The toughest mountain bike events in the world

Saddle sore:
These are the toughest mountain bike events in the world

Photo: Regina Stanger/Crocodile Trophy

If you want to take part in any of these races, you’ll need to start a serious training programme right away

The world’s toughest mountain bike events take competitors across hundreds of miles, traversing dust-covered plains, up thousand metre-high mountains, through dense jungle, over snow and into water. They should never be underestimated, with even the most hardened professionals finding themselves pushed to their limits when taking part.

Here are 5 of the most extreme mountain bike races the world has to offer.

  1. Crocodile Trophy, Australia
  2. Yak Attack, Himalayas
  3. Iron Bike, Italy
  4. Tour d‘Afrique, Africa
  5. La Ruta de los Conquistadores, Costa Rica
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Crocodile Trophy, Australia

© Youtube // Regina Stanger

Named after the ‘Don’t swim – crocodiles’ sign that race organiser Gerhard Schönbacher spotted whilst plotting the route, this is an event with bite. Taking place over eight days, its 404 miles take riders through the heat and off-road terrain of the Australian Outback in North Queensland. Starting in the coastal city of Cairns and ending in the seaside town of Port Douglas, in between the Crocodile Trophy’s gruelling conditions and combined 13,000 metres of elevation have cemented its reputation as one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world. And that’s before any unexpected encounters with a razor-toothed reptile.

Next race: 16th to 23rd September, 2017.

Yak Attack, Himalayas

© Youtube // TheYakAttack.Com

Another race that takes its name from the type of animal you are likely to come across en route, the Yak Attack is the highest mountain bike race in the world. Its ten stages cover around 310 miles, during which you will encounter temperatures that vary wildly between +30 and -20 degrees Celsius, and climb to a head-spinning height of 5,416 metres above sea level. With a combined elevation of 15,000 metres, it’s little surprise that no foreigner has ever won this race. Unless you train like a superhuman at altitude on a regular basis, the conditions are just too hard to make it over the line in first place.

Next race: 2017 TB.

Iron Bike, Italy

© Youtube // rob meeuwessen

Despite being set in the glorious surroundings of the Italian Alps, Iron Bike is about so much more than just taking in the stunning views. Over seven stages and eight days, riders must negotiate 435 miles and an overall climb of 22,000 metres whilst spending up to half a day on their bike. With 50 per cent of competitors dropping out before the finish, this is obviously not a challenge that novices should even consider taking on. With the remaining 50 per cent that do finish rendered unable to walk for days afterwards, at least there’s plenty of time to bathe in the glory of having conquered one of mountain biking’s – and cycling’s – sternest events.

Next race: 22nd to 29th July, 2017.

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Tour d’Afrique, Africa

© Youtube // Cinelli Official

There’s not many races that take you across an entire continent, and for good reason: it’s a bloody long way! But who could resist the chance to cycle along the Nile past ancient temples, journey alongside the legendary Mount Kilimanjaro to Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls, and ride along the edges of the magnificent Kalahari and Namib deserts? If that sounds like an adventure worth having, the Tour d’Afrique offers it all and more during its 90 stages, which stretch a whopping 7,450 miles north to south between Egypt and South Africa. Of course, to travel such an epic distance you’re going to need to book plenty of holiday – four months to be precise. 

Next race: 13 January to 13 May 2017.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores, Costa Rica

© Youtube // Pablo Ramirez

If you think the Tour d’Afrique sounds tough, at least it gives you months to traverse an entire continent. Ruta de los Conquistadores doesn’t offer such luxury, giving its competitors just three days to cross Central America from Pacific to Atlantic coasts. Never mind mountain biking – this is one of the most difficult events of any kind an athlete can enter. Set in Costa Rica, the 161-mile route crosses five mountain ranges that force you to climb a cumulative 29,000 feet, experiencing the humidity of the rainforest and the freezing volcano peaks of one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The route changes annually, and with the race celebrating its 25th birthday in 2017, you can expect something extra-special.

Next race: 2nd to 4th November 2017.

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11 2016 The Red Bulletin

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