Sonya Looney Rides the Mongolia Bike Challenge: Part 3 – The Fetal Position

Race Coverage Travel

Stage 5

Stage 5 was a loop so that we start and finished in the same camp. I hung in lead group for awhile and was happy about that, but was shot out the back(broken record?) I was riding by myself for a long time on a flat straight away in the wind. I decided it was pointless to suffer and I really didn’t want to ride alone. I coasted, rode slowly and kept looking behind me waiting for a group to catch up. Finally a huge group caught up! Erin, myself, and another guy took some pulls. I was finally not suffering and staring at the tire in front of me just trying to hold it. I was relaxed and comfortable.

I knew there was a climb coming so I waited. After the doubletrack kicked up, I made my move and took off on my own. I figured I’d catch another group at some point on the other side of the hill because they tend to splinter pack riding- another reason I love climbing!!

I took great pleasure riding past guys who were walking, and even more pleasure to see it caught on camera. haha!

Video: Mongolia Bike Challenge 2013 – Stage Five. Video courtesy of Mongolia Bike Challenge.

I hammered myself until I caught a group off the back side. I had some good folks to ride with. I could see Matt ahead for a very long time. He was alone. I can’t quite remember who was in my group right now, but there were about 5 of us. I was suffering to hold on. It split up and I do remember Erik Bakke hammering forward – so strong!!

At some point, we caught up to Matt. We had a long climb after the aide station. I was so happy to climb again! No more flat road riding. We had dropped the group we were riding with. The finish was a long, flat straightaway that never ended into the wind. I just wanted it to be over. A couple of the guys we the dropped on the climb caught up and blew by on the flat. Matt stayed with me (again, thank you Matt!) Finally, the stage ended. The wind was demoralizing! 2nd again for me!

Later, we found out that people had taken a wrong turn. Race leader Cory Wallace was still not in and it had been quite awhile. I guess most of the top 10 men got lost for varying amounts of time. A van went off course and the racers followed. Cory ended up riding an extra 40km. The organizers tried to adjust the times of the top 10 riders, but it was pretty fudgy because times were not actually kept. Their algorithm worked well for some people, but some of the other racers got screwed losing 15 minutes in the GC because their time was relegated back to the group that was behind them. Unfortunate that it happened… a lead moto really would help this race I think!

More sheep for dinner! I liked our Ger family for the week.

I skipped the ice bath for Stage 5. I was relieved that the next day was Stage 6. Almost done. It was also 100 miles! My legs were sore and my upper respiratory infection was not relenting in any way. It was also supposed to be pretty flat and windy. I knew Stage 6 could break me.

Continue reading for Stage 6 and full photo gallery.

About the author: Sonya Looney

It’s energy and attitude that have propelled World Champion Sonya Looney on a mountain bike across the rugged Himalayas, through sweltering sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, and through the clammy jungles of Sri Lanka. Sonya Looney is an adventure traveler on a bike seeking out the hardest races in the most remote, beautiful, and interesting places in the world. She believes in pushing limits because that’s when you realize you are far more capable than ever imagined. Sonya is also a professional speaker, keynoting at large conferences and has spoken at TEDx. Don't let her accolades fool you though, she loves craft beer and joking around. Follow her on social media!

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