It’s Yak Attack time again!
Here’s my view on the potential “movers and shakers” for this edition of the worlds highest mountain bike race in Nepal.
After the disastrous earthquakes that shook Nepal in the spring a lot of racers have deferred their entries until next years 10th anniversary race. It’s a real shame but I can hardly blame them for being cautious, the recovery process is painfully slow and will be ongoing for many years to come.
However a magnificent 27 adventurous souls have still committed to racing in what is widely recognised as one of the hardest mountain bike stages-races on earth.
As a three-time contestant I can certainly vouch for its status, every year throws up different challenges and its “extreme” tag is well deserved. This year I will be out there supporting my friend, Race Director, Phil Evans with the organisation; instead of racing. It’s actually something of a relief, and a personal challenge that I’m really looking forward to. I don’t actually have a title but I think “Assistant Race Director” has a nice ring to it!
Well you’ve got to dream BIG 😀
Once again The North Face (Nepal) have stepped up to the plate as title sponsors for The Showdown in The Annapurna’s, and even with the reduced field there are some big guns lined up for the shootout.
|Tyler McMahon warming up for the start of Yak Attack 2014.
Another milestone is to be surpassed this year. My friend (and great rival!), Nepal based USA rider, Tyler McMahon will become Yak Attack’s most decorated international racer with his fourth tilt at this testing event. I’m not the only one with a passion for this race.
Tyler is always good for a strong finishing position and I’m certain he’ll put on a good show. Good luck my friend, I’ll be shouting for you (mostly, haha).
Most people know the drill by now but just to whet your appetites…
8 stages, 400km, 12000m of ascent. Max altitude 5416m above sea-level.
Heat, dust, jungle, river crossings, rock, sand, mud, rain, water-falls, huge climbs, huge mountains, ice, snow, wind, extreme cold, extreme altitude, the worlds highest mountain pass – Thorong La, Yaks.
It’s an interesting mix.
This year offers us its usual diverse mixture of riders and nationalities.
Four Nepali’s (the top three men and the top woman – Laxmi Magar), six Indians, four Swedes, three Australians, two Americans, a Belgian, an Austrian, an Italian, a Frenchman, one Japanese, one South Korean, one Britain, and a Bhutanese!… and breathe!
Ajay Pandit Chhetri (Nepal). The most decorated individual in Yak Attack history. Ajay is the only rider to have raced every single edition from its inception. Eight times.
Multiple National Champion. Multiple Yak Attack Champion.
Winner – Tour of The Dragon, Bhutan, 2014.
This diminutive King of the Mountains will be in it to win it, and it will be a tough racer that knocks him off the top spot.
Surely the favourite to take this years crown.
|Ajay Pandit Chhetri. 2014 National Championships, Chovar, Nepal.
Yuki Ikeda (Japan) Team Topeak-Ergon professional, and all round nice guy, is back for his third attempt. Yuki wants this on his palmares. Have no about it he will be duking it out with Ajay at every turn of the cranks.
At last years MTB Marathon Worlds Yuki and Ajay placed 50th and 51st. Split these two if you can.
|Yuki Ikeda at the start of Stage Two – 2014.
The lovely Nepali’s Narayan Gopal (2013 Yak Attack Champion) and Rajkumar Shreshta will be right at the front too, pushing for the top spot. Only a fool would bet against these guys being on the podium come Pokhara!
|RajKumar, Ajay, and Narayan on the podium at the 2014 National Championships.
The supremely likable Peter Butt (Australia). Cycling’s “Mad Scientist”, singlespeed aficionado, and ultra-consistent racer (the first international rider to ever podium Yak Attack) is also back for his third mash-up. Peter is coming in to this off the back of a superb fourth place at the recent Singlespeed World Championships (Yuki rolled in in fifth place). I don’t think that he will be pushing a single gear in this race though. However, he will be pushing the front runners. Potential stage wins. Potential podium. Potential winner?
|Peter Butt at the start of Stage Two – 2014.
The Dark Horses.
Sonam Drukpa. Bhutan. National Champion. Three times Winner – Tour of The Dragon 2012, 2013, 2015.
Hailing from the High-Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and with a highly respectable palmares. We can expect Sonam to be up near the top of the pile. he certainly won’t be short of high mountain experience or breath. Local knowledge is likely to be his undoing in the long run but he has strong podium potential.
The Indian Army contingent will have some fit riders out there but a lack of technical expertise seems to hold them back a little, who knows, some of them put up a good show at “Rumble in the Jungle” in Sri Lanka last year.
French rider, artist, and adventure traveller, Tito Tomasi looks interesting. I certainly raised an eyebrow when I found an article about him riding with the legendary French World Downhill Champion Fabien Barel. Interesting indeed.
Kathmandu based wildlife photographer Guy Dekelver (Belgium) is another who might throw up a surprise, as are American veteran Tetsuo Shimoda, and South Korean racer Kijung Kim.
Everyone’s favourite Geordie – (that’s an indigenous species from Newcastle in the north of England) – Paul Cooper loves it.
One of the few riders to have claimed a spot on the Yak Attack Triple Crown list, after competing in Yak Attack 2014, Rumble in the Jungle 2014, and AlpacAttack 2015 (as did Yuki Ikeda).
He’s fit, strong, and has the race experience under his belt, should land comfortably in the top half of the field.
|Paul Cooper at Manang during yak Attack 2014. Race Director Phil Evans is in the background.
The ladies field is looking a bit like a two horse race this year.
That’s because it is.
Nepal National Champion Laxmi Magar and the smiley-yet-slightly-bonkers Australian Tania Tryhorn will doubtless humble us all with their sunshine personalities and tenacious racing endeavours. Both have raced it before and both have beaten plenty of the men.
I once tried to keep up with Laxmi on a particularly steep climb out of the Kathmandu Valley en-route to Chisapani. It didn’t end well…
|Laxmi Magar relaxing in Manang during Yak Attack 2014.
Of the other racers? Who knows what surprises will turn up.
I googled everyone but it is difficult to ascertain who is who in cyberspace. The four Swedish guys have some interesting potential if they are who they might be. lol 😀
One to look out for, cheer along, and support wholeheartedly is Australian rider Matt Rousu. Matt will be racing a Fatbike. It could actually prove to be very shrewd manoeuvre, particularly in the high mountain stages. Matt is also looking to raise money to support the local NCRR charity (Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue). Take a look at his fundraising page and try to support his very noble efforts please.
Matt has written a little piece about his adventure on Pinkbike here.
View Matt’s fundraising page here
The NCRR website
The NCRR on Facebook
Whatever happens out there this year it certainly looks like being super-competitive as the standards get pushed higher and higher. I’m getting excited now. Keep an eye out for race updates on the Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds using the links below. See you in Nepal.
Follow Yak Attack here:
Follow Chase The Rainbow here:
The full 2015 start list:
- Tania Tryhorn – Australia
- Sonam Drukpa – Bhutan
- Fredrik E Malmberg – Sweden
- Elias Sjostrom – Sweden
- Guy Dekelver – Belgium
- Raj Kumar Shrestha – Nepal
- Narayan Gopal Maharajan – Nepal
- Yuki Ikeda – Japan
- Paul Cooper – UK
- Kijung Kim – S.Korea
- Ajay Pandit Chhetri – Nepal
- Laxmi Magar – Nepal
- Alexander Heidenberger – Italy
- Rainer Hilbrand – Austria
- Suraj Kumar – India
- Tito Tomasi – France
- K Venkateswarlu Reddy – India
- Bhairab Deuri – India
- Purna Bahadur Pradhan – india
- Makesh Kumar – India
- Tyler McMahon – USA
- Morris Hasselberg – Sweden
- Mithras Ljungberg – Sweden
- Matt Rousu – Australia
- Tetsuo Shimoda – USA
- Peter Butt – Australia
- Bibhuti Nath Jha – India
Thank you for taking the time to look at my blog.
I hope you enjoyed it.