Return of the champions

The 7th edition of the Genghis Khan Festival this summer will see the return of last year’s champions Altansukh Altanzul and Yun Yan Qiao in the men’s MTB and Grassland Marathon races respectively. Both stars have now confirmed their participation and ambition to defend their titles in Xiwuqi.

Ulanbaatar-based Mongolian Altanzul was only 20 when he came from behind to win the sprint from an elite quartet in the epic first stage of last year’s MTB race (see photo), which set him up for the overall title as well. Later in the year, he proved he can also be quick on the road as he won a stage race in Jiangxi Province, also by grabbing a stage in the process. His competitors in Xiwuqi will certainly mark him much more this summer, but given his young age Altanzul can be expected to be even stronger and he now has more experience to boot. The main challengers for the champion are likely to be in the Chiru-WTB team and the WTB team, but in non professional racing you always have dark horses nobody sees coming. Altanzul will be the captain of the Mongolian CCN team, which currently does not feature Togo Tuulkhangai, winner of stages 2 and 3 last year. Neither is the women’s overall champion Solongo Tserenlham. Both riders may be added to the team’s roster at a later stage, though. The team will see a few young riders make their debut on the international stage.

Yun Yan Qiao already confirmed his intention to go for another Grassland Marathon trophy a while ago. Passionate about running and the outdoors as he is. Without a real adversary in 2012, Yun Yan Qiao may find the competition a little more stiff this time around, as the fame of the event keeps rising and a number of other sub-3 hour runners (on road) have expressed intention to join. One of them being China’s favourite Swede Linus Holmsäter.

Britain’s Sarah Edson, female champion last year, is currently contemplating whether the Grassland Marathon can be added again to her busy running schedule.

Read the Focus on Athlete pieces on Altansukh Altanzul and on Yun Yan Qiao