Welcome to the 9th edition of the Mongolia Bike Challenge. 24 hours after landing in Mongolia, Aeroflot finally brought my bicycle. I took advantage of the few days that separate me from the race start to do some sight-seeing with two friends: John Da Costa and Caroline Colonna. 6 stages – the routes are at 98% similar to last year edition. Only the stage 5’s time-trial was slightly longer in 2017. We are on the 11th, of August 2018. Follow my lead to experience the Mongolia Bike Challenge from the inside. 

A rainy start.

Morning. Rice, fried potatoes and coffee – that’s the usual breakfast buffet at Bayangol Hotel, that I’m used to eating.
The sky is cloudy. The forecast announces weak thunderstorm but the sky should clear during the day. Highest temperatures are supposed to reach 16°C so I decided to wear a light cycling jersey.

mongoliabikechallenge depart bayangol hotel

© Paolo Penni Martelli / Mongolia Bike Challenge

On the start line, I found Elihus Civilis. With the Lithuanian cyclist, we were the only one not wearing a rain cover. We can see the apprehension on many faces, with broad smiles.

mongolia bike challenge nicolas raybaud

© Paolo Penni Martelli / Mongolia Bike Challenge

Police escorted us to leave the capital’ smog. Heavy rain started to fall.  Just before the start, I protected my head by inserting a plastic bag under my helmet – I must say: it’s a pretty effective trick to keep your head dry and warm.

Hydrocarbons are projected on our bicycles. We are literally freezing on our bikes.  Once on the start line, we all gathered and I was shacking to death at the mercy of the icy wind.

A Mongolian pedestrian offered me a Vodka to warm me up. I laugh! Him too

3-2-1: the race started. And as if by magic, the rain ceases. Standing on my pedal, I am cycling with high intensity on the first climbs to warm me up.


Ulaanbataar Mongolia Bike Challenge

© Paolo Penni Martelli / Mongolia Bike Challenge

The 120km’s stage is a time trial with some pretty strong climbs and a GPM to get some bonus. The last one gave me some more confidence as I easily remain ahead of Ryan Standish and Elijus. 

mongolia bike challenge nicolas raybaud etape 1

© Paolo Penni Martelli / Mongolia Bike Challenge

Arriving 10 seconds in advance is always useful to move up in the overall ranking.  With both areas of sands and roads, the gap widen between competitors and only a handful of us are cycling together at 40km of the finish line. It’s in the sand section that Elihus and Ryan took the lead and left the group. We are now 3 cyclists, fighting for the 3rd step of the poduim:  Piotr, Antonio Ortiz.

Podium Mongolia Bike Challenge

© Paolo Penni Martelli / Mongolia Bike Challenge

Knowing the stage from last year edition, I had an advantage. Thanks to that, I  finished at the 3rd place in 4 hours 10 minutes.

We arrived in our first base camp where we will stay for 2 nights. This year, I will share my yurt with Ryan Standish (Australia), Alex Malone (Australia) and Elijus Civilis.  This yurt belong to Khan, a Mongolian with whom I had unforgettable talks and spent great moments with on the bike!

My stage in details

  • Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1766219861
  • Heart rate TSS: 271
  • Distance: 105 km
  • Calories burned: 3397
  • Average heart rate: 155 bpm
  • Hydratation (bidon 750 ml) : 2 Roctane + 2 Ta Energy
  • FeedStation : 1 natoo cookies, 2 gels, des cacahouètes et des pringles


Complete results of Mongolia Bike Challenge here.

Entirety of the stage on Kinomap