The Mongolia Bike Challenge is said to be the toughest MTB race in the world. There are 8 stages across the mountains, stupendous steppes and rivers of Mongolia that need to be conquered. The scenery is jaw dropping and the atmosphere is said to be fantastic. A mix of professionals and adventurous amateurs compete through rain and mud, in altitudes up to 2500 km, whilst camping in basic circumstances. The etappes are hard (mostly + 100km) and the pace is killing. This is not for pussies.
Liesbeth Hessens, a 27-year-old Belgian girl, saw a video on Youtube that got her interested. Once she has something in the back of her mind, it’s not likely to go away. She’d never competed in a race before, but decided to go for it. 9 days before the start of the race she posted this on her blog:
People have called me crazy many times before and I never wanted to believe them but I have to admit, this time they might be right. I do realize it would have been smarter to do a short mtb-challenge to start with, or at least something in Europe. But i needed to choose something more extreme again… (always the same with me)Honestly, I have no idea if I’m going to make it. I just know I’ve done all I can so far. (my swiss friends can confirm 🙂 Sorry for going home early many times!) … Fingers crossed, wish me luck, I will definitely need it!
Being a passionate cyclist and traveler, Liesbeth has quite a track record. She biked from Belgium to the North Cape, through Canada and Alaska, and now she’s completing a journey she stopped 2 years ago: Ecuador – Argentina – all the way down to Ushuaia. Alone, all by her self. She’s no newbie to extreme cycling, but this Mongolia Bike Challenge opened a totally different dimension. The race aspect was new to her.
She started the competition not knowing what to expect. It quickly showed she was one of the strongest women in the race. I remember following the online results with pure astonishment. Whilst the Belgian Olympic crew was not thriving on success during the games in London, she was kicking ass in Mongolia.
Liesbeth won a couple of stages and was in pole position to win the overall race, but due to some bad luck and a material breakdown at a crucial point in the race, she took the silver medal. In the overall ranking (men & women) she’s 18th of the 59 people that completed the race.This is a truly remarkable achievement for a first try. With just 1 sponsor (Planet Group), no top-sport contract, no extremely fancy gear, just iron discipline and a serious love for biking, Liesbeth Hessens amazed friends and foes. I wonder what next year will bring…
(the real kind, not the i’ll-marry-a-famous-footballer-or-flash-my-boobies-on-stage kind of girlpower)