The 2012 ADC Tour de Vietnam, a 800km stage race, kicks off tomorrow with 21 teams represented to battle it out on parcours that most likely suit sprinters. Vietnam is no stranger to hosting international cycling races, having been organizing them for years and have a flourishing local cycling community (eight local teams are represented), however this is the first time that the Tour de Vietnam is UCI 2.2 sanctioned and is part of the UCI Asia Tour. Cam Whiting from CyclingIQ has put together a comprehensive preview of the race. Some other blog coverage includes one from Jordan Mathes and James Stout, both whom are riding for Team Traveller USA.
It is shaping up to be quite a competitive race with four continental teams and five National teams racing alongside a whole cluster of top regional club teams. I’m here at this race representing CCN Mongolia which is essentially Mongolia’s n0.1 team comprising of the current national Champion, 2010 champ and Junior champion. The CCN Mongolia team recently won the Tour of Poyang Lake in China, both Team GC and individual classification. Headed up by Mongolian cycling legend, Oggi, the team can expect to do reasonably well during this six-day tour. I am excited to finally have the chance to race at the UCI 2.2 level again. Previously, the only UCI ranked races I’ve participated in is the 2006 Tour of Southland and Tour of Wellington in 2007. In addition, the parcours suit the type of rider I am and it will be interesting to see how I can compete with some of Asia’s best sprinters.
Since we live in Hangzhou, China, the logistics of getting to Vietnam was straightforward flying with China Southern Airlines via Guangzhou to Saigon. If you are not on the list of countries that can get a landing visa upon arrival, you need to apply for pre-approval via My Vietnam Visa online which costs $20 USD. Upon arrival you have to wait for about 30 minutes to receive your actual visa that costs an additional $25 USD. The ADC Tour de Vietnam organizers were there to pick us up and transfer us to the Ibis Hotel, which is a nice clean comfortable hotel that costs as low as $38 at Agoda.com. Breakfast was at another location, five minutes by bus, at a nice outdoor seated area and consisted of great Vietnamese style coffee (which I had plenty of) and your usual fried eggs with toast. Plenty of juicy fresh tropical pineapple and dragon fruit along with succulent chicken drum sticks and Vietnamese style fried potatoes.
Here is a nice description from Jennifer (my wife) about our first impressions of Saigon City.
Saigon, otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh is a vibrant city full of color. The concrete jungle is filled with interesting archeticture; the buildings are all different heights and colors, rubbing up against each other like a dazzling array of beads strung together. From the sky it looks like an immense sea of concrete, interspersed with rivers snaking through the city twisting into unusual shapes. As one comes closer for landing, it becomes obvious that the landscape here is perfectly flat, but a 3-dimensional city rises like Lego pieces, very block shaped, but dancing through the air like a musical scale. Up close the buildings run together for a block, each building a different color, different height, and with a different shaped roof. Many people move around on motorbikes, a huge variety of types, and slower moving bicycles glide between with no harm. The woman stay quite covered for the hot, muggy environment, shielding as much of their skin from the sun as possible. The occasional person has the cone shaped hat, acting as an umbrella for both the sun and rain. The hats are much pointier then the ones I see in China, but no doubt also made from bamboo leaves.
After consuming breakfast, I headed out with the Mongolian team to ride for a couple of hours to get acclimated to the 35 degree plus heat and the humidity and to loosen the legs up. The ride ended with having Vietnamese ice-coffee with condensed milk at Highlands Coffee, a famous Vietnamese coffee chain followed by awesome tasting grilled chicken with lemongrass in one of Saigon’s many noodle restaurants. We are finding the food so far to be cheap, healthy and fantastic tasting and as foodies, will be looking forward to the next couple of weeks of tasting a variety of different foods that a fused together from a blend of Thai, Chinese and other South-East Asian flavors.
Another good thing about this tour is that that transfers will be only limited to two hotels with the race courses designed to finish within striking distance of the hotel in Can Tho City. Check out the map of Stage 1 below, which is a 160km jaunt from Saigon to Can Tho City. It appears that the only hills will be in the form of numerous bridge crossings so the deciding factor in this race will be how hard the cross-winds are blowing and facing the heat/humidity over the long stages. We will also have to endure the relentless attacking style of the local Vietnamese riders who surely want to stamp their authority on this race. Stay tuned for my race up-dates and keep scrolling for some iPhone photos (clickable to larger sizes).