Champion Wallace’s record Annapurna triumphIt was a chilly winter night, 10:50 on November 20, when Cory Wallace zoomed through the streets of Besisahar, cycling uphill. Locals probably thought it was just another tourist on their way to the Annapurnas. But Wallace was no ordinary tourist.
It was a chilly winter night, 10:50 on November 20, when Cory Wallace zoomed through the streets of Besisahar, cycling uphill. Locals probably thought it was just another tourist on their way to the Annapurnas. But Wallace was no ordinary tourist.
The 34-year-old Canadian, a three-time winner of the Yak Attack, was on a mission: a solo ride through the Annapurna circuit—a notoriously treacherous 220 km route that takes the rider through some of Nepal’s most difficult mountain trails.
Days after winning the equally arduous 196 km Yak Attack for the third time, Wallace went on solo to complete the Annapurna Circuit in less than 24 hours to raise funds for charity. Remarkably, he did it in 21 hours and 26 minutes, an hour-and-a-half faster than his attempt last year, which he had completed in 23 hours and 57 minutes.
Wallace had set up a campaign on GoFundMe, a global fundraising platform, where he stated that he would complete the Annapurna Circuit in 24 hours and raise money for charity. Wallace had raised $2,500 last year and this year, the amount trebled. The proceeds will now go to the Nepal Cyclist Ride To Rescue, an organisation formed to develop professional cycling in Nepal.
A professional cyclist for the last eight years, Wallace is a two-time winner of the 60 km Canadian Marathon Mountain Bike Championship. He is probably going through the best stage of his cycling career, after triumphing in the previous two editions of the WEMBO Solo 24 Hour World Championship in Italy and Scotland.
A day after beginning the solo attempt, Wallace had reached Myagdi by dawn. “It was really tough. People hardly go for attempts like this,” said Wallace. He had set about to complete the circuit on November 20, accompanied by Nepali cyclists Ajay Pandit Chhetri, Gaurav Man Sherchan, Rajan Bhandari and Okesh Bajracharya, until Manang’s Yak Kharka. Yak Attack runner-up Roan Tamang followed him but the Canadian broke away, racing to the world’s highest altitude pass—Thorang La. A descent from the 5416m Thorang La took him to Muktinath, where his friend Patrick Mince, a photographer, was waiting.
“As I paddled downhill, the rushing wind made me feel like it was going to sweep my bike away,” he recalled. “The wind was so strong that I was being hit by small pebbles but I held firm.
“I had just 25 percent energy left in me when I met my friend Patrick at Muktinath.”
Wallace has been to Nepal a number of times, mostly to bike its trekking routes. He has been on the 180km Manaslu circuit and made journeys to Sagarmatha Base Camp, Langtang and Annapurna Base Camp. “I have travelled on almost every trekking route in Nepal and would love to come again. I want to contribute to Nepali cycling,” said Wallace, whose Annapurna Circuit tour was preceded by a cycling tour from Jomsom to Tilicho and Lamjung.
Wallace recalled how tough it was for him last year and why he sought help this year. “I want to feel secure during my travels. It was really tough for me last year because no one accompanied me. While I paddled up the hills to Thorang La, I suffered from altitude sickness. I had no idea what was going to happen with me. I felt I was lucky to survive,” he said.
“I decided to seek help from my friends this time to avoid being in a similar life-threatening situation. I felt re-energised when I reached Pisang [3100m] because it was almost dawn. But I was physically tired. When I reached Manang, my hands and legs stopped responding. It was cold so I basked in the sun for a while to get back into shape,” Wallace said. “I met Roan in Yak Kharka and getting company was a huge relief for me.”
Completing the Annapurna Circuit in such a short time was tough, even for a veteran cyclist like Wallace. “It began to get dark at Kalopani and I had only 20 percent of battery left on the bike’s lights, with 47 km still to go. But I still managed to gather pace,” he recalled. “By the time I reached Beni, I was out of battery and energy, but I had completed the race. Dull and numb, I gradually began to gain consciousness.”