The PEdALED Silk Road Mountain Race is our attempt to showcase some of the most beautiful and wild areas of Kyrgyzstan. Each year we try to include something new to share with the community of racers who come out to join us in this incredible country. We strive to create the perfect setting for them to test themselves against each other and the awesome natural setting of this mountainous wilderness. The third edition will be no different, with the race seeing more substantial changes compared with the last two iterations.The third edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race is a small step up in terms of difficulty compared with the last two races, it will follow a 1804 kilometre route with roughly 30,500 meters of climbing. It will again take riders through the remote mountain landscapes of the Tian Shan range in eastern Kyrgyzstan. There are however, a few notable changes, described in more detail below.Possibly the most noticeable novelty is that we have a new start, with riders heading out to the wild northwestern region of Talas to line up on the start line in the town of the same name. With this change comes a slightly different organisation for the start of the race. We will no longer ride out on the Saturday morning, but rather on the Friday evening, adding a few precious hours to complete the route. Registration will be shortened and we'll transport everyone straight after the rider briefing for the first ever evening start to the Silk Road Mountain Race. This will keep race logistics simple for riders, but also bring up some interesting tactical choices.Besides the new start, the overall direction of the route is reversed compared with previous editions, riders will take similar roads but in the opposite direction. We also have a new first checkpoint, in the familiar town of Kochkor. We'll also finally be visiting Tash Rabat, the 15th century Caravanserai on the ancient Silk Road. Shamsi is no longer in the race, but Kegeti is retained, albeit in the opposite direction. Finally we have a new final pass, before heading to the finish line on the shore of lake Issyk-Kul. Read on below to discover the changes in more detail and get a visual understanding of what this all looks like on the map!We hope that you are as excited as we are by the route for the third edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race! Scroll down for a more detailed outline of each section of the route. We’ve split it into eighteen distinct tracks and highlighted the major points of interest and difficulties of each. The following information should give you a better idea of what to expect in the third edition of the race but is still lacking the more precise details that will help riders prepare for the race. We will be updating this information in the coming weeks and months so that it is complimentary with the Race Manual.Photography by Danil Usmanov, Rue Kaladyte and Antonio Abreu
Riders will head out from the centre of Talas on the evening of Friday the 14th of August. They'll quickly be on quiet roads that will soon turn to gravel. Within 50 kilometres they'll have reached the summit of Terek Pass : 3376m. It may not be quite as tall as Kegeti but it is still a substantial mountain pass that comes even earlier in the race. The road is quite good, passable by cars and almost entirely ride-able.
After Terek pass, riders will head down towards Toktogul reservoir through a series of valleys with mountain villages. The route along the shore of the reservoir is not yet final but it will definitely entirely avoid the main road which is one of the most dangerous in the country. We will update the track well ahead of the start of the race.
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Riders will leave behind Toktogul reservoir and head up into a system of remote valleys. This is possibly one of the toughest sections of the race, with a huge amount of climbing per kilometre. As it takes place at a relatively low altitude, heat may also add to the difficulty. Veterans of the first edition will recognise the last pass and stretch down into Kyzl-Oi. It'll be tough but scenic.
This is where the route heads in the opposite direction compared with previous editions. Riders will ride up the Karakol valley, going east past the southern face of Kegeti pass which they will need to tackle much later on in the race. The Karakol valley and pass will, as ever, be one of the highlights of the race. The section after Kegeti is also new, and one of our favourites. At the end of this track, riders will reach Kochkor, which will host the first Checkpoint of the race.
Riders will head out of Kochkor down the familiar but unloved washboard that takes them past the smoked fish at Intersection Café. They'll then rejoin last year's route up to Arabel pass and across the plateau to the top of the Kumtor mining road. It's tough but beautiful up there, with Arabel itself a steep push for most riders.
We'll again be sending riders down the Kumtor mining road. Last year, what was supposed to be a high speed downhill reward, turned into a muddy, messy morass. We'll see what the weather has in store for us this year, but at least its unlikely to be worse! Be sure to keep an eye out for the statue of Yuri Gagarin in Barskoon gorge lower down.
After reaching the relative warmth and good weather of the south shore of lake Issyk-Kul, riders will need to head back up into the mountains on their way towards Naryn. Standing in the way is Tosor pass : 3893m. This is the second appearance of this big mountain pass. It replaces Ton pass, which was the cause of some stressful moments last year due to icy conditions on a narrow stretch towards the top. As Tosor is just about passable by cars, there shouldn't be anything like this in 2020.
Another beautiful section that has been in the race every year. This time around it'll be a slow descent into Naryn, aka 'Scratch City'. We'll see if including the city a little earlier on in the race will finally see it losing the dubious honour of being the place where the highest number of riders have decided to call it quits in the previous two editions of the race.
After leaving Naryn, riders will head down familiar roads on their way to Checkpoint 2 which will again be hosted by a yurt camp in the village of Kok-Kiya near Kel Suu lake. The entrance to the valley is truly spectacular and a definite highlight in previous editions. Due to the change in direction there is another short loop here, to allow riders to enter the same way as last year and leave via the Old Soviet Road.
After the relative comfort and warmth of the yurt camp at Kel Suu, riders will have to tackle the seriously steep Old Soviet Road on their way out of the valley. It may only be a couple kilometres but it will take time and effort to make it up and out of the valley. Most, if not all riders, agree the view is generally worth the suffering! The single track down to the Ak-Say valley is also some of the best in the race.
Riders will then head along the familiarly eerie and foreboding border zone with China. This year though, they'll turn off before they reach the smooth tarmac of the Chinese Highway and head towards Chatyr Kul and an alternate route to Tash Rabat. This may or may not be a welcome change depending on their riding preferences.
The route to reach Tash Rabat, a 15th Century Silk Road Caravanserai, will include some hike a bike up to the pass but also some really nice single track for at least part of the descent. Time-wise it should be similar to following the tarmac around, but it will definitely be more scenic and avoids doubling back up and down Tash Rabat valley. Tash Rabat passes itself reaches up to 3964m.
Riders will head out of Tash Rabat valley and join up with familiar roads, on their way to Mels Pass and the stunning views down onto the canyons before Baetov. For those that haven't been here before its likely the most spectacular direction to visit this stretch of road with the canyons after the pass revealed in a single flourish. For returning veterans, having the vista out in front of them will likely still cast a fresh light on one of the most beautiful views in the country. In Baetov, riders will be able to refresh, resupply and even spend the night in the hotel that is quickly becoming a major stopping point for a lot of riders in the race.
Riders will climb up to Son-Kul and Checkpoint Three by what has been an iconic descent in previous editions: Moldo Pass. Its much less steep than Tuz Pass and should allow riders to stay on the bike for almost the entire climb. We'll again pass by Jangy Talap and possibly the best/only proper coffee in the entire area!
The Silk Road yurt camp at Son-Kul will again host an SRMR Checkpoint, albeit the third rather than first in the race. It will provide the opportunity for some much needed rest and hot food. This year, riders will tackle the short sharp hills along the northern shore after leaving this island of warmth, rather than on their final push towards it. The descent down Tuz Ashuu will also likely be more enjoyable than the push up in previous races.
After descending Tuz Pass, riders will head back towards the Karakol valley and up the south face of Kegeti pass. We may have removed the pass from the start of the race, but we preferred it over Shamsi pass at this stage of the race. The south face is much shorter, but also more difficult than the longer northern side of the pass, with extensive damage to the road towards the top. The descent down to the town of Kegeti will likely leave an ear to ear grin on most riders' faces. Its definitely one of the best in the country.
This year, we again head towards the Chong Kemin valley in the home stretch of the race. However, with the additional kilometres and meters of climbing early on in the race, we've cut the bonus climbs. We doubt that they will be sorely missed. We did keep the lower portion of the valley down to the main road though, keeping riders off the highway as much as possible. We've also reduced the tarmac section in Chong Kemin valley, with riders crossing the river earlier on, and coming to the village of Kaindy from the other side.
From Kaindy, there is one final challenge before reaching the finish line on the north shore of Issyk-Kul, near the fishing town of Balyckhy. We have found a new final pass, its a little lower than last year's Kok-Ayrik, reaching around 3350m. It also includes its fair share of hike a bike but the good news is that the descent is entirely ride-able, a welcome change from the land-slide strewn ex-road that was the final stretch in 2019! the exact location for the finish line is not yet set but it will be at one of the resorts along the shore of the lake.