On their fourth trip to Kyrgyzstan, Belén Castello and Tristan Bogaard return for Tristan to ride the 2023 Silk Road Mountain Race. But with a few days on their hands before the start, they decide to blaze a new 250-mile route that circumnavigates the Ala-Too, from the capital of Bishkek. With hopeful hearts and full panniers, they start their ride by setting out over Kegeti Pass (12,401′). After surmounting the pass, tragedy strikes as Tristan falls ill. Things aren’t always sunsets and tailwinds on bike tours, so come take a journey through accepting defeat in the beautiful mountains and valleys of Kyrgyzstan.
Held in the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the Silk Road Mountain Race is known as one of the toughest ultra-endurance competitions in the bikepacking world. It earns its demanding reputation as riders not only have to deal with a very tough course profile and terrain conditions, but they also have to overcome other obstacles such as high altitude, scarce and basic resupply points, sickness, unforgiving weather patterns, river crossings, and remoteness.
Tristan Bogaard was among the starting group in this year’s edition and his partner, Belén Castelló, decided to wait for him at the finish line while volunteering at the last checkpoint. Going into the event, Belén had no reference for what to expect and below she shares her experience dot-watching and soaking in all the first-hand stories.
Belén Castelló and Tristan Bogaard have made a life bikepacking around the world. On a trip to Italy last fall Belén’s brother, Horacio, decided to join the couple on a tour through the Dolomites. On the cusp of turning 40 and with little-to-no cycling experience, Horacio was looking for an experience that would shake him up, and wake him up from his normal routine. He found that while riding an e-bike for back-to-back days in the Dolomite Mountains. Read on for Belén’s recounting of the trip and why choosing e-bikes felt like the best choice for their ride.