A fast day through the desert for the fifth stage of the 2012 Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea. Leaving from the Ongi River Camp, racers rode through the African Savanna-like landscape to Guchin Us on the edge of the Gobi Desert. The Mongolian National Team rider, ‘Tugu’, flew off the front of the pack with two of his teammates, temporarily stunning the rest of the lead group. The trio put over two minutes on the pack over the first 20 kilometers but eventually blew up as they had set an impossible pace for the 141 kilometer course.
Hagener and Salleh, the two Chiru-WTB riders were looking strong during the first two-thirds of the course, hanging on to the lead group made up of Hovey (MBC-Orbea-SMP), Wicks, Sneddon and Wallace (Kona), Zamora (Buff), Paelinck (Reevax), and Sonomtseren (Mongolia). Kona, Hovey, and Zamora were able to gap the rest of the pack by the second rest stop at 80 kilometers but Zamora fell off the pace after suffering a mechanical. A sprint finish ended with Carter Hovey of Team MBC Racing powered by Orbea-SMP winning Stage Five on the brand new Occam 29er from Orbea. He was followed by Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks, both of Team Kona. Riders are enjoying an early finish in camp and preparing themselves for the mountain stages which begin tomorrow.
Kona dominated the podium today, with Kris Sneddon winning Stage Six of the 2012 Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea. Current overall leader, Cory Wallace, came second followed immediately by teammate Barry Wicks. Carter Hovey of Team MBC Racing powered by Orbea-SMP came fourth, dropping Pau Zamora of Buff on the massive finishing climb. Sneddon becomes the sixth winner in six stages that have been completed so far.
While things are starting to look similar at the front of the men’s elite pack, a dramatic women’s race is unfolding behind them. Current leader, Elisabeth Adamson of Australia is being challenged in the overall standing by Leisbeth Hessens of Belgium as well as the Mongolian rider, Solongo Tserenlham. Tserenlham won today´s stage and is looking very strong moving into the second half of the race. Tomorrow the MBC moves into the mountains for the Queen Stage – 132 kilometers long with 2620 meters of climbing. It is by far the most difficult as well as the most spectacular stage of the race.
With three passes over 2800 meters and some of the most spectacular scenery in Mongolia, the Queen’s Stage promised to be the most epic day of this year’s Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea. Unfortunately, heavy rains forced race organizers to cancel today’s stage two thirds into the race, as conditions in the mountains were too dangerous to continue. Riders have a much needed day-off tomorrow before going into the final three stages to Karakorum.