Here’s your chance to feel like a professional cyclist.
There’s few chances in life where you can actually put your feet into the shoes of another profession, discipline or role and really live it as an expert in that field does. Unless you’re an Actor perhaps.
Welcome to the Tour of Friendship cycling race in Thailand.
In 2011 I was lucky enough to join the Confero Mavericks cycling team (formerly know as ANZA Mavericks) and compete in the Tour of Friendship five-day cycling race. It’s on again this year, starting on 28th April.
I say “feel like a professional cyclist” because this event gives you an incredibly close experience to being a Pro. Not that I’m a Pro, but I can almost bet, you’ll be riding with Pros in the race.
From being met on arrival at Bangkok airport by a race official who whisks you away to your transport and hotel (and collects and manages your bike baggage for you), to screaming spectators along the road, to police-escorted bus trips, you’ll be living that computer-screen induced dream of peloton exhilaration.
It’s not easy though. Like a Pro, you’ll suffer, you’ll see crashes, submit to white-line fever, struggle to stuff down enough gels and then finish the race thinking that was the best thing you’ve ever done.
Did I mention the daily massages? Your legs will never feel better, recover better or serve you better through a race. But that’s part of being Pro isn’t it? What about the team dynamics? This is a hard-fought race. There’s drama, disputes, protests and jostling for position and that’s just to look at the results as they’re pasted up on the board.
If you’re a fit, well-trained cycling executive, this is the experience for you. This is revered as Asia’s best amateur cycling race. Around 300 competitors enter across Open and Age categories, men and women. It attracts not only local Pro riders but some of the cream of the crop expat business executives who are some of the most driven and dedicated cyclists I think I’ve seen. Keen to build some new relationships? Well that’s what the Tour of Friendship R1 is all about. Linking in with like-minded people, building ties with another culture, another country, connecting.
Fear not, this race is hard, but beautiful. Average speeds of 40kph, plenty of spirited attacks, hard mountains to climb and no mercy. You want to be Pro? Lap it up, it’s once in a lifetime. You might even see an elephant cross the road in front of you. And enjoy an ice-cream at the end of a hard time-trial. Not your average race, this one.
What I’d really like to see though is this. A men’s or women’s team from Australia enter.
Maybe you’re a local shop based team, or a corporate team, or a bunch of cycling executives that have a strong zest for cycling and have gone to the trouble of creating your own kit, culture and maybe even a website. You need at least six riders to make it really work, to really get that sense of teamwork, suffering for your mates, suffering for the win, suffering because that’s just what you’re about. Two domestiques, two climbers, one GC (general classification) and one team leader. Maybe a DS (Directeur Sportif / Team Manager) who may or may not ride. Australia has just put together GreenEDGE, how about taking the edge and showing some Asia Pacific might?
The Confero Mavericks team was a demonstration of teamwork, assigned roles, individual sacrifice for team goals. You might be tempted to do it on your own. But when you see another competitor sliding along the highway at 40kph after losing control trying to take a water bottle from the motor scooter neutral support, you’ll be so happy you’ve got your team around you and you’re sharing the responsibility and the sighs of relief.
It’s okay, today you’ve got 72 days left to the start line. You’ve got until 31st March to get your team together and book your flights (and to book at least three days at a tropical beach resort afterwards, you earned it remember!).
I’ll say it again, this is an experience, maybe even a rite of passage.
Strap in and hang on.
Please take a moment to share.