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June 27, 2013 posted by

Yak Attack, Stage 8 – “The Hardest 16k Of My Life”

Yak Attack, Stage 8 – “The Hardest 16k Of My Life”

I thought the title of today’s post came from Sonya’s fabulous blog from last year. But she doesn’t say that, exactly, so I would have had to change it except that I heard it from two people this year who were absolutely cooked. Most epic stage in the race, so far, in part because it looked like the below pics outside, especially for those who came in late. I’ll let my diary tell the rest.

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533471_363699457069540_289095243_n pics: sonya looney, above and title shot with yak, nepalsutra

Sitting in our room at nearly 15,000′ in a complete white out. We have my duffle holding the door closed so snow doesn’t blow in and in a few hours we’re supposed to carry our bikes 1,000 meters higher over Thorong La Pass, a stone’s throw under 18,000 feet. This is what the Yak Attack’s about!

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today was smile, smile, smile; for me anyway. pic – neil cottam

Today’s stage was rad! I’ve heard some people complaining but, c’mon, nobody here signed on for a pleasure cruise. Last year Sonya called this the hardest 16k of her life and today it was harder. I loved it.

morning

When I woke up today it was snowing. Turned to hail as Ewe and Matthias ate our breakfast down the road at the German bakery, attempting to indulge in civilization for as long as possible. While enjoying many coffees we laughed about the conditions and today’s prospects. “Shit,” was the word–in their sparse English and my even worse German–we could agree upon.

prerace
jon is offered some good luck. seemed like we might need it.

Things lightened up for another pre-race ceremony and then what, for me anyway, promised to be mainly a hike–fine since I’m trying to keep my bike rolling for as long as possible.

roadcondition
road conditions in town were not optimal

I kitted up for bad weather but the sun came out at the start. The race began with a very steep climb. After 30 minutes I was bemoaning my clothing choice. As it turns out it would pay off later.

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overly warm, for a little while anyway

I guess the stage is generally mostly ridable. Not so much today and that probably played to my favor. It was super muddy or snowy the entire stage. I liked it so much that the worse the conditions became the faster I went. In the final stretch I passed a lot of people I haven’t seen in the entire race, including some of the Nepalis (even Aayman, who’s in 3rd!) At the finish I wouldn’t have minded another 10k as I was flying–well, more like walking really fast with a bike.

snowytrail
what a lot of the trail looked like

snowytrail2
a closer view

germansbridge
ewe and matthias, pic: nepalsutra

I’ve been feeling better and better as the race goes on and probably shouldn’t have started in my customary last place. It took a lot of time and effort to weave through the field just to get back to the position where I’m normally racing. The track was tight, made tighter by the snow, and I’m sure I would have finished closer to the front if I’d started further up. Maybe I’ll do this tomorrow, since I’m feeling quite good at altitude.

valley
nice scenery today

stevehammering
steve hammered to 4th! pic: phil evans

finish
when i finished it looked like this

badconditions
not so long after

I was thinking today about what a burly race this would be to try and win. You can’t just be a good rider. You have to be able to deal. Shit is going to go wrong. You will have bad patches. There’s no way for this race to conditions to always be ideal. You’ve got to be able to ride, hike, fix your bike, endure heat and cold, bad air and thin air, have a strong stomach and be cool with lack of any daily protocol. Get used to something and it will change. That’s a certainty. You’ve got to be able to improvise. All in all making this one very cool event!

hammer
steve thinks about improvising

zoltan
zoltan improvises a local carry tactic for tomorrow

I may change my mind tomorrow. Conditions look brutal at the moment. I just hope they don’t close the pass.

skull

dinner
the restaurant burned down over the winter so dinner was in crowded tents. at least it kept things warm. ish.

PM ReportSitting in my room trying to nod off. Been reading Tigers of the Snow all day to get into the mood (what we have ahead is light compared to them) and it’s working. When I passed someone today, maybe Rajan, I said something about a hard stage and they said “tomorrow much worse”. I’m all for worse, so let’s bring it on. Snow has stopped. Forecast is good. Packed and ready for our 3am wake up. Psyched!

tigersofthesnow

HERE is the last post. Stage 9 is HERE

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