You have probably already read or heard the descriptions about The Yak Ru Annapurna Challenge mountain bike race, and perhaps other similarly hard and arduous off-road cycling competitions. Riding a bicycle off-road, already a challenge in itself, becomes a fascinating – and brutal – endeavour when combined with remoteness, steep terrain, extremes in heat and cold, high altitude, and relentless competition.
The remote and rugged Annapurna Range of Nepal is the arena for the Yak Ru, an 8-day tour of the Round Annapurna Route that goes from the foothills, steadily gaining altitude to the sub-alpine and alpine region of Manang, to the high pass that is Thorung La at 5416m above sea level, and then back down again to the arid Mustang valley. The route will traverse village footpaths, 4WD roads both smooth and rough, pristine singletrack, and of course the iconic hiking trails for which the Annapurna region is famed for.
Of the eight days of the event, the last two days are non-competitive ‘group ride’ days, with the preceding six days of competition incorporating an ‘acclimatisation day’ of the fourth day. The stage distances are by no means long compared to other international-level MTB stage races; but make no mistake, the days in the saddle are tough as there are large amounts of elevation gain, compounded by the physiological strain of competing at high altitude. The key is making sure both rider and bike can cope adequately with the extreme conditions that make the Yak Ru a truly unique racing experience.
Wilson Low Yak Ru finisherThus, the aim of this regular column: highlighting tips and advice
that allow a steady, smooth training lead-up with the specific aim of preparing well – physically, mentally, and logistically. What the series of articles hopes to achieve is to allow the Yak Ru participant – whether a first-timer or a seasoned veteran to MTB racing – to take away learning points that will enhance training over the next few months. And even if participation is not (yet) on the cards, this series will provide significant insight – and perhaps a measure of inspiration – into what exactly is needed to face one of the toughest challenges in endurance sport.
Next month, we shall study the importance of mountain bike handling skills: fundamentals that keep you upright and rubber-side down on the trails are a good starting point for developing a rider that is well-prepared for the challenges the Yak Ru will serve up.
Wilson Low completed the inaugural Yak Ru Annapurna Challenge in 2014. A self-professed outdoor endurance junkie, his past competition experiences have included the Cape Epic; the Ironman, 70.3, and XTERRA World Championships; and several expedition-length and multi-stage adventure races. Wilson is based in sea-level Singapore, and works as a professional mountain bike skills instructor with MTBSkills Singapore as well as a triathlon coach with Athlete Lab.
www.mtbskills.com.sg , www.athlete-lab.com