Wheeeeew! So, a week later and the drama has increased! The Silk Road Mountain Race (SMRM1) is still ongoing, but now we’ve seen some finishers. SRMR1 is quickly gaining the reputation of being an incredible challenge, even for the professional bikepacking racers: the cyclists are all raving about how the route is both one of the most stunningly beautiful and treacherous they have ever ridden.

As a dot watcher though, it has been a roller coaster. There are currently only 36 riders left out of the 97 who entered the race! That means that 61 have scratched!

I must say, my enthusiasm has not diminished. My official Silk Road Mountain Race cap has arrived in the mail, and I wear it like a uniform as I hunker down to watch my dots. Now, more than ever, I am engaged with all of them; I’ve have had more direct contact, and have become either Facebook friends or Instagram connected with them. My dots are humans who have endured highs and lows in this race … and we are sharing it together!

In my last column, I only had two riders left to watch. The dot officials at SRMR1 felt a bit sad for me and my dots, and so they gave me three more. I was thrilled of course and went through my pattern of reaching out to introduce myself personally. One of my riders is a real character and has been interviewed on the podcast as well, telling stories of hallucinations on the road. Another dot tells me that the elevation was too much: he lost some gear and just decided to give in to the mountain and say goodbye. A few have made it back to Bishkek and left Kyrgyzstan already. But most who have scratched are lingering there, having fixed their mechanical issues or recovered from illness, so they can celebrate at the end with their fellow adventurers. I have two so-called active scratches still to watch, which means they want to finish but are not officially in the race.

Three more dots

Right before the weekend, I was given three more dots to watch, because their own watcher would not have the Internet for a few days. Guess what? These riders were SERIOUS contenders! Dot watching took on a whole new splendour… instead of worrying, I become awe-struck—who are these new people? Now I feel completely bi-polar in my dot watching! I went from worrying myself sick to now being completely mesmerised and in awe of their speed.

Photo Courtesy: @tomhardies

I must admit, I didn’t really pay attention to the other dots who were blazing ahead. To me, those dots were out of my dot watching league. But all of a sudden I had 3 dots who were racing along at all times of day and night to end in the top 10! So it was a rush for me to finally mark some Trello cards as finished.

But at the same time, I am unofficially watching my boyfriend Jon, who is currently the lanterne rouge of the group. He is struggling to make the checkpoint cut-offs, and we have only spoken twice because he has had no reception. So I am constantly, anxiously, watching his dot. Who knows if he will make it? but damn he is trying to get to Checkpoint 3 today!

Jon Woodroof, carrier of the lanterne rouge – Photo Courtesy: @tomhardies

As I write this, I’ve had 3 dots finish, and have 1 active dot still riding. I am so excited to see all of the photos on social media, to witness and read about their victories and defeats. I don’t know these little dots in real life, but I am amazed at every single one of their efforts and have a connection to them all.

The last (hard) part..

My current situation in summary: I had 15 dots, 3 finishes, 1 still active, 11 scratches! I fully expect my last dot to finish the race as he is killing it out there. And, my love, the lanterne rouge, is still pedalling along at the back of the race as I write this…

Photo Courtesy: @tomhardies

I think instead of a race number I will paint a big dot on the inside of my official SRMR cap. I’ve brought so many friends and family with me on this dot watching escapade and I cannot wait to see all of the wonderful, scary, excruciating, amazing stories that will come out of this race for a long time.

The official cut-off time is 00:00 this coming Saturday, the 1st of September. If you want to see the list of finishers, check out the SRMR website site.


~ Kristy Gabriel (@kristyspark)