RECAP SRMRNo1 | DAY 8

Photo: Jennifer Doohan, Gianmarco Dodesini Valsecchi
Words by Lian van Leeuwen

The PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race  passed the halfway point of the official time cut (14 days) but is heading towards an exciting showdown over first place within the next 24 hours.

Although JayPetervary seemed to have the upper hand after CP2, the battle is not yet over. By limiting his resting time at CP3, LeventeBagoly managed to bridge the gap considerably and is now only 40 km behind the leader, with a little over 100 km to go. Although in this race that still can be considered a lifetime.

The final stretch is most certainly not the easiest. There are two serious hurdles to negotiate before the finish. While Jay is nearing the highest point of the final stretch, it won’t be smooth sailing after that. The route towards Chong Kemin follows a horse track that will include another fairly difficult section of hike-a-bike. The track down the pass reaches 40% at one point. Avid Dotwatchers might want to set up camp in front of their screen with enough caffeine and snacks to keep them going for the next 24 hours.

But the finish is still far away for the remaining competitors in this heroic race. Many have yet to traverse the dreaded Tosor pass and marsh, at an altitude of 3,700m. Which took front runner Jay a 5 hour hike-a-bike. Pierre and Kim were less lucky and got stuck up there for the night. It seems to have affected both riders as they each lost one or more race positions.

Jan Kopka, now at CP3, was another one to have to spend the night on top of Tosor Pass, waiting out a snowstorm in his bivvy. But his ever-stoical account of the night was: ‘I couldn’t put my feet in my shoes in the morning, as they were ice blocks, but that’s okay. The only thing is that I am taking too many pictures! It’s slowing me down.’ Rumours have it this unsung hero is continuing the race single speed after breaking a gear cable. More news on that soon hopefully.

Mid-pack

While the front is battling for positions, the number of active riders in the race is now decimated to fifty: half of the original field. Major issues have been altitude sickness and food poisoning, cracking morale and eventually forcing riders to pull out of the race. We unfortunately saw a few more of these today.

Another story was John Russell, who had a minor crash coming from CP2 and unknowingly lost his tent. When he found out along the way he decided to continue instead of turning back to look for it, feeling utterly defeated. Shortly after his arrival in Naryn Josh Rea showed up with his lost luggage in hand, but by then John had reached the point of no return and decided to pull out.

But every defeat has its uplifting counterpart. When @leepearce got rear-ended by a car in Naryn, leaving him with a bended rear wheel, Rickie Cotter (herself out of the race) offered her bike to Lee to finish. While in the end it was enough to replace just his wheel, it’s another remarkable act of altruism within this close group of riders.

And then there’s Laurens van Gucht, who is showing impressive resilience by continuing his ride with Shermer’s neck. This ultra-cyclist’s ailment makes the neck muscles fail from fatigue which can consequently no longer support the head. Instead of giving up, he decided putting a roll of toilet paper underneath his chin to hold up his head would work just fine. Although the soldiers at military checkpoint couldn’t believe their eyes when he passed by, he seems to be holding on for now.

With still almost a week to go before the official time cut we can only wish for every one still on the road to be strong enough and lucky enough to make it to the finish in Chong Kemin.

© 2018 Silk Road Mountain Race