Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 1 – The Adventure Begins

Race Coverage Travel

Stage 2

We left the statue Complex with Tuul River as our destination. It sounded pretty nice. Day 2’s course had less climbing than day 1 and a lot more wind. I found myself dropped pretty early on and riding alone. Eventually, I had some friends to ride with! I ended up teaming up with Rasif (Malaysian guy) and Erik Bakke from Canada(he’s doing the Yak Attack next year!!). I was thankful to have them to ride behind through the windy valley.

I remember seeing some huge mountains ahead of us with dark clouds. Despite the clouds, I secretly wished we would ascend the mountain pass. We saw yellow trees and a gurgling river. I knew there was one big climb in the stage, so I told Rasif and Erik that I’d be making a run for it up the GPM. They were okay with it so I took off and did what I do best- ride uphill. It was peaceful and beautiful with nothing but rolling grassy hills as far as the eye could see…and clouds.

The day was a bit cooler. After descending, I was cursing myself for leaving my buddies behind. What daunted me ahead would be a 40-60km + stretch riding on a flat road dead into a headwind. Not only that, but there were tons of cattle mud bogs and about 20 river crossings, come of which you had to wade through. One was upper thigh deep! The water was freezing! The first one or two felt great. The rest were a real nuisance, especially with having to basically stop and get going again with the wind. I forced myself to stay on the gas and stared at my Stages Powermeter numbers to keep me motivated. Flat road into a headwind is no bueno for me!

I couldn’t see the finish line anywhere, but I was willing it. I wanted to be out of the wind. I kept looking back hoping to see someone or something. It was just me, the rolling hills, and the roaring wind in my ears. This moment in the race was very mentally taxing for me. I played every trick on myself that I knew of to make the time go by faster, but nothing was working. I just wanted it to be over. It seemed like forever until I saw the 5km to go sign.

Finally, 1 km to go! I finished and just stood next to my bike. Only about a minute later, my buddies from Canada came across the line including my bf, Matt, Steve Ushy and Erik. I was surprised with how close they were behind me, yet I couldn’t see anyone when I looked back. I wished I could have ridden with them. Matt was in rare form and hyperventilating. I took him to the medical tent and he had to get an IV! I moved our bags to the ger and ran back across the camp to check on him. I was pretty worried, but he came back to life after awhile. He had a solid ride, basically pinning everyone through the windy valley!

YouTube Preview Image Video: Mongolia Bike Challenge 2013 – Stage Two. Video courtesy of Mongolia Bike Challenge.

Love Matt Page “quite refreshing, actually!” haha!

Meanwhile, the clouds were angry all around us. Our Ger was also on a grassy slope. Our Ger creature comforts from the last camp were gone. There was some linoleum on the ground for us. That’s when the biggest pain in the ass of the weak became a realization. We didn’t bring camping mattresses. My printer cut that off when I printed the racer guide. I put some clothes underneath my sleeping bag. The ground was hard and cold, but manageable for the night. We’d try to figure it out the next day. I was concerned about the rain. The Gers are not closed and we were on a hill. Should it actually rain so that water flows, there would be water flowing downhill straight into our Ger that would soak our sleeping bags and everything else. I tried to push that idea out of my head and hope it wouldn’t rain. Threatening thunder warned us.

This was the most beautiful of the camps we stayed in. Giuliana, Biso, Erik, Matt, and I were all ger-mates. At bedtime. It got very cold at night.

I washed my bike and made myself sit in the river. It was cold. I thought I’d find at least some relief from the cold river in the shower…that is, until I saw that there was water being pumped from the river to the shower. It was merely a hose pumping ice cold river water. It was brutally cold. In the back of my mind, I was thankful for the baby wipes I had packed knowing those would be likely be the source of my cleanliness if the weather got any colder.

It did look like stage 3 was going to be rainy, so I got some of my rain gear out to wear for the next day. I didn’t sleep well that night.

Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 2 – The Harsh Reality »
Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 3 – The Fetal Position »
Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 4 – Bonfire and Shaman Dancer »

Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 1 – The Adventure Begins Gallery
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Loading the Buses

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Buddhist Temple

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Ulaanbataar

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The Square

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The Square

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Ulaanbataar

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View from our hotel room

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Landscape

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Chinggis Kahn Complex

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Chinggis Kahn Complex

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Chinggis Kahn Complex

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Opening Ceremony

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Authentic Mongolian Costumes

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Authentic Mongolian Costumes

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Thomas looked the best I think!

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Stage 1

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 1

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 1

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 1

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Top 3 Ladies for the Day

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Stage 2

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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Stage 2

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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This was the most beautiful of the camps we stayed in

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Giuliana, Biso, Erik, Matt, and I were all ger-mates.

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At bedtime. It got very cold at night

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Stage 2 Camp

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Stage 2 Camp

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Our showers for the week

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Stage 2

Photo by MBC/Erik Peterson.
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About the author: Sonya Looney

Sonya Looney is a world class ultra endurance mountain bike racer. She has competed in the hardest international stage races in the world, picking up several wins. She has three USA 24 Hour National Champion jerseys in her closet, as well as a Marathon World Championship USA team kit hiding in there as well. Her love is for big mountain adventures which helps her excel at her favorite race distance - 100 milers. Sonya's positive energy and love for life would never lead you to guess she suffers in her races and always is laughing with a grin on her face. She also prides herself in her taste for microbrews, red wine, and has a quick witted sense of humor.


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