Supporting the Silk Road Race

By Dan Thompson

For much of the last 15 months or so most of my riding experiences have been lived vicariously through others, with injury and surgery and rehab putting paid to any adventurous plans I had on (and off) the bike.

The milestones of this period have been mixed, working events like the MTB Marathons or the utterly magnificent Strathpuffer have been amazing, showing how brilliant the bike community is. On top of attending events ‘dot-watching’ has become a sport in itself, watching those tiny dots on a screen and trying to imagine what is happening in those far away places. Some of those dots have been friends and have had faces and personalities and I’ve had time to spend talking about experiences over a coffee or beer.

One race that always appealed to me has been the Transcontinental. I got to meet Mike Hall a good few times whilst he prepared for his 2012 round the world ride. In a previous job we helped him with some kit and advised on sleeping equipment – not that he used it very much – and what always struck me was how fiercely passionate and competitive this quietly spoken yorkshireman was. For me Mike embodied the race and the sport, he was at the very cutting edge of this bold new world of endurance cycling.

So it is that I followed the Transcontinental race over the following few years, each year the heroic tales and feats of endurance grew more inspiring, and not just at the sharp end of the racing, right through the field each rider had his or her own story to tell.

Mike’s sad passing at the 2017 Indian Pacific Wheel Race and the subsequent reaction from the endurance riding community further confirmed to me that this was something I wanted to be part of.

In my role here at Alpkit I’m very lucky to be able to meet and spend time with pretty extraordinary people, I also get to see everyone else planning and going on amazing trips, which, whilst side-lined by injury is pretty difficult but it’s been a great opportunity to take stock and make future plans.

Folk (amongst many others) like the Seipps, Joe B, Anna Wells, Steve Bate, Shaggy, Scott, Aleks and Pete McNeil. Pete has become a mate, living just up the road from me and having similar interests plus you can’t fail to be impressed by his attitude. Pete decided to start trying some of the longer races in recent years and the HT550 was his choice. He rode there last year and did ok, but you could see that he’d properly caught the bug, the event had fired something in him that would then see him go and ride the Peak 200 in awful conditions in (almost) record time and do some pretty mad training rides around various other work he had on. Pete decided to go back to the HT550 this year, at around the time he was talking about the HT550 he also mentioned a new race, The Silk Road race. This one appealed to Pete as he and wife Alice had ridden the ‘stans’ during their round the world ride and it sounded pretty epic, like a mix of the HT550 and the massive distances of the Transcontinental…

During the 2018 HT550 Pete was worried about a lack of preparation and miles but finished faster than the previous year in 5th place, just in front of Pete was Nelson Trees – organiser of the Silk Road Race. Pete and Nelson spent some time riding together and chatting post race…

..and so it was that I was introduced to Nelson and why Alpkit are pleased to be a supporter of the inaugural running of this epic race.

From the Silk Road Mountain Race organisers:

The Silk Road Mountain Race is a fixed route, unsupported, single-stage cycling race through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The clock does not stop and prizes are not awarded. It will follow gravel, single and double track and old soviet roads that have long been forgotten and fallen into disrepair. There will be very little tarmac. There may be some walking and at times there will be great distances between resupply points.

The race starts on the 18th of August 2018 with a neutralised ‘grand départ’ from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. You will then follow a 1700 kilometer route that passes through three manned control points, where you will need to get a stamp in your brevet card, before finally heading to the finish line in Chong Kemin, a village 150 kilometers east of Bishkek, for a well deserved post-race beer or two.

The race will be an adventure on a grand scale that will take you through some of the wildest areas of one the most stunning, untouched and desolate parts of the world. The setting is awe-inspiring but also extremely hard on those that dare to venture into it.

To earn a successful finish you need to complete the course before the 1st of September for the after party.We will provide transport back to Bishkek the day after the party.

Because of the extreme isolation, remoteness and difficulty of getting help if you get into trouble, riders will be required to use a SPOT tracker with an SOS function. These are provided as part of your entry. If you wish to bring your own tracker, you may do so and will pay a reduced entry fee. Emergency services are very limited in Kyrgyzstan and the most that we can do is help coordinate an emergency response.

Alpkit are pleased to be a Checkpoint sponsor for the race this year. We’re providing essential kit for the organisers and checkpoint/control car teams.

We’re also busy dot-watching our own Alpkiteer Pete McNeil and all the other riders progress at this years race.

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