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Yak Attack 2016 – The Prologue.

Yak Attack 2016 – The Prologue.

It’s that time of year again where I cast my net over the entry list for the worlds highest mountainbike race and offer up a few predictions on the unpredictable outcome of this epic race.
The 2016 event is definitely the race of the year.
It’s the Tenth Anniversary of “The Showdown in the Annapurna’s” and it’s all set to be a very special edition of this already legendary sufferfest.
It’s also about to carve its way through the stunning Upper Mustang Region (for the first and possibly only time ever) with no less than 17 mountain pass’s over 3500m and the almighty Thorong La at 5416m.
It may be shorter in distance this year at just 350km but the bite is undeniably worse than the bark. Grrr.

The front end of the mens pack is a snarling pride of stage-race lions.
It’s going to be a true Clash of the Titans this year, the most competitive Yak Attack ever.
Could this be the year that see’s an end to the Nepali domination of the top spot? Let’s take a look…

The only man to have raced every single edition, and Five-times Champion of Yak Attack, Ajay Pandit Chhetri will lead out the field. With a summer of racing in Europe under his belt, and the advantage of local knowlege, Ajay is sure to be the man to beat once more. He might be small but so is a stick of dynamite.

Catch him if you can. Ajay Pandit Chhetri.

Returning Canadian mountainbike monster and all round good guy Cory Wallace has enjoyed another consistent season of victories and podium finishes. Cory is super strong, and on paper at least he looks to be the most formidable rider in the field. One of the best MTB-marathon and stage-racers in the world. A crushing victory in a mud encrusted Tour of the Dragon in Bhutan recently shows that he has a head for heights.

Cory Wallace winning this years Tour of the Dragon, Bhutan.

 The Tokyo Typhoon and a true gentleman of the east Yuki Ikeda is back for his fourth tilt at the title, and he wants it. Victory at Rumble in the Jungle, amongst others, shows that he has the form. Yuki has been preparing meticulously for this event. He will be ready and he will be hunting for the top spot.

Yuki Ikeda. The Tokyo Typhoon.
South African racer Thinus Redelinghuys could well throw a spanner in the works. A 17th place finish in Cape Epic suggests that he is no slouch on the big stage, and he’s another racer who has been researching and preparing hard. Can a first-timer claim the coveted prize? The dark horse of the elite field.

The Nepali national riders Narayan Gopal MaharjanAayman TamangRajkumar Shreshta, and Roan Tamang, are all phenomenal mountain goats, although unlikely to win they will certainly be in the shake-up for podium spots. The great thing about this race though is its unpredictability and these boys will take it to the wire. 

Roan, Rajkumar, Laxmi, Narayan, Aayman, and Ajay at the start line in 2015.

Australian singlespeed aficionado Peter Butt returns for a record equalling (for an international rider) fourth Yak Attack.
Peter was the first international to ever feature on the podium, he’s currently acclimatising in Manang with Cory. He’s a very smart and consistent racer. He will be in the mix. 

The Chasing Pack

Zbigniew Wizner from Poland is certain to be the man to beat in The Veterans field and could well be figuring in the Top Ten overall. A man in his fifties who races like a man in his twenties; amazing athlete. Keep one eye on his performance.

Yak Attack veteran Zoltan Keller (Hungary) gets stronger and stronger with each passing year, if his Strava stats and preparation are anything to go by he will be crushing it. A Top Ten finish could well be on the cards

Everyone’s favourite Son of the North Paul Cooper (UK), and The Mad Doctor Keith Green (UK) are consistent and competitive, and they’ve both been here before on several occasions.

Mike Hancock (UK) and Ching Soo Loh (Singapore) have been putting in the miles, both are also raising money for worthwhile causes, and deserve some respect.

Whilst in Kathmandu this week I’ve spent a lot of time riding with Glen Hedges from New Zealand. He’s a strong rider and great company. Look out for him too.

Neil Cottam and Glen Hedges riding the infamous Helipad in Kathmandu.

The rest of the field look equally interesting; Pedro Bento (Spain) has stage race experience, Liam Organ  (UK) is a formidable athlete, Tetsuo Shimoda another one. 
It’s going to be a Battle Royale right across the field.
Every year throws up at least one surprise entrant. I wonder who it will be this time?
It might well be Julian Paphitis (UK) who recently hammered the South Downs Double into submission with a rocking time of 23 hours and 2 minutes.

Paul Cooper with Neil Cottam at Thorong Phedi in 2014.

The Ladies Race:

The women’s field is abounded by a proliferation of indomitable Tigress’ and looks like being a smoking hot contest. Some of these ladies will be sharpening their competitive claws as we speak.

It’s too tough to call so here’s a list of the contenders.

Friend of Chase The Rainbow, Nepal National Champion, and inspiring female role model, Laxmi Magar has consistently improved her race potential year after year. She has been racing and training hard all year, although an international coaching camp in Korea recently has disrupted her schedule. I’m sure she’ll be ready.

Laxmi Magar.

Tenacious Tania Tryhorn – Australia. Everyone’s favourite fruitcake. Tania has shown exactly what’s possible with determination and training. Her first Yak Attack was a test of her adventurous mettle. In her second Yak Attack she came back as a racer. She has shown continuous improvement since then. She’ll be loving the whole adventure and laughing the whole way through. She’ll also be racing… Hard.

Tania Tryhorn and Wendy Lyall.

Lovely Wendy Lyall – USA. Wendy has been here before and she knows the drill, she knows the terrain, she knows what’s needed. A definite front runner.

Sabrina Filzmoser – Austria – Judo Olympian, World Championship Bronze Medallist, and European Champion. Tour of the Dragon Senior women’s winner.
That’s quite some palmares. Let’s keep an eye on this warrior.

Mireille Montminy from Canada has a long history of stage race experience including La Ruta in Costa Rica. Another potential winner?

Rachael Walker – UK – is a British Downhill & Enduro World Series racer, and Brand manager at Hope Technologies.
I’d say this young lady has a serious top spot claim.

Leigh Ann Gnyla – Australia – has been training exceptionally hard with her partner (last years inaugural Fatbiker) Matt Rouso. I don’t think she has the experience to win it but I’m sure that she’ll be pushing hard and shaking it up, or maybe just loving the ride.

The inspirational Julia Hobson – UK. Alpine guide and mountain lover. Julia has a story of triumph over tragedy. Is she coming to race or for the experience? Only time will tell.

28 Men – 8 Women.
12 Nations.

I’m staggered by the quality of this years field and it really is too tough to call an outright winner in either the mens or the womens race, plus there are so many variables that can affect the outcome.
My heart says Ajay, my head says Cory.
Bring it on.

Last years podium featured (L to R) Aayman, Peter Butt, Ajay, Narayan, and Yuki.

Please consider supporting Ajay and his friends in their efforts to help the earthquake victims of Nepal through their charity:

Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue

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Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don’t forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it 🙂

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

1 Comment

  1. Loh Ching Soo

    Looking forward to an awesome race and experience Neil! See you folks soon.

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