Laos to Host BikingMan World Championship Race


The world’s top ultracyclers will descend on Laos from 20-24 May, for Round 3 of the 2019 BikingMan World Championship being held on a 780-km paved-and-gravel jungle circuit over the country’s challenging north-eastern mountains.

BikingMan Laos

The BikingMan series follows an unassisted ultracycling format. Riders must find their own food, water, accommodation, and way ahead. No support vehicles follow them. Only two checkpoints log them in, though GPS monitors their progress and roadside marshals standby for rider safety and security.  

Local riders are encouraged to compete. “The BikingMan series is mainly targeted at building awareness in…cycling-enthusiastic regions to boost the local market and attract locals,” said BikingMan Founder Axel Carion. “Hence my goal is to attract local athletes and not just “international people.”

BikingMan Laos Axel Carion

Axel Carion

He added, “A BikingMan race is a total challenge, where all riders, even the experienced, have to go beyond their limits and manage their efforts to reach the finish line.” And the Lao course fits BikingMan’s vision of “Explore, Endure, Empower”.

BikingMan Laos Route

Click image for interactive map

The first leg kicks off at Luang Prabang and heads north along the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. Axel said the rolling hills present a good “warm up” before a few short, steep climbs through Muang Xay. The road then gradually descends south through Oudomxay to the first checkpoint at Pakbeng.

BikingMan Laos Checkpoint 1 @ Sanctuary Pakbeng LodgeBikingMan Laos Checkpoint 1 @ Sanctuary Pakbeng Lodge

Leg 2, heads east across northern Sayabouly’s mountains. The terrain levels off as the circuit cuts north. However, a sharp right turn onto a rough road leads to the monstrous “Kasi Climb” in Vientiane Province. The ascent leaps about .9 km in elevation to 1,238 metres in around 25 km.

This stretch, “was definitely a life-changing experience,” Axel said after a reconnaissance run. “As we were exploring on the bumpy tarmac…we took the gravel experience to the next level and literally explored the jungle.”

BikingMan Laos Kasi ClimbKasi Climb

The final leg to Luang Prabang starts with a sharp descent, before slamming into Route 13’s mountain range with summits reaching 1,400 metres. A steep descent after the final peak ends with a relatively smooth sail to the finish line.   

Meanwhile, bikepackers and motobikers are already hitting sections of the circuit, and Lao tour operators are eying the route’s and country’s potential.

BikingMan LaosThe road can turn rough

“I believe the event will have a broad repercussion on the promotion of Laos tourism and not just on the cycling segment,” said Melissa Woolley, Sales & Marketing Manager for Sanctuary Hotels and Resorts, the official race village and host of Checkpoint 1.

“Laos may be recognized as a land where sporting events can be undertaken and the spot to combine ultimate activities with discoveries and adventures,” she said.

We Are Lao Managing Director John Morris Williams stated, “The impact for Luang Prabang and Lao tourism will be huge. This is a top event for the country’s calendar.”

He added, “This could attract more local and regional cyclers to join this race, and cycling tourists can enjoy following parts of this route as well as other circuits around Laos.” We Are Lao is supporting as the race by providing media coverage.

BikingMan Laos Road at SunsetThe route at sunset

Local riders may stand a better chance that they think, due to their knowledge of the Lao terrain and BikingMan’s unique format that splits from the Tour de France style. An entry fee discount is being considered for local riders.

“The ‘survival format’ we offer is a whole new experience and has rules in which everyone rides solo, with self-navigation, fuelling and repair. It turns out to be a mix of man versus wild,” Axel said.

“The race format can help to bring a lot of attention to athletes who can’t go through the usual UCI (international cycling federation),” he said. “Their level (of participation) is way too high and made for people with lots of sponsorship cash, which is a battle for athletes from developing countries.”

Axel pointed to Rodney Soncco, a pizza maker and ultracycler from Peru. He entered BikingMan’s inaugural race, the IncaDivide, in 2017, and won.

Rodney SonccoRodney Soncco

“I entered to challenge myself on an epic ‘Divide Race’,” Rodney said. “The race was happening in my homeland Peru, and I couldn’t miss it.”

Rodney went on to win the four-round 2018 championship, with races in Oman, Corsica, and Taiwan joining the IncaDivide. He has already entered BikingMan Laos #1, along with Marcus Leach (UK) who finished 5th in the 2018 series and Fabian Burri (Switzerland), who nailed 10th place

Axel said the worldwide exposure Rodney received during the 2018 season is beginning to bring in sponsorship due to the race format. “This would have never happened in a traditional cycling event.”

The 2019 BikingMan World Championship is adding Laos and Portugal to its growing series, and the future appears bright. “I have four to five other locations on the radar, with 2018’s finishers working on different race courses,” said Axel.  

“In the long term, we want races to be run locally by a company,” he said, which is already happening in Laos.

BikingMan Laos falls under the umbrella of locally owned Green Discovery Laos (GDL), the country’s leading eco-adventure company founded by Inthy Deuansavanh nearly 20 years ago.

Inthy Deuansavanh Inthy Deuansavanh

Inthy is no stranger to organizing and entering extreme events, having competed in ironman competitions and ran up front at the 1,659-km South 2 North Charity Marathon held in in Laos during October 2018.

Inthy will likely show up at the starting line at the first BikingMan Laos, as may Axel, who entered the Guinness World Record Book with Andreas Fabricius for “The Fastest time to cycle the length of South America (Cartagena to Ushuaia) by a team of two in 49 days, 23 hours and 43 minutes.”    

The record was attempted to support NPO Bomberos Sin Fronteras to raise funds for local fire fighting equipment.

“The experience acquired during nearly 50 non-stop cycling days in rough conditions, and that of the logistics team (social media promotion, public relations and safety) allowed us to establish a solid framework and rules for the BikingMan race series,” Axel concluded.

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For more information on BikingMan Laos #1, click here.

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Photographs: BikingMan and Green Discovery Laos 


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