The 2011 Tour of Friendship in Thailand kicked off today with hundreds of expats from all over Asia pouring in to take part in this very cool annual fixture that has been happening since 1998. Titaree Tanakorn, the original organizer was inspired to start this event after the 13th Asian Games that were held in Bangkok. She started this tour as a way to support “anti-drugs” in cycling and was formerly called the Tour of Egat but was changed to the Tour of Friendship since it had grown in popularity with the expatriate and local communities alike throughout Asia. This is a great event for building and establishing new friendships. This years’ event has more than 200 competitors across all the age groups including a solid 45 riders in the open category which could be the most competitive field ever.
As the Tour of Friendship is just that, friendship, there is no money on the line like many other races. It is not a professional race and riders come to compete simply for their love of racing and comradeship. It is a great way to connect with many cyclists around the world, enjoy Thai style organization, excellent Thai food and the excellent support from the 120 dedicated crew that are there to help racers have a great time. If you want a holiday with a difference and have the opportunity for some beach-time afterwards then this is an event for you to put on your calendar. Wade Wallace from CyclingTips is here to race in the Epic Riders team and is one of those riders that will enjoy some white sand beach time and snorkeling in crystal clear waters down Phuket way when the racing is over. In fact, after the race, he is meeting his wife down there for a 10 day vacation! Check out Wade’s Tour of Friendship posting here; He has some great images on show that really capture the fun atmosphere of the event.
I was invited to race with the Neil Pryde Epic Riders Team this year and I was given a really nice looking Neil Pryde Diablo bike equipped with Dura-ace components and Mavic wheels. I had flown into Bangkok without a bike, a first time for me showing up at a bike race and was given a spankin’ new bike to ride! That’s pretty cool and thanks to Neil Pryde for giving me the opportunity to race on their bike and be part of the 14-strong A and B teams. I tinkered with my Diablo a bit to try and get it right for the opening 7km iTT including putting my own SMP Composite saddle on and some clip-ons.
It was a hot muggy 35 degree morning and the open group were the first one’s to start the prologue. John Tonks was the very first rider to go and he posted a super quick time of 9min 08 seconds on the fantastic time trial course: wide open roads with a hump to get over on each side to complete 7kms. I did not get much of a warm-up, but I was already sweating profusely by the time I lined up. I posted a time of 9min 30seconds, 22 seconds off the pace and in sixth equal. Not too bad a time for a first ride on the Diablo. Quite a few riders at the Tour will be posting their rides on Strava.com. Here is mine: Strava Prologue.
I have been enjoying awesome Pad Thai dishes and sipping ice-cold Thai ice-teas… its heaven here in Thailand! I will write more about the epic adventures we are having here tomorrow. I also promise to have more photographs to showcase…