I put my bra back on and brush my teeth and walk from the dorm room past the pool table salon to the restaurant and out the door to my bike. It’s four in the morning and still dark outside. It’s a new day. I’m ready to ride. Rue is on her computer waiting at a table and follows me out.
The gravel pit turns to good, hard dirt and I begin the ascent. It’s my favorite kind of road, an even grade that feels like climbing the fortress walls to the castle as the road snakes up. It’s the morning of day 3 and I feel like I’m on a quick training ride, almost like the past two days haven’t happened or they’re a distant memory. I’m listening to music and my legs feel fresh and I’m having so much fun. The climb is an hour of effort and then a quick winding descent to the valley floor and dry Lake Kel Suu. Towering, freshly snow-covered mountains surround that makes me feel really small. I pass a couple of other yurt camps on my way to checkpoint 2 until I see the SRMR banner. A couple of little kids cheer me in. Jakub the Slovakian is packing his bike. I have to keep my focus. I take off my gloves and change the track on my GPS and take a couple of puffs from my inhaler and get my brevet card and my wallet and a couple of plastic bags and go inside the yurt. The floor is grass, so I don’t have to take off my shoes. Inside, a volunteer stamps my card and we get to talking. In some way, she’s related to Yura, the man with my favorite guesthouse in Bishkek. Yura doesn’t speak much English, but he makes jokes with his eyes and his hands.
Read Lael’s first Reportage at You Can’t Win a 1,700km Race in a Day: Lael Wilcox’s Silk Road Mountain Race 2019 – Part I
I open my eyes to daylight, take a couple of puffs of my inhaler, compress the air out of my sleeping pad and get out of my sleeping bag. A rider with bags cruises by waving, a reminder that we’re still in a race. I stuff my whole sleeping kit into a dry bag and strap it to my handlebar harness. I turn on my GPS and put the race track on and on goes my SPOT tracker, pressing the boot print to initiate tracking. I move a pastry from my framebag to my gas tank for breakfast. I chug a full water bottle and put on my socks and shoes. The whole process takes twenty minutes and I resent the time lost. This style of racing is all about economizing time. The valley is cold, even at low elevation. I’m still wearing my down suit and rain jacket and I’m back on my bike, pedaling washboard downriver. I pass a pulled over rider and he passes me back. We don’t talk.
PEdALED has a series of videos up on their Youtube, showcasing the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race, including this installment from Son Kul, a stunning alpine lake in the heart of Kyrgyzstan. Check out the rest of the stunning videos below!
Through the earbuds plugged into my brain, I hear their vodka-soaked throats call out.
“Hey! Heyyyyy! Hey!”
I turn and look. They wave me over to the yurt. I wave back and smile. They keep calling me in.
It’s not a reason to stop nor a reason to be concerned. I continue on my way. I’m riding in sandals, letting my feet get wet in the twenty or so stream crossings along the way up the valley and keeping my cycling shoes dry. It’ll be near freezing at the 3,800 meters (12,500′) summit and I’ll need those dry feet for the 2,200 meter (7,200′) descent to Lake Issyk-Kul.
This video was made during the 2018 Silk Road Mountain Race and released a year later, during the 2019 race. Expect more from the SRMR to follow shortly here on the Radavist.
Nine days into the PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race, the top 5 has revealed itself. It took winner Jakub Sliacan an astonishing 7 days, 6 hours and 46 minutes to complete the 1708 km of decrepit Soviet roads, river crossings, and alpine passes. He was followed by Lael Wilcox, Jay Petervary, James Mark Hayden and Jeff Kerkove.
A lot can happen in 48 hours. At 4 am on Tuesday morning (local time) James Mark Hayden was the first rider to reach CP2. After suffering from altitude sickness in the first stage of the race, the two-time Transcontinental Race winner has made a remarkable recovery and is currently leading the race. While the main contenders were taking a much-needed rest in the deep hours of the night, James pushed through to be the first to get his brevet card stamped.
At the dawn of Day 3 of the PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race 2019, it’s becoming clear that the second edition of this 1705km long endurance race through Kyrgyzstan will be a close pursuit. While last year’s winner Jay Petervary was in the lead for the first 360km of the race, first time competitor Jakub Sliacan overtook him on Sunday afternoon before they arrived at CP1 within 30 minutes of each other. After only a very short break at the checkpoint, both riders continued on their way.
With the 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race beginning tomorrow, we thought we’d give a break-down for what Lael Wilcox will be carrying on her bike for the duration of the event. Lael is hoping to finish the 1700 kilometer course with 27,000m elevation in 7-9 days. In order to do that, she has her setup dialed. Check out the full list below for those curious as to what an ultra-endurance racer carries on their bike.
Wild Horses is a look at the first year of the Silk Road Mountain Race, a brutal, long distance, self-supported bikepacking race that follows the original trading route.
Melancholic Beauty on the Silk Road Mountain Race
There’s a melancholic beauty to first times. It holds the excitement of the unknown, the nervous expectations of true adventure. With the inaugural Silk Road Mountain Race, race director Nelson Trees set out to create just that: a great adventure. ‘I wanted to create a race in an area that is close to my heart but is unknown to many. A little daunting, a bit out there. Something that any reasonably fit rider would be able to pull off but would also push contestants beyond their comfort zone.’ And that he did.
Inaugural Silk Road Mountain Race: Race Report 03
After 8 days, 8 hours and 15 minutes, the first act of the PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race came to a close yesterday. Jay Petervary was the first to arrive at the finish line in Chong Kemin, 1721km done and dusted.
But as experienced as he is, it was in no way a walk in the park for one of the biggest names in ultra-endurance cycling: ‘This was one of the hardest races I have done. But that is not why I took part. It’s about pioneering and racing bikes where no one did before. That is the real beauty of this race for me.’
The gap widens. Most riders have made it through Checkpoint 1 by now, while the top 10 already collected their second stamp at CP2. Still in the lead and keeping a ferocious pace is Jay Petervary, closely followed by Pierre-Arnaud Le Magnan and Kim Raeymaekers who have been bunny-hopping for 2nd and 3rd position since the start.
There’s always a first. Last Saturday, ninety-eight riders embarked on the inaugural PEdAL ED Silk Road Mountain Race. It might be the new kid on the block in the field of ultra-endurance bike races, but it’s definitely not the one trying to quietly blend in. Set in the vast landscapes of Kyrgyzstan, this unsupported single-stage race covers over 1700 km and 26,000 m of climbing, following decrepit Soviet roads and alpine horse trails, with very limited options to resupply along the route. All of this to be tackled within a fourteen-day time cut.
Who to watch and what to expect? As the riders are moving into Day 4, the contours of the race are starting to take shape.
The unpredictable conditions of Kyrgyzstan’s alpine landscape already left their mark on this adventurous race. A sudden and severe snowstorm on Day 1 stopped many of the contestants on their way to the first high peak of the parcours: the 3,780 m Kegety pass. While part of the riders in the front managed to get through, many decided to camp at the bottom to wait out the storm.