The 2013 Mongolia Bike Challenge (MBC) has attracted a strong field of endurance mountain bike racers from 23 countries to compete in its fourth edition this September 1st to 7th in Mongolia.
Leading the list of names taking part in the MBC this year is returning champion, Canadian Cory Wallace (Kona Factory Team). After a second place finish at the race in 2011, Wallace returned in 2012 with his Kona teammates and brought the MBC title to North America for the first time. Wallace, a former Canadian 24-hour and Trans Rockies Champion, also placed second at the 24-hour World Championships in 2010. Wallace knows what it takes to win in Mongolia, and riders will have to be on form if they want to dethrone the champ.
Others making the flight across the Pacific include Jason Sager and Thomas Turner of Team Jamis. The American duo won the BC Bike Race together in 2012. Sager has a long list of wins and stage racing experience while Turner is the reigning masters 30-34 cyclo-cross world champion. In addition, Team MBC's Carter Hovey of Canada is back for his second MBC, having finished fifth last year with one stage win.
There is a notable European contingent with talent and experience as deep as the Atlantic heading to Mongolia at the end of the month. Topping the list of challengers has to be Ondrej Fojtik (X-sports Cannondale Koma/Crocodile Trophy), who just won Iron Bike in Italy for the fifth time. He won the Crocodile Trophy in 2008 and came second in 2012 - ahead of Wallace. Wallace has clearly stated that Fojtik will be the man to beat this year in Mongolia.
A rider that both Wallace and Fojtik know to keep their eye on is the young, fast Wolfgang Krenn (Zwillingscraft/Sc Knauf Liezen) of Austria. He finished second at the Crocodile Trophy in 2011 and third in 2012 - behind Fojtik and ahead of Wallace. Krenn is a smart, tactical rider and is sure to be in the mix over the seven-day race.
Returning rider Pau Zamora (Buff-Niner) of Spain is looking for redemption this year as he was shut-out of a podium position last year by the three Kona riders. This year he is bringing a little help in the form of his brother, five-time Ironman France Champion Marcel Zamora (Buff-Niner). With a year of experience and a little help inside the peloton, Pau has a good chance of improving on 2012's fourth place result.
Also pushing the pace at the front of the pack should be veteran Spanish racer Antonio Ortiz (Selle SMP), and Portuguese racer João Marinho (Douro Bike Race) who finished second to Pau Zamora at Transpyr last month.
An exciting late entry to this year’s race is former European 24-hr champion Matthew Page (ACycling-Pivot). Page is an experienced stage racer who is heading into the MBC in good form, recently finishing a strong fifth at Iron Bike.
Australia has always been well-represented at the MBC and this year the men will be led by Mike Blewitt (Subaru-MarathonMTB.com). Blewitt has represented his country at the UCI Marathon World Championships and won in the team category at the Crocodile Trophy.
There will also be strong challengers coming from around Asia. One of the top contenders will be Kyosuke Takei (Team Forza) of Japan who finished sixth at the Leadville 100 this year followed by an amazing week at the Breck Epic where he got progressively stronger and won the final stage.
In addition, returning Malaysian rider Razif Salleh (Chiru Endurance), Taiwan-based Lee Rodgers (Lapierre Asia) of the UK, and Taiwanese superstar Fan Yung-Yi (Orbea Taiwan) will all be looking for a strong showing in Mongolia.
As always, there will be a handful of elite Mongolian riders who will put constant pressure on the international field.
American Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon) won the Yak Attack again this year and is in great form coming into Mongolia. Looney is at home in far-flung locations and extreme conditions, possibly giving her an edge on the Mongolian steppe.
Jessica Douglas (Giant Australia) is a two-time World 24-hour Champion and has also won the Crocodile Trophy showing that she is about as tough as it gets. Success at the Croc is a good indicator of potential in Mongolia.
Catherine Williamson (Bizhub-Energas) of the UK has had success in triathlon, road and MTB in her career. Most notably, she came off victory earlier this season at the 2013 Cape Epic with Energas Teammate Yolanda Speedy.
Italian Giuliana Massarotto (Rudy Project Pedali Di Marca Team Performance) was her country's 24-hour National Champion the past two years and came fourth at the 24-hr World Championships in 2012.
New Zealand's Erin Greene (Endura NZ) finished fifth at the 2010 24-hour World Championships, 1st in the New Zealand Singlespeed Championships in 2013 and will compete at the 2013 24-hour World Championships in Australia this October.
Rounding out the elite women's field is Canadian Jennifer Schulz (Balance Point Racing), who won the BC Bike Race in 2011 and finished third at Trans Rockies in 2012.
Again, expect the local Mongolians to start a strong team and pressure the rest of the field on their home course.
About the 2013 edition
Behind the lead riders will be high level amateurs from 23 countries who are there to test themselves in the wild, remote beauty of Mongolia. Riders will face a total distance of over 850 kilometres with 14,000 metres of climbing on the newly redesigned seven-stage course.
While the long daily stages and tough competition will be a huge challenge for all, racers will be rewarded each day with catered meals, massage service, and indoor yurt accommodation. Breath-taking landscapes, cultural experiences, and spending time away from city-life in the company of like-minded people from around the world, are just a few of the other rewards during this seven-day challenge.