Though we believed the exceptional weather and great atmosphere amongst the participants of last year's Mongolia Bike Challenge would be just about impossible to match ever again, it has to be said that the 2015 MBC not only matched it but in fact exceeded the 2014 edition.
Brilliant blue skies filled with those classic postcard-perfect clouds left the riders with great suntans and big smiles, whilst a convivial atmosphere during and post-race saw many new friendships forged and once in a lifetime memories planted, here in the land of Genghis Kahn.
"I wouldn't give up a single kilometer of this beautiful race" said Luc Van Aelbroeck of Belgium. "It is an experience I'll never forget. The organisation has also been first-class" he said.
Not only was this the warmest MBC to date but it was also the fastest, with the GC winner Nicholas Pettina of the Italian national squad commenting on this after the final seventh stage, the day he won his fifth stage in total.
"Yes, this year was faster than last year" said Pettina. "The Mongolian riders really forced the pace early on in each stage".
The local riders showed up in depth, with several having come straight from racing in UCI road races at altitude in China.
What some lacked in technical skills they more than made up for in fighting spirit, with Bolor Endene Enthaivan in particular impressing. At just 21, This was Enthaivan's first ever MTB race of any kind, so to take a stage showed immense promise.
Another rider who shone was Ryan Sherlock, the current Irish National MTB XC champion. Coming home in 2nd, Ryan put in a great ride to secure that Team 3 award for his Selle SMP Team.
"It's a great race, nowhere near as scary or hard as I thought it would be" said Ryan. "When you're racing along at 29km/hr for the average, as we did on this last stage, you soon cover the distance. Really enjoyable race and an unforgettable experience".
Others expressed similar sentiments, commenting on the great food, weather, accommodation and in particular the scenery.
"This is like no other place I've ever been" one of the rider's companions said after the closing ceremony at the 13th Century Ger Camp, a traditional Mongolian camp set amongst startling rocky outcrops and endless green hills.
"I've never experienced a place so vast, so open. You feel anything in possible out here"
Even an epic MTB race!
The top three riders in the race were:
1. Nicholas Pettina (Italy)
2. Ryan Sherlock (Ireland)
3. Miguel Silvestre Iniesta (Spain)
Whilst we say chapeau wholeheartedly to these great riders, it is true that every single finisher deserves a winner's jersey, for each fought and was determined to finish their very own amazing journey.
Each day the riders who had finished the Stage already would drop whatever they were doing to come cheer in the final rider.
"It's the only race I've been to where the results don't really matter. After the race, you can see the first placed rider and last placed person sit and talk about their experience. This is special".
This, indeed, is the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
To all who finished the 2015 MBC, we salute you!