El Reto del Quetzal

Every day at the El Reto del Quetzal stage race across central Guatemala had a memorable theme to it.  Guatemala is a special country and the event is a top tier race with its organization, challenging courses and amazing topography.  Its pretty rad they can link together so many cool trails, dirt roads and random steps through villages to show us some hidden gems of this vibrating country.  

Stage 1 “The Night Time Trial”, started with a short 12 km night time trial, it was a rude awakening to the 2017 race season with a 6 km climb straight out of the gate with the Latino mountains goats sprinting up there like immortals.  2015 BC Bike Race winner, Tristan Uhl and I hit the dusty single-track descent back to the finish line pretty much together and passed a pile of riders.  This was abruptly stopped upon hitting the gnarly sections which were lined up with 15-20 riders walking there way down.  “This is a bike race amigos!, not a walking race..”   This ate up our only chance to close the gap on the leaders as we shook our heads to why 150 racers were started ahead of us on this short stage as it basically just neutralized the decent portion of the race.  Nonetheless it was a good kick in the head to ignite the body for the racing week ahead as Tristan and I would roll in 4-5th overall.

Stage 2 “The Trails in the Jungles of Volcano Agua” started with a 1 hour bus ride to the slopes of Volcan Agua in which we’d climb 8 km up its spine before hitting a sweet 14 km enduro single track decent to the finish.  It was a tough day as my body had a full meltdown climbing up through the steamy jungle, eventually leading to a puke session just 20 minutes into the race.  Feeling a bit ill off the bus ride, things just got worse and pretty soon I was walking up anything partially steep and really on a survival mission.  

Eventually hitting the single track decent a fair bit down from the leaders I tried to open it up to limit the losses. Pretty dizzy I rolled around one corner a bit hot and hit a rock ledge in the middle of the trail, stopping dead in my tracks, losing my balance and falling off the side of the trail 8-10 ft down into a pile of trees and bushes.   It was shocking my Kona Hei Hei didn’t brake with the impact, although the seat, brake levers and stem were all twisted in all sorts of directions and needed some adjustments.  The rest of the descent was rad, cruising through the thick green foliage on some great man made trails and across some sketchy bridges.  Even having a tough day it was an awesome ride.  On the way back to basecamp in Antigua we witnessed Volcano Fuego erupt huge steams of thick gas, it was amazing to see this first hand and made the bike race a distant memory.

The rest of the day was a struggle, only managing to down a small bowl of miso soup before laying in bed for the evening in a state of anguish with a rumbling stomach.  I’m pretty sure the dodgy stomach came from drinking water from the rock filter in our 4 star hotel room.  It claimed to remove 100% of the sketchy bacteria from the water.  Seems a bit far fetched for a rock to be that smart and I payed for it.   After a rough sleep it was up at 5am  to tackle the Queen stage of the race, 86 km and 2500 M of climbing through the heart of the Guatemalan countryside across to Lago Atitlan.  Heading to the start line I quickly had to pul a u-turn back to the hotel as the stomach was ready to explode and needed a Toilet ASAP!  I got there just in time, destroyed it, then started thinking, “holy shit, i’m not in a good shape to ride today.”  

Already missing the 7am start I questioned taking a bus to the finish line but opted to try and get there by bike as it’s always better to be pedaling then in any other sort of transit.    The first 1.5 hours actually felt ok once moving but then all hell hit the fan as the stomach expanded to a pregnant state and energy levels went to zero.  Riding with my buddy Simon got me within 20 km of the finishing before a top 5 meltdown of all time hit.  Between naps in the ditch, stops at Tiendas and a couple bano breaks I’d eventually make it to the finish line, 3.5 hours after the leaders, but still in the game:)  The support from the locals along the race course is great, although some of the dogs can be a little over zealous at times!  

It was a bit of a bummer to miss out on racing this stage as it is a tough mother of a stage with its sawtooth profile and sections of rad single track.  The highlight was dropping into the huge crater lake of Lago Atitlan on a technical descent down some rough trails and through tight alleyways of a local town.  It’s the icing on the cake after a stellar day of riding across Guatemala.  This night in Pana was a gongshow again with the majority of the night spent on the toilet but the views of the Lake and surrounding volcanos helped ease the ass eruptions.  

Stage 4 “Climbing to the Heavens”  started with a relaxing boat ride to the village of Santa Cruz along the northern shores of the lake.  From here we climbed an insanely steep climb out of the crator then continued on a mixture of rolling terrain with patchs of singeltrack before descending down into a rad little valley in the middle of nowhere.  From here a long gradual climb started up to 3100 M.  The final portion of this climb was raw, winding up some high hiking trails in dense brush before topping out in a dry pine forest similar to Canada.   From here we hit some rough singeltrack descending all the way down to Guatemalas 2nd biggest city of Quetzaltenango (XELA).  After a couple slow days, the body miraculously turned around to battle into 3rd on the stage, probably a combination of the other riders being tired from racing the previous two days, and myself being somewhat rested from being forced to soft pedal them!  The combination of big climbs, rowdy single-track and being in the non stop action of the Guatemalan countryside makes every mile at the El Reto de Quetzal a memorable one.  Like every other night, us riders were treated to a nice hotel and large portions of local food which is a treat after these tough stages.

Stage 5 “Enduro to the Pacific Lowlands”.  The final stage is a classic as it starts with a couple small climbs surrounding Xela with some dusty trails mixed in.  Pretty soon it traverses under the shadows of Volcan Santa Maria and onto an enduro descent into to the tropics of the Pacific lowlands.  Going into the 40 km descent the 2 leaders from Columbia and Spain had a few minutes on myself with Tristan Uhl just behind me.    Having Tristan catch up, we teamed up to work together to try and reel in the 2 leaders with him leading the steep descents and myself the rough flat traverses.   After nearly an hour of ripping through big boulder fields, rough cobblestones and patches of trails through the tropics we finally caught the two leaders just 10 km from the finish.  Unfortunately an untimely stick in the chain caused a 45 seconds stop which took me out of contention for the stage win.  The final few km flew by with Tristan attacking the single tracks, and the Columbian and Spanish/Honduran leaders attacking the few punchy climbs and then ripping through the chaotic mayhem of a small Latino village.  The talent these these local Latinos have at dodging traffic, people and dogs in these congested areas is impressive as it requires a high degree of risk!  Rolling in across the finish line in 4th capped a very entertaining adventure that only  a few races around the World can offer.  

El Reto del Quetzal is a solid event as it offers an adventurous race across a truly remarkable country.   It was certainly worth the trip down here as theres no better way I can think of to see the landscapes of a developing country and meet some great locals.  Back off to my training camp in the Guatemalan highlands as this place is a mountain bikers heaven with endless routes and it’s eternal spring climate! 




Guatemala is a small country situated between Mexico, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras.  It is the poorest country in Latin America but also one of the most stunning with a landscape full of steep Volcanoes, thick rainforests, crater lakes, high mountain plateaus and numerous ancient Mayan sites.   Bike touring around the countryside on two separate occasions in 2009-2010 left a lasting impression with the excitement, welcoming locals, and endless dirt roads and trails to explore.   I’ve been meaning to come back ever since, particularly to train in the mountains surrounding Quetzaltenango (Xela) up at 7500 ft and hone in the Spanish skills.  The years have flown by but this year the opportunity came up to race Guatemalas 5 day cross country mtb race “El Reto de Quetzal“. This was a good opportunity to get the body fired up for the season so I organized a 5 week training camp surrounding it and have set up base camp in Xela.

Doing research on Guatemala before the trip all I heard was don’t do this alone, don’t go out at night alone, don’t travel on these roads due to bandits, don’t a taxi out of Guatemala city in the middle of the night, look out for roadblocks, don’t eat the street food etc…  Landing in Guatemala city at 1 am on friday morning I preceded to do everything listed above in the next week and have had zero problems.  It’s bizarre how the media loves to build up negative points to such a point that makes people nervous to get out of there beds in the morning.  What I’ve experienced is that you can run into trouble anywhere in the World if you go looking for it. At the same time if you take a few precautions, put a smile on your face and treat people with respect that this World is a very hospitable and welcoming place.  Knock on wood…

The first few days in Guatemala were spent in the tourist mecca of Antigua, a charming colonial city with cobblestone streets and towering Volcanoes.  A couple days were filled meeting locals, riding single track off of Volcan Agua and preparing to bike pack 2 days over the course of the El Reto de Quetzal to Xela in Western Guatemala.  With all the talk of bandits along the way I made sure to check with the local riders and was given the green light that it wasn’t as bad as it was made up to be.  The next two days were spent riding dirt roads and patches of sweet single track traversing the heart of the Guatemalan country side.  The ride was rad, everyone was friendly, even the tough looking gangsters out in the middle of nowhere, all they needed was a smile and a buenos dias. 

The biggest problem were the dogs as they are sketchy and everywhere in this country.  The Guatemalan dogs apparantly really like to get it on with each other without any regard to birth control.  The ones that bark are easy to defend against but the ones that silently take chase require eyes in the back of your head.  Usually you can out ride the dogs, but when you can’t, option B is to stop and use the bike as a shield and water bottle and rocks as weapons. It seems whenever the dogs are confronted they thankfully coward away.  The other problem was getting lost high up on a mountainside at 3000 M when my GPS lost signal.  The next few hours were spent mostly hiking, traversing out of the thick forests towards the Pan America highway in which I could ride a ways before re engaging the trail down to Xela.    

This past week in Xela has been pretty smooth, training in the mornings, attending spanish school in the afternoons and meeting up with other travelers and locals in the evenings.  The mountainous terrain surrounding Xela is great for riding. There is no way I’ll be able to explore all it has to offer in just 1 month!  The dogs are a pain in the ass still, but the city itself is pretty rad with a historical colonial center, a fair number of tourists, but still a very Guatemalan dominated feeling which makes it a good place to practice up on the Spanish and get immersed into the culture.  The travellers are pretty rad as well as they are either focused on volunteer projects, taking spanish courses or off on cool adventures.  A big contrast to some of the hippie hang out backpacker places in which most everyone seems content on drifting through there travels in a hungover state. 

The highlight so far has been meeting up with the local riders, Carlos, Juan, Julio and Cesar and the rest of the crew at BiciCasa Xela.  One of the best parts about racing around the world is hanging out with the locals, learning there ways and seeing the sweet local riding areas they have. There certainly is no shortage of great places to ride bikes on this earth!  Cesar and his crew at BiciCasa Xela have given me a home away from home and have been looking after the Kona Hei Hei for the race to come in a few days.  Its so clean right now I’m afraid it may become allergic to dirt.  Thanks boys!


Off to pack the bags to head back over to Antigua with Cesar via the infamous Chicken buses this afternoon.  El Reto de Quetzal kicks off Wednesday evening with a Night time trial before heading to the slopes of Volcan Agua for Stage 2 on Thursday 🙂   

Race Results should be found here:  El Reto De Quetzal Results

2017 Schedule

Feb 23- March 30: Guatemala Training Camp

March 8-12:  El Reto De Quetzal (Guatemala)

April 28-30: Whisky 50 (Arizona)

May 19-21:  Grand Junction Off-Road (Colorado)

June 2-3: World Solo 24 HR Championships (Italy) 

June 11-18:  Rumble in the Jungle (Sri Lanka) or Beskidy MTB Trophy (Czech)

June 24-25: UCI MTB Marathon World Championships (Germany)

July 7-13: BC Bike Race (Canada)

July 16:  Canadian Marathon Championships (Quebec)

July 22: Canadian XCO Championships (Alberta)

July 29-Aug 3: Singletrack 6 (BC)  or July 30- Aug 5: Legend of El Dorado (Columbia)

Aug 11-13:  Glacier 360 (Iceland) 

September-October: TBD

Nov 5-15:  Yak Attack (Nepal)


2016 in the Books

When 2013  happened it looked like it would go down as the biggest year ever with 79 days of racing.  

2016 eclipsed it by 2 days.  81 is the new personal record which will likely stand till the end of my career… but who really knows.12717370_993857927328794_3163842700367276642_n

It all started road racing down in the jungles at the Tour of Costa Rica, a race full of brawls, crashes and insanely fast Latinos riding like Tour de France champions. Post race a couple weeks were spent staying with my friends Ronald & Angela and training in the Latin mountains before hopping a flight over to Australia and New Zealand.  Racing the inaugural Pioneer through NZL’s Southern Alps with my Kona teammates was a trip to remember.  This was topped off with a week with some buddies in Queenstown before heading North.  

Following this was a road trip with my friend Tarren through NZL to the North Island to take on the 24 HR  Solo World Champs.  Riding 450 km of single track, finishing 2nd, 4 minutes off the title was one of the rides of my life as Jason English set a new record, winning the title for a 7th year in a row.  There were hot springs, beaches and a couple more races in NZL before launching to Vietnam to defend the title at the Vietnam Victory Challenge.  

Next up was a bike tour across northern Vietnam-Laos and Thailand with my buddy Simon.  We ate loads of fresh fruit, got sunburnt and had some good times enjoying the Asian gong shows. After 3 weeks Simon went back to work in Canada and I caught a jet to India for a crazy adventure in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Eating some sketchy curry from a kitchen built in a chicken coup turned the stomach inside out for a while.  After three weeks of recovery with my friends Martin and Julian in Australia it was back home to cap off this solid 4.5 month road trip to start the season.

Back in Canada things came back on track with a win at a wet and gnarly Nimby 50.  This was followed with  4 stage wins and the overall title at BC Bike Race as my teammate Spencer Paxson and I worked well together to finish 1-2.   Up next was a tough battle with Geoff Kabush at Marathon Nationals in Eastern Canada in which he nipped the title from my grasp by under a minute.  Back to Back wins at the Alberta XC and Marathon Championships closed out the Canadian portion of the season before heading off to Asia for round 2!13710438_1219533761398207_6199163205165734886_o copy

Asia round 2 started off racing across the land of Ghengis Khaan in Mongolia.  After 5 times to Mongolia it feels like i’m just starting to know that pristine nomadic country.   Up next were 4 days of missing flights and losing my bike tying to get to Bhutan from Mongolia.  This is harder then it sounds. The next 10 days in Bhutan were out of this world, winning the 250 km Tour of the Dragon, visiting the Prime Minister at his residence, hanging out with the Prince, and hiking to monasteries in the mountains with my buddies/guide DJ and Jigme.  

Next on deck were 5 scorching days at the Tour of Timor in which my skin started to melt.  Timor is a great place to ride a bike but you need to be up in the mountains or else it’s too damn hot!  At this point the trip was suppose to end but I missed my flight back to Canada and headed to Singapore to stay with my friends Ken and Laura.  They helped reload supplies, gave myself a place to rest a few days and helped fix the bike before hopping a jet to India for round in the Himalayas.  

India round 2 was another solid adventure with a great crew.  1 day in India is like 1 month in North America in regards to sensory overload as the action is insanely intense 24/7.  After racing 8 days across Northern India the adventure was topped off with shaking hands with the Dalai Lama in his home @ Mcleod Ganj.  

The next 2 weeks were spent beaming from this encounter and acclimatizing in the mountains surrounding the hippie village of Dharamkot as the Worlds Highest MTB race was on deck in Nepal.  These 2 weeks were eventful with lots of hiking with my friends Zina, Ashish and Gurman a bit of riding and a fall off a mountain, dislocating my shoulder.  This seemed like a trip ender but visiting some hippie doctors fixed things up and the trip continued…IMG_6036

Nepal will go down as one of the all time greats, kicking off with 10 days of training up in the mountains with my buddy Peter. Next up was the Yak Attack with 11 days racing through the largest mountains in the World and into the forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang bordering Tibet.  Capturing the title to become the first foreigner to do so in the races 10 years history capped a memorable season.  With time to relax my friend Usha and I headed out trekking in the mountains for 10 days before it was time to call it a trip and head back to home soil.  

Work was calling in Alberta so it was off slashing down hazard trees in the frozen north for a while.  As of now I’m still up there refreshing the mind and filling the bank, waiting until a little bird flys bye and chirps that its time to re mount the bike for 2017 🙂

Here’s some numbers from the past season.

14 Countries Visited: Canada, Nepal, Australia x2, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, India x2, Mongolia,

Bhutan, East Timor, China.

81 Total Races:

70 Mountain Bike Races

  • img_7380JetBlack 6×6, Australia: (2nd)
  • The Pioneer, New Zealand: (2nd)
  • World 24 HR Solo Champs, New Zealand (2nd)
  • Kiwi Crusade, New Zealand (DNS)
  • Karapoti Classi, New Zealand (3rd)
  • Vietnam Victory Challenge (1st)
  • Uttarakhand MTB, India: (5th)
  • Convict 100, Australia: (4th)
  • Rocky Trail Grand Prix, Australia: (DNF)
  • Salty Dog 6hr, Canada: (3rd)
  • Nimby 50, Canada: (1st)
  • Cumberland Marathon, Canada: (2nd)
  • Test of Metal, Canada: (4th
  • BC Bike Race, Canada: (1st)
  • Canadian Marathon Championships:  (2nd)
  • Alberta XC and Marathon Champs: (1st x 2)
  • Mongolia Bike Challenge, Mongolia: (3rd)
  • Tour of the Dragon, Bhutan: (1st)
  • Tour of Timor, East Timor: (7th)
  • MTB Himalaya, India: (2nd)
  • Yak Attack, Nepal: (1st)


Racing The Highest MTB Race on Earth


By far this was the most scenic race I’ve been to as we rode through the heart of the largest mountains on earth and into the hidden World of an old Buddhist Kingdom. A region rarely visited with stunning mountain peaks, true mountain people and a mystical sense of being on a different planet.

The Yak Attack kicked my ass in 2014 coming to Nepal in great shape, but unprepared for the x-factors that racing here comes with.  Being found ill in the ditch in Stage 6, I had the gutted feeling of waving the white flag and DNF’ing the race.  Fast forward 2.5 years later and my 2nd shot at the Yak Attack, this time the race was bigger and better then ever before celebrating its 10th anniversary taking on the Annapurna circuit and also 5 days in the Forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang!   


The Annapurna Circuit: Stages 1-5.

This is the classic portion of the Yak Attack as we started at 800 M above sea level in Besisahar, the gateway to the Himalayas, crossed over Thorlong Pass at 5415 M and then onwards to the Upper Mustang.  The first stage turned into a gongshow racing a 32 km time trial in the jungles and rice paddies surrounding Besisahar.  The day before I had spent hours patching and glueing tires together as the new ones ordered from India 3 weeks earlier never arrived.  They said they would take 3-4 days maximum to deliver, but first they sent them to Kolkata, India, instead of Kathmandhu Nepal, then there were some holidays and who knows what else but 3 weeks later still no tires. My head was left wobbling side to side.  On race day, the front tire went flat 5 minutes before  the start, and the rear one 1 km from the finish. It was a full on gongshow and to top it off the body was backlashing from the race efforts and requesting for a few more days off.  img_7265

Already down 7-8 minutes from the 3 leaders and heading into the Yak Attacks  toughest stage it was a rough sleep.  Arising at midnight after 2 hours of rest I would lie awake for the duration of the night feeling ill and having flashbacks to my race ending meltdown on this stage in 2014.  Running a tube in the front tire and an extra patch in the rear my Kona Honzo and I tackled the 65 km climbing stage on an insanely rough and scenic jeep road to Chame. The route was amazing following a tight gorge, hugging cliffs and steadly climbing into the heart of the Himalayas. 4 riders (Thinus from South Africa, Ajay from Nepal, Yuki from Japan and Peter from Australia) set a steady pace from the start as I dangled about a minute or two behind for the first first hour. My fingers were crossed as I repeatedly told myself “don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, no more flats, no more flats..”   Seeing the race flash before my eyes the body suddenly started showing signs of life and by mid race the system was back online. Soon catching the leaders, I  dropped them and put  7, 10 and 18 minutes into the top 3 in GC as they seemed to lose some gas towards the end of the big day.  Game on!

Chame is a cold little town tucked into the shadows of 7000 M glacier covered peaks vertically straight above.  From here we climbed along more roads snaking along cliffsides before breaking out into the broader and sunnier valley leading to Manang with views of the huge Annapurna mountain range above. It was pretty epic with loads of trekkers out on this route as it’s the 2nd most popular trek only behind Everest Base camp in Nepal.  We tried not to scare the hikers to bad as we ripped by on our bikes but some of them seemed to be suffering from AMS and off on another planet.  Up at 3500 M now we had a scheduled rest day in the old Tibetan style Nepalese village of Manang.  This place is a proper old school western town with Yaks wondering around the dusty streets, loads of tea houses for weary travellers, a “Yak Theatre” to watch movies on Himalayan adventures, and a surrounding mountainside full of glaciers, monasteries and hidden valleys to explore.img_7542

Stage 4 from Manang to Phedi had 17 km of single track heading up to 4500 M.  The Nepali boys went hard out of the gate this morning but thankfully blew up a bit as Thinus and I dieseled past them and onto a tough battle for the next 1.5 hours.  With 5 km to go I put in a good effort over a small hill which put both Thinus and I in the red zone and on the verge of tipping over as the thin air up above 4100 M was like trying to breath through a straw.  Thankfully we ran into a heard of Donkeys portering stuff up the mountain and were blocked for a few minutes on the tight trail.  Soon after we hit a heard of Yaks and then another heard of Donkeys.  In a normal race this wouldn’t be ideal, but we both enjoyed the small pause in racing, giving us a chance to catch our breaths and look around at the stunning mountain landscapes before  gasping our way to the finish line with myself claiming a narrow 2 seconds victory to make it 3 in a row.

Stage 5 is the classic “Pass day” as the race starts with a 5 km hike a bike over Thorlong Pass reaching a dizzying 5416 M before launching down a crazy singletrack descent down to the village of Muktinath.  The organizers had a wild idea of starting the race at 4am to try and avoid the “wind” up top.  I lobbied for a later start figuring a proper sleep, daylight and the warmth of sunshine would trump any amount of wind we may have to deal with.  I lost the discussion, so after a couple hours of sleep we were awoken at 2:30 am to prep for “the pass.”   The Nepali boys traditionally own this day and set a high pace from the start.  I tried to keep up and suprisiningly did alright, eventually passing them as I found a few areas which were rideable.  The combination of pushing, and riding left the other boys in the dust and after 1.5 hours was cresting the pass and onto the epic descent.  It was still pitch dark, cold and sketchy as hell as I couldn’t see a lot with my pocket headlamp.  The body started to chill pretty good after the sweaty climb so I stopped to dig a puff jacket and thicker gloves out of my pack but was denied by my numb hands fumbling with the zipper.  Figuring the process would take too long I resorted to Plan B, hopping back on the bike convincing myself the faster I descended the quicker the temperature would rise.  Arriving in Muktinath at 6:10 am the finish line staff were still sleeping.  After riding around in circles for a bit I made my own finish line and started time keeping for the rest of the riders. It’s always interesting racing in countries where bike racing is still fairly new as some of the locals don’t realize just how fast wheels can be, especially down hill as they can turn a 3-4 hour hike into 20-30 minutes!img_7307

A big part of the Yak Attack Experience is trying to stay warm and healthy as the living conditions can often be a little dodgy hygienic wise and rest can be tough to find some nights between barking dogs, giggling trekkers and roosters .  Every morning we would hand our luggage in to the porters between 6-7 am and then proceed to drink litres of hot drinks to keep warm before race start at 9 or 10.  After racing we would continue our sessions of drinking pots of tea, and eating loads of Dal Bhat (rice, lentils, curried veg).  Sometimes our luggage would show up on time, other times we’d be in our bike clothes for a long time as some of the porters seemed to enjoy lolligagging and being tourists themselves.  All in all everyday turned into a proper adventure somehow.

The Forbidden Kingdom, Upper Mustang Valley: Stages 6-9.

The Upper Mustang was a restricted, demilitarized zone until 1992 which has kept it isolated from the rest of the World, preserving its people and tibetan culture. It’s just recently opened to the public but a $500 USD visa just to enter the area keeps the tourist numbers low.   My tires from India finally showed up as we had re-supplies come in from Kathmandu after the Pass.  Unfortunately the Indians sent the cheapest possible paper thin wire bead versions which would self destruct within seconds on the rough ground up here, not the tough Tubeless ready Maxxis Ikons which were ordered.   After confirming 3 times with them the Tubless versions were being sent, it was a bit of a shock but not really.  Those tires are in the hands of some local Nepali kids now, while I lucked out and borrowed some tires from Paul and Tetsuo, 2 racers who had spares and kindly offered them up.  Running tubeless again was important as the terrain in the upper Mustang was rough as hell. 

img_7602Stage 6 started with a sweet climb overlooking Dhaulagiri (the 7th highest mountain in the world) up to a pass where we crossed into the Upper Mustang and dropped down a kick ass single track.  It was like a line was in the ground as the topography changed drastically with steep cliffs, dry dusty roads, and snow clad Himalayan peaks in the background.  The racing up here was out of this world with roads full of thick bull dust, boulders and sections of ice where waterfalls crested the road.  Thinus road great this day as I suffered through a rough last hour, finishing a couple minutes down.  At the finish line in Ghilling I looked at the race organizer Phil  “this is it, where’s the 5 star resort?” as we stood in a wet grassy area with a couple rough looking mud covered guesthouses in the background.  It was a different world up here,  mud floors, rock walls, no heating and layers of dust everywhere.  The locals were tough as nails, you could see it in there eyes that they were the real deal as far as mountain people go.  They were also very hospitable, cooking up some great buckwheat meals as we all adjusted to the surrounding region and tried to keep our bodies in race capable form. 

The next 4 days we headed up to the headquarters of the region in Lo-Mantang “The Walled City”, spent a rest day exploring cave dwellings up on the edge of Tibet and then had a couple stunning days racing back down valley to the lower Mustang.  Up here the living was simple with the locals piling fire wood and dried dung for a long cold winter ahead and butchering Yaks to fill there food stores.  Seeing the butchering of a Yak was an experience many of the racers turned there heads too.  It was brutal, but probably important to experience for anyone that eats meat so they can understand the process that getting a burger on your plate requires.img_7638

  Racing wise I went into a conservative mode trying to avoid any catastrophies, soaking in as much of the upper mustang as I could while keeping an eye on my strong south African competitior.  Thinus was a real sportsmen and great to race against, racing hard he would win 3 straight days with Nepalese hero Ajay winning the final stage.  After 11 days up in the mountains and a rather epic journey I would take the overall title by a comfortable 13 minutes to become the first foreigner to claim it in the races 10 year history 🙂 

This is a race which will go down in the books as one of the all time greats.  It’s rough, hard, and a struggle at times but the payoff is big in the form of insane views, an inside look into some ancient cultures and the experience of seeing how the mountain people of Nepal make a living in such a harsh environment.  I’ll be crossing my fingers to have a chance to return to this region again someday soon

The season is officially over after 12 months:)  A couple weeks of downtime in Nepal lies ahead before transiting back over the pond to Canadian soil for a taste of home over the holidays.  

Over and Out!img_7372