Spain is easily overlooked when looking for a great location for mountain biking.  It’s unfair image of a barren parched place for sunburnt Brits to sit and get pissed all day in bars, hides the fact that Spain is a superb place for mountain biking.

It’s a little known fact that Spain is the 2nd most mountain country in Europe, second only to Switzerland and well ahead of places like Austria, France and Italy!  It is also a very big and empty country – over twice the size of the UK with a population density one third of that in the UK.

I didn't fancy a lone night ride on the local trails so last Thursday I headed over to Notts to do the regular night ride for the first time in ages. As I had finally got my Ibis back from 2Pure (long story that I won't include here) and had fitted a new MRP 2x chain device to it so I was also riding full suspension for the first time in ages too.

I applied to ride for GB in the Tour of the Himalayas last January with no idea what was involved and got declined. Then Matt Page emailed me at the start of August informing me they were a rider down and did I want to take part and join himself (national and euro 24hour champ), Rikkie Cotter (national 24 hour female champ), Mark Spratt (national vet 24hr champ) and Elite woman Mel Alexander (currently 2nd in the NPS). Yes!

Then I found out where the race was. Pakistan. Fly out to Islamabad on 9/11, tenth anniversary, travel up the Karakoram Highway, through Abbotabad (where Osama got caught) and race in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. I must admit Islamabad wasn't on my hitlist of city breaks, and I was slightly concerned about the Taliban. The foreign office website read: "We advise against all travel to specific regions of Pakistan and against all but essential travel to other specific regions of Pakistan." More specifically it advised against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa travel, stating increased risk of militant activity, kidnap, robbery and murder. It advised against travelling on the Karakoram highway. Finally, it advised against all travel to Abbotabad following Osama’s capture.

I was having doubts about the trip, but the organiser of the race emailed me stating it would be alright...