What do you think about during the hot tense minutes of a bike race? The course, the competition, the way you feel at that very minute. I guess it's a mixture of all the above and a whole lot more that cannot come to a conscious level at that exact time because of the fervor pitch of concentration and physical pain. It's this that makes masters category racing a fantastic opportunity for a hard working committed family man to recover just a little bit of what it is inside him that makes him who he is. It's the closest we come to our primitive self. You have to be lean, aggressive and smart to succeed. It's a perfect testing ground for ideas and digging hard into feelings like aggression or testing your courage and if things don't work out as planned you get to do it all again in a race a week later.
Almost a no lose proposition. If you can appreciate this you really should consider the 2012 Tour of Friendship. A five days of competitive racing in beautiful Thailand. It's going to cost money and take some planning and of course a hefty gift/bribe for the lady in your life, but it's more than worth it. Give me a few more paragraphs to make the point.
It's hot in Thailand and it rains like nothing you've seen before. You get soaked and sunburnt. Negotiating your Wholefoods digestive system through the local food requires some real planning and if you fly from the States you probably have 3 layovers and at least 24 hours of travel time. What you get in return for this more than makes up for the obvious drawbacks. You make friends, you work together with them day after day and you learn more about yourself than you can expect. You become a better cyclist but that cyclist is more than just some guy on a bike that cyclist is who you are inside. Stronger, more resilient against challenges and armed with more patience and worldly perspective. Five days of pushing the body as far as it will go and that "little more" to assist your team mates, five days to execute and rethink race strategy, five days to connect with your ability. You get off the plane after the race with a phone full of pics, busted legs, dirty bike and clear head.
|Me starting the TT on day one - it was the start of more than a race.|
Barriers to entering the race are low. The organization is welcoming and all they want to see is you sign up pay the entry fee and participate in the spirit of the race. Tour of Friendship is exactly that. No license or pre qualification needed, smash it at the front with the best Asian amateurs or roll in at the back with newbies and has-beens from all over the world, either way you get the same friendly treatment from the race organization.
The roads in Thailand are a mix, sometimes great and sometimes terrible. From fast moving highway where a swarm of race marshals on mopeds control traffic and guide the Peloton through busy towns and the outskirts of Bangkok to smooth Tarmac rolling through national parks with monkeys and elephant the only hazards.
|Over 200 bikes transported on two large trucks, I calculated the value over $1mil US|
The riders and equipment are an eye opener for anyone from the States or Europe. Asian riders are fanatical about equipment and the sky is the limit with these guys. Dogma - Super Record - Bora 2 no big deal. The teams are well organized and make the racing very interesting. Cannasia, Champsys, Neilpryde bikes all ride a mean race but it's completely acceptable to ride solo, ultimately you challenge yourself.
|It's hot but there is always water at hand, these guys are fantastic.|
Thailand is beautiful. The people have something very special about them, they smile and have patience - no wonder Thailand is known as the land of a million smiles. For me the experience was one of a million smile/miles. It's the stuff podgy masters racers like myself dream of.