Smithers native Craig Richey recently took third place in a race many would consider the adventure of a lifetime, the Mongolia Bike Challenge. The nine-stage mountain bike race covered hundreds of kilometres through the Mongolian wilderness, including several days in the heat of the Gobi desert.
“There’s an increasing trend towards epic adventure style mountian bike races, but there’s definitely not many like this one out there,” said Richey. “I’ve never done anything like this, where it’s multi-day, super long days. By day four it was the longest race I’ve ever done of any sort, and then it was another five days.”
Richey spent the past year concentrating mainly on cyclocross racing, although he also still competes in cross country mountain bike races. He finished in tenth place at the nationals this year, despite spending months in Europe racing in dozens of cyclocross races.
“That used to be my main focus, mountain bike racing,” he said.
Richey spent most of the Mongolian Challenge partnering with fellow countryman Cory Wallace, trying to unseat last year’s winner, Italian Marzio Deho. Unfortunately, after days in the lead, Deho took the lead, and eventually the win, leaving Wallace with second and Richey in third.
The conditions in Mongolia ranged from the extreme heat of the desert to cooler nights and warm days; when Richey decided to try to keep cool by sleeping under a truck he was laughed at, but by the next day, many others were following suit.
After the race, he was asked by local TV reporters whether he’d do the race again. So close to the experience, Richey said probably not, but looking back at the photos, and with potential course changes, he wasn’t so sure.
“I think I’ll see how this cyclocross season goes, and if it goes really well, then maybe the Mongolian Bike Challenge was good training leading into it. Then I would probably do it again, but if the first part of my season suffers, then I probably wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s definitely not something that I’m used to, but it turned out a lot better than I thought it was going to.”
Although he’s not likely to encounter a herd of wild horses or yaks butting heads on the trail, Richey will kick off the cyclocross season in two weeks in Las Vegas, race in Nationals in early November, and then head to Europe for three months. By the time the season is over, he expects he will have competed in about 30 races.
His goals for the coming season include winning a UCI pro race, and doing his best to win Nationals.
“I think that’s possible, but everything would have to go just right,” said Richey.
To keep up with his accomplishments, visit www.craigrichey.ca.