Mongol Derby 2011 - A fortnight of sweat, tears, and no small amount of blood...
Well, how to sum up a fortnight of sweat, tears, and no small amount of blood out on the steppes of Mongolia? It would be hard to match the 2011 Mongol Derby for drama, scale and grandeur, and my attempts to elicit some soundbites and post-match analysis from the weary riders on the long bus ride back to UB and relative civilisation yesterday suggested that they were also struggling to find the words. So i'll have a go....
Riders braved shimmering heat over rolling steppe, fierce climbs and stony descents, labyrinthine flood plains and even some sand dunes. After dark temperatures plunged and they huddled in gers, comforted by traditional Mongolian hospitality - simple food, simple fires and a place to lay their head. On day 4 they waded across swollen rivers in biblical downpours, rode into lakes and over glorious mountain passes. They passed dinosaur playgrounds and giant-like rock formations, crossed plains scattered with the corpses and skeletons of another Mongolian winter's hoard, rode past the ruins of ancient cities and civilisations, bronze age monuments and Buddhist temples. They swam in lakes and rivers, gratefully washing off the dust and horse sweat of several days' accumulation.
Last but not least, of course, they swung a leg across a series of semi-wild and totally unfamiliar horses, and in many cases, found themselves promptly with both legs the same side again, probably watching the little scamps galloping off into the sunset without them. Many of the most competitive and experienced riders were among the unseated majority, and their courage in getting back on the horse in all bar the most serious of cases was an incredible tribute to these hardy few. For all the tumbles, every single rider paid tribute to these brave and indomitable horses. Small in size, but not in stature.
Our amazing Prometheus Medical team were kept plenty busy scooping up dazed and confused riders, and in one notable case, a detached body part. Kudos to Dutch rider Frederique Schut who was so ill between Horse Stations 15 and 16 that she required an afternoon of intravenous fluid therapy. After an afternoon's rest she rode on and completed the Derby in some style. Other amazing comebacks include American Sophia Mangalee who had the misfortune of losing not one but two horses. Her assault on the title of Mongol Derby Winner 2011 was ended prematurely when she got an unfortunate dumping shortly after Station 4, and the support crews spent several hours locating and finally retrieving her wayward steed. Another afternoon of stoppage time looking for her horse at Station 16 on day 5 was the final nail in her Derby coffin, but unbowed she rode on to complete the ride.
Vegetarian Rose Paterson amazed all with her ability to sieve out the mutton and complete the 1,000km on nothing but rice and noodles.
A couple of riders came within smelling distance of the glorious finish before succumbing to injuries. Before Station 18, Regina Bueno Ros, who had already survived a number of spills and most of a day lost in a mountain pass with her horse, came a cropper and landed on her hip. She was lucky to incur only bruising but could not continue. Barry Armitage of South Africa made it as far as Station 22, just 100km from the finish, before hitting the deck and being forced to retire. He and riding partner Joe Dawson were quite determined to catch the leading pack of Craig Egberink and the three Chinese riders David Ha, Sanbayier and Bayinmuenke. He made a conscious decision to pick the feistiest horses on the line. An excellent strategy for going very fast for 40kms. As long as you can stay on....
A group of seven riders became an indivisible and mutually supporting unit for the final few days of the Derby. The lynchpin of the group was British rider Richard Allen, who helped a great many riders to the next station, and was knighted Sir Richard at the finish line by a grateful posse. He also received an Adventurists Chivalry Award from the organisers, a handcrafted saddle cloth made by a co-operative of craftswomen in Kharkhorin whose business had received a grant from Mercy Corps Mongol Derby Projects. We love a hero as much as they do, and this was a fitting tribute to his solidarity and teamwork. He had a particularly spectacular fall the day before he finished and could be seen nursing his ribs at the finish camp.
In short, it was a difficult labour, but I'd say 23 brand new Adventurists were born on this year's Mongol Derby. Lifelong friendships have been forged, and a healthy respect for this equally hospitable and hostile land.
Written by Katy Willings - Mongol Derby Chief
The Final Placings
Congratulations to Craig Egberink, the winner of Mongol Derby 2011. Of the 23 that started, only 13 crossed the line still in the official race. The final placings, including time penalties are as follows:
1ST - CRAIG EGBERINK
2ND - SANBAYIER
3RD - DAVID HA
4TH - BAYINMUENKE
5TH - JOE DAWSON
6TH - RICHARD ALLEN, KEVIN PRICE-MOOR, OLIVIA SWINGLAND & JASON TSE
10TH - FREDERIQUE SCHUT & SOPHIA MANGALEE
12TH - OWEN PATERSON & ROSE PATERSON
Completed (hors concours)
RONALD VAN DER VELDEN & TYGA HELME
HS5 - PAUL ERSKINE
HS14 - SARAH CHENEVIX-TRENCH, MARCUS CHENEVIX- TRENCH
HS16 - CARA BARNES
START CAMP - BORJA JIMENEZ MENSAQUE (Broken Wrist)
HS7 - TOMMY TSUI (Thumb Injury)
HS17-18 - REGINA BUENO ROS (Severe Bruising)
HS22 - BARRY ARMITAGE (Broken Shoulder)
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