…and they’re off!
Start camp survived, training rides tested, the riders line up on Day 1 of racing not knowing what the next ten days may bring. Some will crash and burn; some will persevere through hardships previously unimaginable; but each and every rider will come away with memories that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.
Leslie Wylie ~ “If post time at the Kentucky Derby were a polite tea party, the start of the Mongol Derby would be a stein-smashing bar brawl. All around me, mayhem: 42 white-knuckled, steel-faced riders mounted up on tiny horses with steam blowing out their ears, the most civilized among them skittering around like popcorn while others spun like tops or flat bolted through the crowd.
These were the descendants of Mongolian warhorses and for all they knew we were charging off into battle, having missed the memo that Chinggis Khan’s mighty empire fell several centuries ago. In the final moments before the race a couple riders were still endeavoring just to climb in the saddle, their mounts issuing a buck-spin the moment they put their foot in the stirrup despite the herders trying to hold them down.
We’d been randomly issued horses for the first leg of the 28-leg race. Mine was midnight black and moved with a cocky mob-boss swagger, and I wanted desperately to stay on his good side. Ed Fernon, an Australian Olympic pentathlete whom I’d gotten to know on the six-hour bus ride to start camp, pointed out that I’d drawn the winner of the Naadam children’s race that had been our afternoon entertainment the day before. So he was basically a kid’s pony, right? Surely I could handle that. As the countdown began I lingered near the back, hoping to avoid fallout from the frontline and just run with the pack for a while...
Read more here: