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Racing Tibet re-cap: Day 5.

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Race day two was easily the coldest start. The mercury dipped below the freezing point as we started in on our preparations for the start. Outside was grey and overcast, but the forecast called for a break in the clouds during the day and for it to be much warmer. Breakfast went down a little bit harder than the day before as we went over a quick rundown of the course. Starting at about 3600 meters elevation, we were looking at just over 300 meters of climbing stretched out over an out-and-back route around 25 kilometers up a canyon.

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We packed our things in and got out to the starting line. A quick squirt of oil on the chain and we got to our starting positions to stand shivering while we waited for the gun. Easily the most difficult part of the course was the first couple kilometers of climbing. It was the longest and steepest of the climbs and did a mean job of stretching out the pack. After which, the climb broke and became a gradual set of upward reaching rollers.

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The sun broke through after about 30 minutes. The surface of the road had definitely deteriorated over the past year. On the way up this wasn’t as noticeable as the low angle of the morning light made picking a line pretty easy. Morten again was way off the front chasing the race leaders. At the start of the climb, Tyler, Robbie and Jacob stuck somewhat together chasing down a few other racers over the uphill stretch, before Robbie peeled back a bit. Larry and Jeff hung back a few spots, suffering through the thin air. At the turn around there was a decent indication of how far off the lead riders were. A few kilometers from the top they whizzed by Tyler and Jacob. Shortly after followed Morten working to make ground on a few riders just up in front of him.

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Riding high and jamming to some thrash music he had flowing through his headphones, Tyler reached the turn-around point and screamed “Let’s hammer it!” before powering off on the downhill side of his race. Jacob was a few seconds after. Trailing a couple minutes was Robbie, then Larry and finally Jeff. A little further down the hill Sarah was powering her way up the uphill stretch with Hyo a little ways behind her. At this point the sun was straight overhead making finding a line over the washboarded and battered roads all the more difficult. The road surface put up a lot of resistance and necessitated posting up regularly to power through rough patches. Morten had only grown his lead while Tyler hammered after him. Jacob plugged along and was gradually caught by Robbie toward the bottom. Larry, Jeff, Sarah and Hyo pedaled along in like order.

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Finally the initial stretch of steep climbing opened up for a fast, smooth descent back to the paved road leading to the finish line. Morten, Robbie and Tyler had all opened up and were smashing out the last section. Jacob was limping along after having postponed a ride snack for too long. Again, in like order, Larry, Jeff, Sarah and Hyo finished up the race.

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Across the line the sun was out in full force. We all gobbled down a bunch of sugary snacks and got caught up on hydration as we waited for the awards ceremony. In the end our team bagged 4 of the top 20 spots, including 7th (Morten), 16th (Robbie), 17th (Tyler) and 19th (Jacob). With each new champion introduced on the stage, the crowd really loosened up and seemed to be reveling in the true awesomeness of this race. People were all super stoked. After a series of photos, we went to town packing in our bikes along with a celebratory beer. Most of us were pretty cooked from the race and ready for the long bus ride to Lhasa.

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We piled into the van and set off. As we drove out of Basomtso, the entire group fell silent was we relaxed, soaking in the insane scenery we were leaving behind. After a stopover for dinner we all crashed out in the van as we wound our way through the mountains on the road to Lhasa. We’d have one more day to roam around Lhasa before heading home.

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