Vietnam Travel Destinations: Sapa

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Experienced cyclists are invited to register for one of the world’s most challenging bike marathons.

It takes place on November 4-6, 2016 in the northern city of Sapa in Lào Cai Province. The marathon is a rigorous 95-mile adventure, 230 miles northwest of Hanoi in the unspoiled highlands of Vietnam. Known as The Town in the Clouds and Heaven’s Gate, Sapa has an elevation 4,920 feet nestled into the 10,300 ft. Fansipan summit, the highest elevation in Indochina.

The marathon spans three days with support from the VMBM Team, who will provide you with all the information you need to plan and attend this exciting event.  Riders navigate their way through the misty areas of Sapa, meeting with the locals in each remarkable stop and enjoying a fun evening with your team at the end of each day’s ride.

The marathon is a life-changing event for cyclists who tackle it.

The northern route of Sapa is home to the Flower Hmong people, the southern route is home to the Tay and Red Dao cultures, and Dien Bien Phu, the middle area is home to the Black Hmong and scattered populations of other unique and remote tribes. Villagers and local children are fascinated every year upon seeing the dedicated riders, their high tech bikes, fitness gear, shoes and custom clothing.  Most village adults are camera-shy, so be courteous and ask before snapping photos.

Day 1


The race begins in the remote area of the Muong Hum Valley with a

neutral downhill section, where the flag will drop after 6 miles of climbing.  As you ascend to the crest of the climb, an incredible view waits for you – soaring mountain peaks over miles of terraced varied shades of green rice fields. The descending ride down is mixed with single and double tracks leading into Muong Hum village. Here, you will cross a river marking the second half of today’s adventure.

The next challenge of Day 1 takes you on narrow village pathways, which you will share with locals and groups of children herding water buffalo and their daily food supply. This section of the ride has spectacular scenic views, and gives a glimpse of how these mountain communities quietly thrive. You will then begin the wild downhill trek, ending at a thundering whitewater river crossing. From here you head into a pristine stretch of riding cut into the steep valley of the mountain. This is an extremely special trail in the north with once in a lifetime views. Expect to hit some swooping downhills before cutting sharply back onto tarmac for a rapid descent to the river bank finish line. Day 1 ends at a village set on a local sports field by the river. Enjoy food, drinks and an awards presentation while your bike is washed and made ready for the next day’s racing.

Day 2 – The Killer


You will roll from Topas Ecolodge, 11 miles from Sapa town to see the most remote people in this region. After a warm up of steady climbing on tarmac, the riding hits gravel before turning into a fast rocky downhill double track. This brings you to Red Dao village where you will encounter narrow trails through the villages and heart-pounding plunges for several miles down to the valley floor. After a river crossing, you will have a 9-mile climb exiting the valley. From here the going is smoother, with around 20 miles of downhill single track to the finish line at Thanh Phu village. This is where most organizers and staffers for the marathon live, and you will be rewarded with a party of food, drinks and fun for the Day 2 awards ceremony.

Day 3 – The Adventure Sprint


After a neutral start from Sapa town, the flag will drop for a blended flowing road and technical single track. You will pass through a small village that feels a world away from Sapa then cross a bridge and ride along the bank of a river on the lip of a rice paddy. Your final climbing challenge is a steady 4.5-mile rise which brings you to one last amazing view with the town of Sapa below. This is a unique photo op.

You then take on one last stretch of the smooth single track, parts of which have been specially prepared for this stage. The race culminates in a heart-pumping last dash to the finish line in downtown Sapa stadium – the ideal tension building arena if the race comes down to a close finish.

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