrgyz weather showing it’s hand early, riders were hit first with rain and then snow as they made their way towards the Kegety Pass (3780m). The first big pass of the race really is a challenge. It’s long and it’s tough. Make no mistake.

images by SRMR

By all reports, the weather, like last year, is being totally unpredictable. From 2,300m in elevation upwards the snow has started to come in thick and fast. Some riders have decided to plough on through, others striking up camp in a bid to get dry, warm and possibly some rest.

Either way though, that pass isn’t going to climb itself!

images by SRMR

Numerous riders are now pushing on late into the night, unsurprisingly this includes the 5 frontrunners: Jay Petervary, Jakob Sliacan, Lieven Schroyen, Dion Guy and Lael Wilcox. With a race as long and brutal as this, deciding when to rest, is a crucial part of each day’s strategy. Too much, and you lose precious hours, too little and you risk burning out. Jay Petervary (last years winner) reportedly said that he won’t ever stop unless he has at least 3 things to do… We wonder if there’ll be 3 things to stop him tonight??..

Now, with the pack leaders pushing on and the snow falling, who knows what the new day will bring. What we do know is that already it’s intoxicating stuff!!

images by SRMR

Day 2 on the PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race: and already the boundaries of day and night appear to be starting to blur for some riders… As we sit here writing this at 0330am (Kygyz time), the current frontrunner cap 30, Jakob Sliacan is already up and moving! – putting valuable distance between himself and the town of Beatov where his closest pursuers cap 1 Jay Petevary (he must have found his 3 reasons…) and cap 99, Dion Guy seem to be getting some well earned rest after pushing on throughout the first night. Others, however have only just stopped moving, most notably cap 32 James Haydon who, after catching what looked like some good z’s after Kergety last night, has put in a mammoth day, pushing himself up into 4th place. Not quite so for cap 22 Eric Scaggiante who’s overnight adventures last night seem to have caught up with him and made it impossible to pry himself away from the comforts of CP1 since 8pm this evening…

images by SRMR

With a distance of 349km currently separating the front and back markers, and 7 scratched riders so far, the race field is really starting to stretch out across the (copious) contours of the Kyrgyz landscape. But each and every one of the competitors out there will already be having one of the biggest adventures of their lives.

images by SRMR

Emerging to frozen water bottles (and in some cases, frozen clothes!), for the riders who braved a high altitude camp on Kergety last night, the warmth must have been slow to creep back into their fingers and bones as they tackled the never ending washboard decent down towards the dusty town of Chaek and their first real opportunity for re-supply. Even broken tarmac will feel like a breath of fresh air and it’s tempting to think CP1 could be easily in reach until they hit the wall of grassy hillside at Tuz Ashuu that stretches up to the heavens, cloaked with a ribbon of double track, and leads the brutal way up to Song-Kul Lake and CP1. Unsurprisingly this has become a sticking point for many riders this evening but those who battled their way up will not only be rewarded by stunning views of the high altitude lake but also the warm hospitality of the yurt camp at CP1 where hot tea, shelter and unknowable sweet sugary things await. 

Rest and comfort can sometimes feel like cruel temptations on the Silk Road Mountain Race but riders ignore them at their peril. In this real life game of stick-or-twist, sooner or later the sleep demons will catch up with you… 

images by SRMR
images by SRMR
images by SRMR

First published

As the dawn light of day 3 rises over some very early birds on the PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race we hold our breath to see how this fascinating game of ‘cat and mouse’ at the pointy end continues to play out…

After setting out from Baetov in the (very) small hours of the morning, current frontrunner (and, incredibly, first time ultra-racer!…) cap 30, Jakub Sliacan has managed to hold onto the lead for the whole day whilst pressing forward into the notoriously remote and dry Chinese border region of the race route. Whilst a rare chance to enjoy some smooth tarmac is indeed a novelty of this section, it’s remoteness is not to be underestimated and, by all accounts, the lead pack have been battling into a headwind for much of the day.

Last year’s winner cap 1, Jay Petervary has been keeping up a relentless pursuit of Jakub but the big news of the day is that cap 32, James Hayden has come storming through the field from 6th place to 2nd and is, as we speak, gaining rapidly on the leader as they both approach the sanctuary of checkpoint 2 in yet another late night ride.

Whilst cap 44, Leal Wilcox remains a strong & consistent 5th place (and first solo woman by a long margin), she also remains very much in the running for the top spot and all the while seemingly manages to keep a smile on her face (happiness is definitely a strategy worth considering if you can muster it out there!..) 

Pro (and ex-pro) cyclist couple, cap 221, Ernie and Scotti Lechuga are storming at the front of the pairs race and are now holding 6th/7th place overall.

Back in the mid-pack it’s party time in Baetov with riders reportedly packing out the town’s (limited) accomodation services to the hilt! These little islands of relative comfort out there will be starting to feel increasingly important to riders; but be warned, in a race like this it is possible to have too much of a good thing! Watching who wins and who loses by their stopping strategies will continue to be a centerpoint of the race as we watch it mature into its middle phase. Still a long way to go!!    

As ever, the true stars of this wild and wonderful race continue to be Kyrgyzstan, it’s enormously friendly people and it’s starkly beautiful and varied landscape. It may be hard to fathom in the comforts of all our ‘normal’ existences but each and every rider out there will be having the time of their lives (whether they know it or not yet!…).


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