Vlad's Rig
why Ascend Armenia?
June 19, 2023
by Malik Alymkulov
Vlad Podofedov, the first Kyrgyz participant in the inaugural Ascend Armenia bikepacking race, starting June 25, 2023.
Last year Vlad made his first debut in the Silk Road Mountain Race an ultra-long distance bikepacking race in his home country of Kyrgyzstan. As a result, he finished eighth in the final overall standings and second among Kyrgyz participants.
Vlad has a lot of cycling experience in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He has been cycling since he was 14 years old.

I asked Vlad to talk about his new bike and the equipment he took with him to the race in Armenia, also about his motivation and "why Armenia?

I have a new bike this season. It is Vitus Rapide 29 CRS Mountain Bike. I didn't change anything but the handlebar. You can see the specs of the bike here.
I replaced the handlebar. I put the Chinese replica on the Jones Bar, the same one I had on the SRMR last year. One main front top tube bag and a framebag bag are custom made by Lesha (Alexei Matafonov).
This time I'm going with an Outdoor Research bivy bag, Dima Makarov advised me, I've already spent several nights, it's a good 300 grams bag. It has a mesh and an arch over head. The sleeping bag is +5 of comfort, like last year. I also upgraded the mat, now it's a small size Thermarest at 120cm, and weighing 200+ grams. I like it very much, good mat. I got a navigator, it's a Garmin 830, a good thing. I can go racing in Kyrgyzstan without it this year as I'm racing SRMR this year again, but I guess I won't go to Armenia without it. It's a good and handy thing. I didn't take anything for cooking, like I did last year on SRMR.

Clothing: a windbreaker, jacket, shoe covers, warm gloves just in case, a buff, and warm knee pads. I didn't bring long pants, no storm pants, no pants, I'll just ride in shorts, I won't get cold hopefully. I got paraffin lube and some tire sealant. I'm riding tubeless now, this season. The rest of the repair kit is extremely poor, everything for the tires is there; a multi-tool, a chain lock and that's it. Before the race, I might lighten up even more, leave the sleeping bag or leave the down jacket, because the temperature at night here does not drop much, I think I can survive only in a sleeping bag, or take only a down jacket.
Regarding my participation. I am not a racer by any means. Not an athlete, I'm still not a sportsman. This year, of course, I practiced a little more. I want to show better results than I have. Top 10 at Silk Road, and I still think that's a random result. But I, nevertheless, want to improve these results, if I'm going to race. I chose Armenia simply because it's convenient. We have a visa-free regime with them. The country is interesting to me culturally and geographically. It is different from Kyrgyzstan, I am now convinced of that, it is really interesting. If there was no option with Armenia, I would fly to Greece to the race, which is organized by Nelson or to Morocco, but fortunately there is Armenia. Because, frankly speaking, I don`t want to run to get those visas, to kick the doorsteps of the embassies. Even here, to fly to Armenia, I was nervous enough to think about the upcoming flight through Abu Dhabi. At the same time, I am interested in the tourist component of my travel, I came to Armenia not for the race, I am going to explore this country. And participation in the race is a supplement. That's why I arrived much earlier before the start. It starts on June 25, and I arrived here on June 12. And immediately went to the south of the country. In the region of Syunik, which is not included in the race, probably for security reasons because of the proximity to the Karabakh border. I can even see Azerbaijan on the horizon, helicopters are flying and columns of military vehicles are moving around. Nevertheless, there are a lot of interesting things here. This is the highest region in Armenia that I wanted to see. Then I will have a little rest in Yerevan in order to approach the race rested after the trip. At the same time I will see Yerevan and its surroundings in an easy mode and without straining. This year I will participate in the Silk Road Mountain Race again. Any race is the best training. Armenia will show how much I've progressed in my ability to ride faster and longer. And the Silk Road this year is also a kind of test, after which I'm going to think about whether I'll be able to get to the level of those who win these races or whether I understand if this is what I want to continue doing. And if I had a choice to go to SRMR or Ascend Armenia, I would prefer Armenia, because these are new impressions. New places are more expensive for me than sports. Silk Road is winning in these two aspects so far. Because not many people will come to Armenia, as far as I understand, within a few dozens of people. Silk Road has more in distance, more elevation gain, more complicated roads, higher passes, more complicated conditions, well, it's my homeland after all, I've seen everything, so in the future I'm going to go to new races, not to return to the same race, not to chase some place in qualification, but to look at the world in this specific way of cycling, and, maybe, to achieve some sport results in passing.
Malik Alymkulov
Vlad Podofedov
bikepacking kyrgyzstan
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