The 1,000 kilometre long Mongol Derby of 2011 was won by just two minutes after a 10 day ride across the vast Mongolian steppe on semi-wild horses.
South African rider Craig Egberink claimed the victory even after losing all his kit and equipment just 48 hours into the event.
His victory over Chinese rider Sanbayier (a Mongolian name by all accounts) came just two kilometres before the finish line.
At the penultimate horse station with just one stage and approximately 40 kilometres to go, four riders set out on the morning of Saturday 13th August to fight it out for the finish line.
Craig Egberink and the three riders from China, David Ha, Bayinmuenke and Sanbayier rode together until they were 12 kilometres from the finish. At that point Sanbayier “decided to make a race of it” according to Craig and when they were just 2 kilometres out there was still nothing separating them until a final tactical decision decided the outcome of the Derby.
As they approached the end a final hill lay between the two leader and victory. “He had some advice to go up the hill and I shot up over it and just beat him to the finish line” explains Craig.
After seven days, 8 riders withdrawing, extreme conditions and around 1000 kilometres of racing across the Mongolian wilderness, Craig won by just two minutes.
The course re-creates the Khaan’s ancient postal messenger system – a system that saw them deliver messages at phenomenal speed across their vast empire. Over the 1000km there are 25 horse stations, 40 kilometres apart, where riders can change horses and receive hospitality with nomadic families. The idea being that while the horses are fresh the rider still has to deal with the challenges of riding.
It’s not an event for the faint-hearted.
The press release from Travel4press.co.uk also related some of the injuries and mishaps in this year’s race:
From day one some of the world’s most experienced endurance riders were thrown from their horses. Two riders saw their horses bolt after throwing them off and Chinese rider Tommy Tsui required intravenous rehydration due to the intense heat of the Mongolian steppe in the peak of summer.
Two riders withdrew on day two – Tommy Tsui with a serious injury to his thumb requiring urgent surgery, and South African Paul Erskine retired voluntarily at the 5th horse station.
South African rider Craig Egberink, the eventual race winner, lost all his kit and equipment less than 48 hours into the race but decided to continue with no saddle bag, instead relying on the horse stations and riding with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, a saddle and a SPOT tracker through remote areas.
Two more riders withdrew on Day 5, reducing the racing fleet to just 18. Marcus Chenevix-Trench was halted by a debilitating bug and his partner Sarah had suspected broken ribs after a fall. On the same day, Sofia Mangalee lost her horse and had to walk seven kilometres on foot to the next horse station. Her horse was later recovered.
Barry Armitage, a well known TV presenter and endurance rider from South Africa damaged his right arm and ribs after falling from his horse and had to withdraw just one day before he was expected to cross the line. Regina Buenos Ros, the Mongol Derby’s first Mexican rider also withdrew in the latter stages of the race.
Out of 23 riders who travelled out to Mongolia, just 15 crossed the finish line on a horse and still a competitive participant of the race.
See www.theadventurists.com for more details, some fantastic images and other adventure races they organize.