Mongolia Bike Challenge 2017.
Many an MBC have shone but this edition literally glittered, featuring a daily cascade of blue skies, clear trails, scintillating racing up at the head of all the classifications and heroic efforts of willpower and determination by those whose main aim each morning was to get through the day in one piece and to make the time cut.
Make no mistake, there was plenty of blood, sweat and tears going about, with one rider suffering a half-dislocated shoulder, a few cases of high fevers sweeping the camp, the usual stomach issues here and there and a few scrapes from falls too. On not just one occasion a rider crossed the finish line in a cloud of tears, that curious mix of exhaustion and elation engulfing them, a singular feeling that only one whom has battled against both the elements and their own fears to reach safe harbour can attest.
There may well be races as demanding as the MBC in their own way, but it is the vastness of the environment that makes this event unique. Without flora about the trails and hills even climbing up a 2km hill can seem interminably long, each pedal turn moving you mere inches, and a 30km flat ride through a valley big enough to fit three major airports in it feels like a trek across Wyoming. And yet this is the appeal of this landscape, the wide sweeping vistas, the utter lack of the sounds of the modern world, the remoteness that makes digital communication impossible.
It is not so much that you experience Mongolia, rather, you are engulfed, encompassed by it.