On saturday Richard Parks began stage one of the world’s highest mountain bike race – The Yak Attack. He started the race just 4 weeks after returning home from a brutal expedition to ski solo to the South Pole.
The Yak Attack, held in Nepal is considered the world’s highest mountain bike race. Taking place in the mighty Himalaya, comprising of 11 stages, covering 400km and with a total altitude gain of over 12,000m this race throws every obstacle under the sun at the adventurous riders daring to take it on. It’s 400km/248 miles of some of the most brutal terrain on earth, from the hot and dusty lowland foothills to the snow covered, oxygen thin, Thorong La pass.
Richard and his Specialized Epic Marathon Carbon 29 mountain bike will climb to 5416m/17,769ft, about 400m shy of the height of Mount Kilimanjaro and roughly the same height as Everest Base Camp.
Today Richard completed stage 1 of the race from Shivapuri to Nawakot in 2.49 hours.
Stats for stage 1 today: Max speed 58.9kph, 847m vertical climb, stage distance 42.30km, stage time 2.49hr.
Richard is competing amongst a field of 33 riders from around the globe and is racing wearing the number 19. You can find out more about the Yak Attack stages here.
Richard, who has been locked in a battle to recover quickly from Antarctica stated before the race; “It has been really hard to stay patient, hold my nerve and not do anything too strenuous. Nicki, my physio and I have been working quite specifically to a recovery strategy after Antarctica and that has meant having confidence in my fitness levels and not over exerting myself, that has been quite difficult and I have had to be very patient but so far it seems to be paying off.”
Richard in Antarctica in January.
Richard completed a week’s acclimatisation in Nepal before the race whilst receiving intense treatment from Sport Wales physio Nicki Phillips.
Mountain bike racing in the Himalayas is unpredictable and unforgiving. There's the altitude - the course peaks at 5416m/17,769ft, where oxygen levels are only 50% of those at sea level. There's the weather – up to 30c over the first four days and then rapidly decreasing to -15c (before wind chill) as the race crosses the Thorong La pass. Then there's the terrain, rough descents, soft sand climbs, streams, suspension bridges, mud, landslides and invariably snow.
Although Richard has much experience at altitude, the Yak will pose new questions, He added; “Performing at altitude will pose it’s own unique challenges, some old, some new to me, like being on a bike and not in crampons! The race tops out around 5,500m so managing parts of my body that have cold damage will be challenging but will be another valuable knowledge gathering exercise for Project X.”
Richard at the pre race briefing, courtesy of www.nepalsutra.com
Finally he added before the race got underway today; “It’s my first competitive mountain bike race, I am excited! I’ve been feeling stronger every day and although I wish I had another month before the race, I am confident I have done everything I can to recover in such a tight turnaround from Antarctica. Being back in Nepal is really awesome. It’s a special place to me, to be here for something different is cool. I’m feeling mixed about the race, excited, a little anxious and apprehensive because there are so many unknowns in this project. Normally at this stage I have prepared for all eventualities and am totally dialed, but my physical strength is still an unknown because of the coping strategy I have adapted to recover…lots of unknowns but I am really excited, it’s a cool event, one of the toughest mountain bike races on the planet and I am excited to be part of it.”
Follow Richard’s progress on his Twitter page @richardparks