This has to rank no.1 for me as it was a fulfillment of a lifetime dream to visit Iran. I had made friends with the Tabriz-Petrochemical Cycling Team at the Qinghai Lake Tour the previous year and they invited me to go to Iran to cover some of their big races in Azarbaijan and Tehran. Even though, I was in the middle of preparing for the World Deaf Cycling Championships in June, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Iran. It was a brilliant experience and I also got to visit a long-time family friend in Shiraz in-between the cycling Tours. It was an action-packed three-weeks there, covering the two international road cycling races as well as getting to explore the beautiful country on my own two-wheels.
What was so good about Iran? I know most people have certain images of Iran, mostly from what the media tells us. You might think Iran is a dangerous place to visit etc, but I discovered a country full of hospitable friendly people, some awe-inspiring scenery, and some awesome Persian food. The Azarbaijan Province was a particularly stunning area of Iran with its majestic snow capped mountains, ancient cities and wide-open sweeping plains. The place is on my list to visit again and spend more time exploring by bicycle. In fact, in 2012, I am hoping to go again. Check out my Velonews articles: Racing in Iran and the President’s Tour of Iran. Also take a look on my own website – Iran Azarbaijan Tour and Iran Azarbaijan 26th International Tour.
Mongolia is the largest country in the world with the lowest population density and most of its inhabitants are still living the Nomadic lifestyles reminiscent from hundreds of years ago; virtually unchanged and extremely remote areas. I went to Mongolia to participate in the Mongolia Bike Challenge as both a journalist and racer. It was one of the most grueling and toughest experiences I have ever underwent in my life, but it was also very rewarding. The scenery in Mongolia is unreal and it is a perfect place to do a long-distance cycle touring trip. If you are up to the challenge, you can enter the 2012 Mongolia Bike Challenge – its a fully supported race and they provide great food in the camp but you have to contend with icy-cold showers every day. I wrote prolifically about this epic race and some of my work can be read on Matador Network, CyclingTipsBlog, China Travel, WhatsupUsana, as well as my daily reports on my website.
No.3 CANADA & USA
This year was a World Cycling Championships year for hearing impaired cyclists and I was proud to represent New Zealand at the Championships held in Quebec, Canada. I had the most thrilling race of my life in the 1,000m match sprints to take Bronze medal for my country and I had the great support of my wife, Jennifer and also my major sponsors Hansaton Hearing Systems. Without their support, I would not have been able to represent New Zealand in Canada. After a great week long of racing in Canada, we flew down to Austin, Texas where we spent three weeks vacation. As I had the Mongolia Bike Challenge coming up, I was out clocking up some big miles on the lonely Texan roads. As always, the Driveway Racing run by Andrew Willis held exciting times to race with some of the best criterium riders in the USA. On the way back to China, I stopped off in California to visit WTB – Wilderness Trail Bikes – in Mill Valley as I was going to be doing some PR work for them in Asia-Pacific. I got a couple of good mountain bike rides in the area where mountain biking was first invented. To end my US trip, I took part in two awesome criterium events, the San Rafael Twilighter and the Lodi Cycle Fest.
Thailand is always a favorite place of mine to visit. I love the food, scenery and the people there. The food is just simply the best. Even here in Hangzhou we frequently visit Thai restaurants or make Thai food ourselves. This year I was privileged to have represented the Neil Pryde Epic Riders Cycling team at the Tour of Friendship, a five day stage race in and around the Bangkok area. It was here that I also met Wade Wallace from Cyclingtipsblog for the first time and also raced together with him on the same team. While in Thailand I could not get enough Phad Thai and drank endless amounts of Thai ice-tea. They were my staple food and drink! I can’t wait to get back to Thailand again for more riding and island beach time.
I have been to the Philippines twice this year and each time it has been an amazing experience. The Philippines have an amazing cycling community and I find them to be a very friendly and positive bunch of people. I raced earlier in the year at the Tour de Larrazabal which I would have won if did not have mechanical problems during stage three. The second time there was at the invitation of the Mossimo Cycling Team to race at the Tour of Matabungkay. We stayed on the Matabungkay Beach Resort in the South of Luzon Island for four days and had an action packed three days of racing followed by endless Mango shakes and great food served up at the resort. I will always look forward to returning to the Philippines for some more great adventures.
There were other places that I visited that also deserve mentioning, but did not rank in my top five for 2011, and they include Taiwan, Bintan Island (Indonesia), Hong Kong and Interbike, USA (riding in Red Rock Canyon). Taiwan is always a favorite place of mine to visit as it offers world-class cycling and awesome food (both night market and breakfast food). Its a place we would definitely like to move back to and live if we had the opportunity in the future. Hong Kong is also a cool place to cycle with its numerous mountain climbs and large cycling community. Bintan Island was a place we visited during the Chinese Spring Festival and enjoyed four luxurious days on the Nirwana Gardens Resort. Bintan also happens to be host to a fantastic 2-day cycling event which I missed out on this year but was part of in 2010. Finally, the Interbike experience in Las Vegas was an awesome experience and the highlight of that event was seeing the Crossvegas race, meeting the Strava team, meeting the WTB team and riding in the Red Rock canyon with Dave Christiansen.
What does 2012 hold in store for me? I think its going to be a bigger year than 2011 and we are kicking it off with a trip to New Zealand for three weeks and a trip to Australia on the way back for a week. I also have a new cycling team that I will be racing for in 2012 and this will be great especially since I raced unattached for most of 2011. I will announce my new team sometime in early 2012 once I have everything organized. 2012 also promises to be a big year for my business and university studies. I have a few projects that I have been working on and will be unveiled in 2012, so stay tuned to my Bikedan in Asia website.
Thank you for reading my blog during 2011 and I will continue to bring my stories in 2012. If you like my content, please consider listing me on your blog-roll or linking to me within your own articles. All the best to all of you and here’s to a prosperous 2012.