Mongol Derby RACE REPORT: Day 1 – Sunday 4th August

 Left to right: Katie Vincent, Tamara Huddleston and Lydia Wood enjoy the first leg of the Mongol Derby, 4th August 2013

Left to right: Katie Vincent, Tamara Huddleston and Lydia Wood enjoy the first leg of the Mongol Derby, 4th August 2013


  • 21 year old Texan Devan Horne the only rider to reach Horse Station 3, finishing Day 1 a full leg ahead of the chasing pack
  • 25 out of 30 riders make it to Horse Station 2
  • First day remarkably uneventful – no serious injuries or major falls; a huge change from last year’s race start when two riders retired through injury on Day 1
  • Matthias Lochthofen from Germany passes out on the start line but bounces back and starts the Derby just one hour later
  • 23 year old American Tom Burk suffers wrestling injury at launch party but bravely battles on to reach Horse Station 2
  • The weather ranges from incredibly hot and clear to a rainstorm and plummeting temperatures by early evening

Race Summary

This is the 5th edition of the Mongol Derby but the race has never been won by a female rider – is that all about to change?

20 year old Texan Devan Horne has had a stormer, bolting off the blocks and establishing an unusually large lead at the end of Day 1.

She has made it to Horse Station 3 around 120km from the start line and a full leg (roughly 40km) ahead of the chasing pack of 25 riders who made it to Horse Station 2. The Derby may be an equine marathon and not a sprint but she has definitely set the pace for the early exchanges.

Two riders are camping out short of Horse Station 2 and the final 2 are at Horse Station 1. See the full leaderboard at the end of Day 1 here.

This year there is no clear favourite. Nobody in the race management team in Mongolia seems willing to stick their neck out and name a winner, but perhaps Devan’s secret weapon has something to do with the solid start. She has been training with Justin Nelzen, winner of the 2010 Mongol Derby and the inside line is serving her well so far.

Race Chief Katy Willings Commentary

“I think this year the start was a lot more controlled, they didn’t go off the line like a bomb had gone off like some of the 2012 riders! They’ve been very calm, settled and responsible with the horses. The herders at the start line did a brilliant job with the horses so the riders have been broken in gently…

There was one crunching fall at the start but everyone was OK, and there were  a few dodgy mounts and dismounts but they landed on their feet.

Tom (Derby founder) and I are a bit bruised but that’s a result of the wrestling at the launch party on Saturday night. There have actually been more scrapes and knocks from the party than the riding so far. Rider Tom Burk unfortunately hurt his shoulder at the party but he battled through, got on his horse and rode away this morning – a real tale of courage the way he’s fighting through the pain.

At the start line they all tacked up without assistance and have done well taking on the horsemanship elements of the pre-race training. Their handling of the horses has been exemplary.

I invited a Lama to come and bless the riders at the start line and it definitely reduced heart rates and soothed a few nerves. Matthias Lochthofen passed out at the start line (it was a very hot day) but the Prometheus Medics quickly attended to him and he left just an hour after the other riders. It’s been a great start, so far they’re just not falling off which is another improvement on last year.

The first couple of legs were quite straightforward; a broad valley with some hills so easy to navigate and ride. Long distances of course but child’s play in Mongol Derby terms.

The navigation for the stretch between Horse Stations 2 and 3 is a bit different, it’s the only section where we’ve given the riders a recommended and detailed plotted route because they’re riding through a tricky area of large sand dunes. The rest of the course they get a waypoint 40km away and a map but this is a difficult, dangerous leg because even with the GPS information they could get lost easily and come across very deep sand.

There are 25 riders at Horse Station 2 tonight but I don’t think that cluster of riders will stay together for more than one more leg – they’ll start to spread out and we’ll get an idea of who the faster riders are and who tries to break away.

“The weather has already made life difficult”

It’s now pissing with rain, there’s been a huge rainstorm and it’s freezing cold. Rider Ivo Marloh has lost his rain jacket so currently has nothing waterproof to wear. For the 25 riders at Horse Station 2 there’s absolutely no hope of getting their kit dry so they’re all going to be putting on soaking wet riding gear in the morning. At the start line it was so hot a rider passed out so in terms of showing it’s colours as a test of endurance the Derby has done us proud today.”

Day 1 in Photos