The Tour of Friendship spanned five epic days of racing -hard but alot of fun for many riders that came to compete. Wade Wallace, who runs the popular Cycling Tips Blog, sung alot of praise for the event and can’t wait for the 2012 edition! The week was an amazing one before I go through the highlights of the week, I’d like to thank a couple of key people.
Neilpryde Bikes for inviting me to be part of their team at the Tour of Friendship and supplying me with a cool looking Diablo equipped with Dura-ace for the week. It was my first time flying to a bike event without bike bag in tow and get given one to use. It rode well and I don’t have any complaints about how the Diablo rides. It was also fantastic meeting and riding with all the Epic Riders that made up the team.
Rapha for supplying us all with the Pro-Team jersey’s and Pro-Team bib shorts. I found the clothing performed well under the extreme heat and I was pleased to note, unlike last year, I did not suffer saddle sores with well over 600km of fast riding!
Highlights of the Friendship Tour
- The massive rainstorm on Day 2, for some bizarre reason I loved the lashing rain and the lightning that was striking all around. I was in a break of seven riders and going 50km/h, dodging deep puddles and jumping with each thunder rumble that was right above us. It was not so good when I had a puncture and forced to wait for the support vehicles that never came! The race behind us had gone on a different road. After examining the Strava files, I saw that I was only a couple of Km from the intersection that the rest of the race came over..
- Finishing 2nd on a uphill sprint finish that does not suit me. It must have been 15% for 500m and the last 100m was straight from hell. It felt brutal but you had to keep on the pressure.
- Stage Four’s Epic 150km route. Started outside the hotel in Kabinburi and was flat/rolling for the first 50km before the first 7km climb. Once over this climb, you had to contend with a series of steep rollers to reach the flat twisting narrow road past the lake and through several villages. I unfortunately dropped off the pace during the first climb so the 30s lead group caught my small group. We rode behind this group till it disintegrated with the strong guys establishing a breakaway that went out of sight. I found my legs about 15kms from the Khao Yai Park entrance and started driving the pace to limit my own time losses. The final 13km climb through the jungle was at an average gradient of 8-10% and flattening out going over the top. There were feeding monkeys on the road-side but no elephants to be seen!
- Stage Five’s Speed-race - right from the beginning of the 93km stage, it was all about speed. The peloton’s speed was largely controlled by the Cannasia-Cannondale team and this discouraged attacks in the first half. However, a flurry of attacks went in the second half all of which did not stick. I launched a counter-attack after the break I was in sat up and the peloton was bearing down on us. This gave me a massive gap – I was surprised at this and kept it going tempo the whole time. A couple of riders, including Lewis Fellas, bridged across to me but this was short lasting. After I was cuaght, another breakaway of five riders escaped and this was when the peloton was on the “rails” doing 55-60km/h single file in their attempt to reel back the threatening breakaway. The stage distance was originally supposed to be 80km, so riders were gearing up for the sprint but then we saw the 10km sign and this gave the breakaway of nine that was just dangling in front a lucky break to establish an unbeatable gap as the peloton slumped their shoulders! It was another up-hill finish and did not suit me at all… but I was rewarded with a nice cool dip in Bangkok’s drinking water at the top!
- Neilpryde Bikes Team taking the overall classification! Sean Smith wore yellow from Day 2 and never relinquished it. After the final stage, it was an accomplishment of a mission for the whole team – which each team member played their hand in helping keep Yellow! Sean Smith definitely looks like he is in fine form and look for him to kick some butt at some big races in the US later this year.
- Staying in a really nice hotel in Kabinburi and receiving awesome Thai Massages and plenty of pool-side
- Thai street style food awaiting you at the end of every stage. Great for recovery food although I would also have my USANA Chocolate Nutrimeal shake. Without which I would not recover as quick between stages
- The seriousness of many riders at the Tour, many treating it as their Asian “Expat” World Championships. If it was not so serious, then the aggressive nature of relentless attacking would not be as prevalent! It is an event many riders train to do well in.
- Ice-cream served after stage one – that was great!
- The endless supply of ICE-COLD water from the motorbike water guys. It felt fabulous to have a bottle of the ice-cold water to pour on your head and legs. It kept you from overheating and gave you that extra little bit of energy. All you needed to do is raise your arm and they are right there for you.
- Despite the organization being chaotic at times, the start times were more or less right on the dot and the air-conditioned bus transfers back to the hotel were comfortable.
- Food at the Kabinburi Hotel was fantastic, plenty of Thai delights and tons of fruit to gorge on!
- Watching the “HIGHLIGHTS” of every stage on big screen in the dining hall was a favorite among all the riders. Made us look like Tour de France heroes!
Some more photos to enjoy: