The Seven Most Extreme Mountain Bike Races in the World

By Todd Neikirk
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The Seven Most Extreme Mountain Bike Races in the World

Todd Neikirk
 
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
 
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Mountain biking is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. A select few of those who partake in it are always looking for the next challenge – and that means taking part in races. Depending on which one you sign up for, the difficulty level can differ drastically, and the following are among the toughest.

Crocodile Trophy – North Queensland, Australia

Each year, the Crocodile Trophy mountain bike race is held in North Queensland, Australia. The grueling race takes place over the course of eight days in the Australian Outback, with participants riding 404 miles of terrain at an elevation of 13,000 meters.

While efforts have been made to make the race more accessible, it’s still considered one of the most difficult in the world. Also, as the name suggests, racers may encounter crocodiles along the trail.

Tour d’Afrique – Africa

Cyclists biking along a sidewalk
Riders in the Tour d’Afrique travel more than 7,000 miles and take in a number of sights across Africa. (Photo Credit: warrenski / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Tour d’Afrique is not only grueling, it’s also incredibly long and time-consuming. Those who wish to finish the race need to block off four months to complete its 90 stages, which take them across Africa; the total distance is a staggering 7,450 miles.

Over the course of the ride, racers pass by such sites as Victoria Falls, the Egyptian pyramids and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Silk Road Mountain Race – Kyrgyzstan

Two cyclists biking through a grass-covered trail
The Silk Road Mountain Race features brutal terrain and dangerous descents. (Photo Credit: Yang Yanmin / China News Service / Getty Images)

The Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan has the stats to back up just how difficult it is. In 2021, only 55 percent of those who began the race actually finished it. Believe it or not, that was the highest percentage of participants to ever finish.

The race isn’t overly long, running for 1,100 miles. The issue is the brutal terrain. The course features massive climbs and equally dangerous descents. Cyclists have to deal with the elements, which can also be difficult to handle.

Tour Divide – Canada and the United States

Two cyclists looking out over a body of water
The Tour Divide begins in Banff, Alberta, Canada and ends in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, USA. (Photo Credit: DEA / F. BARBAGALLO / De Agostini / Getty Images)

Riders who participate in the Tour Divide are doing so just for the love of the sport. The race provides participants with no medals, and there’s no entry fee. However, those who are able to compete find their names entered into a record book.

The race itself is grueling and long. Cyclists begin their journey in Banff, Alberta, Canada and finish in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, along the way tackling over 200,000 feet of mountainous terrain.

La Ruta de los Conquistadores – Costa Rica

Cyclists riding along a dirt trail
La Ruta de Conquistadores is a challenging Costa Rican mountain bike race, which began in 1992. (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which held its first race in 1992, has long been considered one of the toughest in the world. Taking place over three days and three stages, amateurs are more than welcome to sign up for the 250-mile trek, but should be aware of its extreme terrain and changing climates.

All cyclists must finish each stage within a specific time frame. If the don’t, they can ride the next day, but their scores won’t count.

Transpyr Race – Spain

Darkened trail in the forest
The Transpyr Race sends cyclists through the Pyrenees mountain range. (Photo Credit: Quick Image / Construction Photography / Avalon / Getty Images)

During the Transpyr Race, cyclists ride nearly all the way across Spain. The trek begins at the Mediterranean Sea and runs across the Pyrenees. The view during the ride is spectacular, which is good, as participants spend much of their time exhausted and in pain. The 509-mile race includes 66,000 feet of elevation.

Yak Attack – Nepal

Cyclist riding along a mountainous trail
Riders in the Yak Attack race in Nepal need to be prepared for significant altitudes. (Photo Credit: Donald Miralle / Getty Images for LUMIX)

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The Yak Attack is a race that’s not only grueling, but fun, as well. Along with encountering one of the animals the event is named after, the extreme elevation of the trail means cyclists need to be weary of becoming lightheaded. This is why participant from Nepal, who are used to the environment, have the advantage.

In fact, the Yak Attack has never been won by a foreign rider.

 
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