Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mongol Derby: All riders home and dry after epic 1,000km ride

The last four riders crossed the finish line in Binder soum yesterday (Sunday) morning, thus bringing to a splendid conclusion the second Mongol Derby. We spoke to some of the riders from the finish camp after a day spent attending to weary bodies and stunted appetites. For some, the pride of completing such an epic adventure was palpable, while others were experiencing an acute desire to get back out on the steppe, finally still after eight gruelling days in the saddle and already missing the rhythm of the race.

Australian entrant and professional track rider Alisa Vermay showed the grit which comes with the territory of a life with horses. "I am so disappointed not to finish, but a day off recovering from heat stroke last week revealed to me that I had ridden through the pain barrier. My back and shoulders were very sore, and as a profgessional rider I just cannot risk further injury. The [Prometheus]medical team have been fantastic and I am feeling better already." Despite her early exit and bodily injury, she had plenty of fond memories to treasure; "I loved it. I absolutely loved it!"

Susi Saddler was one of two riders to take the chance and camp wild between the urtuus, and she described the experience as "amazing". Her partner for the night was Camilla Swift, and she described their encampment, in bivvy bags under a rock, their horses tethered and hobbled close at hand; "luckily we were on two lazy buggers and they just lay down and went to sleep next to us. We had an alarm set at 45 minute intervals to be on the safe side, but they didn't move a muscle! We had our saddles for pillows". Ah, the romance!

All of the riders praised the plucky and quirky Mongolian horses, who carried our brave riders across rivers, flood plains, up steep and stony passes, through desert. Susi remembered fondly a little stallion she partnered in the mid-stages; "he was so fit, he galloped for much of the leg and we swept across a wide open plain, with huge red crags either side". She admitted she would have loved to have taken him home. "He'd clean up on the endurance circuit". more

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