“Don’t be afraid, it’s just a Yak Attack!”

Adventure Issue 218 Jan, 2020
Text by Philip Evans

( Are you interested to participate in the mountain biking event of a lifetime?)

Yak Attack is the highest mountain bike race on earth, and it takes place in Nepal each year. In 2019 the 13th edition of the race (the first ever Yak Attack was way back in 2007) attracted riders from around the globe, including the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Holland, India and of course, Nepal.
After a race registration at the International Guesthouse in Thamel, all competitors were transferred to Besi Sahar, where the racing started on November 12. For stage 1 the riders were treated to a unique off-road loop through the foothills surrounding Besi Sahar before heading off in the direction of the Annapurna Circuit the next day. Cory Wallace, the three-time defending champion won the stage and, incredibly, the following four stages as well.
The following three stages saw the mountain bikers climb higher each day, peaking out on the Thorong La Pass at 5416m, the highest point any mountain bike race ever goes. From here the riders took part in what is also the world’s highest enduro, a timed downhill section, dropping 1400m over a mere 6 kilometers, with two riders, including one Nepali, completing this section in an amazing 20 minutes.

Before heading back to lower altitudes, the race included a loop from Kagbeni into the Lubra Valley for another timed enduro section. This proved to be the icing on the cake for many of the riders, with 8 kilometers of pristine flowing singletrack to descend. The race then finished the following day on November 18 at Kalopani, followed by a relaxing soak in the hot springs at Tatopani and a transfer to Pokhara for the Yak Attack prize giving ceremony.
The race was eventually won for the 4th time in a row by the World 24hr mountain bike champion, Canadian Cory Wallace. Nepali Roan Tamang finished 2nd in his first race back from a knee injury. He would go on to use the training from Yak Attack and the opportunity of a last-minute call up to win a gold medal at the XCO discipline in the South Asian Games.
The female category was won by French rider Claire Demarquet with Italian Letizia Franco coming in second. The top Nepali female riders were unable to compete in 2019’s race due to SAG commitments.

Yak Attack “Single Track” 2019 Edition Overview
7 Race Stages:
Besi Sahar Loop: 33km, 1190m elevation through forest single track.
Besi Sahar to Chame: 60km, 2700m of elevation on predominantly jeep road
Chame to Manang via Ghyaru: 40km, 1500m elevation via jeep road and singletrack
Acclimatization day in Manang
Manang to Thorong Phedi: 16km, 1300m ascent, single track
Thorong Phedi to Kagbeni via the Thorong La Pass: 25km, 1036m ascent.
Kagbeni Loop via Lubra Valley: 35km, 1550m ascent
Kagbeni to Tatopani via Titi Lake: 58km, 1040m ascent.
Overall: 267km distance, 10,316m of ascent.
2020’s event follows a similar format to 2019 and will be held on November 3-14, 2020; see:
20 early bird entries are available until January 31, 2020. Don’t miss out!
If you’re looking for something a little less intense, Pokhara IV is a four-day mountain bike stage race set in the lakeside city of Pokhara. Being less extreme than the Yak Attack event, based in one location and held over a weekend it means that it is much more accessible for riders, families and companions to attend, and it’s an option to race either the full four days or just the weekend.
The race is clover leaf style, taking you on Himalayan foothills and trails rarely ridden, giving you epic views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Having early pullouts on all of the courses, it is a perfect first-time race to test your stage-race abilities, or if you are a seasoned racer then the full stages are a great race in a beautiful place that will kick start your 2020 season off right.
Chris Hodder, a participant in 2019’s Pokhara IV put it like this: "Racing in the Himalayas was a dream come true for me; the views, the group of riders and the whole experience was just epic. From the awesome downhill days through the forests and around the lakes, to the long uphill slogs to get those amazing views across the majestic mountains made it all worthwhile. The course that was set out and the team supporting the race were top class. You really do race against some tough athletes and the Nepalis’ skill and warm welcome make it an unforgettable experience."

Pokhara IV Overview
Fewa Lake Loop, via Santi Stupa: 53km, 1487m ascent
Kristi Hill Loop: 61km, 1840m ascent
Bat Cave Loop: 67km, 1850m ascent
Begnas Lake Loop: 80km, 1600m ascent.
Dates: 24th – 28th January 2020
It’s not just about racing, though: as part of the race’s initiative to give back to local communities, two projects are supported through these races and other tours.
The first is the Yak Attack Foundation which has supported Nepali riders since the first event back in 2006. Over the last few years it has worked alongside local riders and World 24-hour winner Cory Wallace to establish a training centre within Thamel for their use. From this year’s Yak Attack funds, three local riders who participated in the event will receive support over the next 12 months, to help them to continue with their mountain bike racing careers.
The second is Helping Paws, which works with local street dogs and cats to create sustainable solutions. They help to vaccinate, treat and neuter dogs and cats to give them the best possibility of surviving on the streets. They also provide educational resources to encourage a better understanding of animal welfare and the humane treatment of community animals.
Discounted local rates, epic snow-capped mountains, flowing forest single-track and some Nepali ups… If the thought of mountain biking in the Himalayas alongside internationally recognised athletes, whilst supporting local charities excites you, then Nepal and 2020 could be the place and year to make it happen!