Words and photos by Josh Ibbett
The Silk Road Mountain Race has gained a reputation for being one of the toughest races on the ultra distance calendar, as well as one of the most breathtaking in terms of scenery.
Having raced Atlas Mountain Race last year, Josh Ibbett was determined to test himself at another one of the races in the series and headed over to Kyrgyzstan in August.
Struck by ilness early on Josh had a tough start to the race, but using all his experience he managed his effort well and went on to finish strong, bagging a top 10 in a very competitive field.
Capturing photos on a small portable film camera, Josh has shared some memories from this year's race with us.
"This photo sums up Kyrgyzstan for me. Huge mountains, remote settlements and tough climbs.
This is the Old Soviet road leading from Checkpoint 2 at Kel Suu which you can see in the far distance. It's a tough 45 minute hike a bike but the view is just reward for the effort.
Day 2 of the race and the terrain starts to bite. The first proper hike-a-bike of the race up to the Arabel Plateau. The mountains were breathtaking, as was the altitude as I pushed my bike.
The road to Kel Suu and CP2 crossed a series of rolling mountain passes. I was lucky enough to pass early in the morning and experience the golden light. It was also my first sighting of Yaks grazing in the pasture.
After my second two hour climb of the morning I reached the summit only to be greeted by an Italian couple who were on holiday and had driven up to take in the view. I took the opportunity to get them to take my photo!
My favorite photo of the trip. Golden hour on a 3000m plateau close to the Chinese border. It looks idyllic, but what's not pictured is the infernal headwind I'd battled all day and the quickly dropping temperatures.
A wonky selfie. I thought I better record the fact I was actually there otherwise all I'd have was a film reel of pictures of my bike dumped on the floor and the lower slopes of Kegeti before the hike-a-bike.
I'd been leapfrogging Lukas Klement for the past day and we met again on the pass. It was nice to share some suffering as we hiked up the upper slopes.
On top of Kegeti Pass, one of the iconic locations in Silk Road history. A hard hike-a-bike leads to this point at an altitude of 3800 metres.
The weather was about to close in so it was a case of chucking on all the layers before the reward of an hour freewheeling down the other side.
The final pass. I reached the foot of it as the sun started to dip behind the mountains knowing that I faced a four hour hike-a-bike in the dark. The summit is out of sight in the far distance but i knew this would be the last hard push of the race.
The complete set... My brevet card at the finish. Slightly tired looking and a bit dog eared. I felt the same!
Completing an event like the Silk Road Mountain Race really builds the camaraderie between competitors.
Post race I shared accommodation with Justinas Leveika and Stéven Le Hyaric. It wasn't exactly luxury but we were grateful to be sleeping in a real bed and have a roof over our heads for the first time in a week.
You can watch Josh’s film on riding Silk Road Mountain Race here.
On Sunday 1st October, Mason Cycles along with Albion and Ride with GPS will host an event at the Mason Barn where Josh will talk through his kit selection, his bike and how he found the experience at this year's Silk Road Mountain Race.
More information to follow.