On Friday afternoon, 1 July 2011, the fifth Genghis Khan MTB & Grassland Extreme Marathon Festival started with the traditional opening ceremony in the central square of Xiwuqi. Immediately afterwards, the participants for the mountainbike 3-day stage race lined up at the start for Stage 1: a choice between 53 km and 23km, with both races finishing at Menggu Hancheng (Mongol Imperial City).
Some of the biggest amateur cycling teams in China were present, such as Triace from Shanghai and Championship Systems from Hong Kong. The starting field also featured several non-Chinese, with riders coming from 22 countries in total! When a big rainshower hit Xiwuqi in the morning, many people were worried about the weather for the race, but fortunately the sun was shining as the peloton got underway. Of course, the rain created several mudpools along the racetrack, which made things a little trickier than normal. Especially for a first-time mountainbike rider like myself.
After 1,5 km on the road, a big mudpool caused the peloton to split up very quickly. A dirttrack then led the competitors to the actual grasslands. The pace was fast, as always in the beginning of a race. The long distance (53km) participants fairly quickly had to negotiate the steepest climb of the day at km 7. The short distance (23km) riders turned left before that hill. It seemed that several people underestimated the climb, as they walked up the final part of it. On top was a welcoming first water station. From that point on, the track became a rollercoaster through the magnificent grasslands of Xiwuqi. Only, a number of muddy sections and a strong headwind made the lives of many participants difficult! After a left-turn at about km 28, the wind was finally more favourable, and the uphill stretches became easier to overcome. For newcomers to the sport, Stage 1 was a perfect introduction! The last 10km were mainly downhill and led to the finish at the Mongol Imperial City, where riders could camp in traditional tents (yurts) for the night following a rich banquet dinner and performance show hosted by the hospitable Xiwuqi local government.
Up front, a group of six riders decided the outcome of Stage 1 with all of them finishing within one minute. Wang Lei beat Feng Kuanggao for the win, with Hong Kong-based Australian Darren Benson scoring third place. The first group had an advantage of six minutes over the next riders.
Victory in the women’s race went to Bitbit Baby Marites Sotto from Phillipines.
For all the results of stage 1, please click here.