Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stage 4-mountains mountains mountains

This was probably, by itself, one of the longest and toughest days i've ever had on a bike. I know it seems like I keep saying that but it's true really. 115 miles of up and down and up again. The climbs were so steep that in the spots on the road where spectators were throwing water on us the tires would loose their grip. This was a day for some of the world class climbers in the race to do their thing (which they did). A move of 3 guys broke away right from the gun and, despite the efforts of the remaining 100 something riders, stayed away the entire day. We chased, oh we chased but they stuck it. This race was as beautiful as it was hard. Very dramatic peaks and valleys, strange thatched houses, a lake, a brief thunderstorm, the works! I rolled with the main group all day and it seemed to whither down from the back as time wore on. In the end I finished 25th overall out of the 100 something riders. Two more to go, and with the yellow jersey changing hands by such a narrow margin in this stage it will surely be fast and aggressive.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Stage 3

Today was a gift from the gods. An absolute textbook stage right out of the tour de France guide book. A move of 5 or 6 guys went early and the Japanese riders who were defending the leader's jersey patiently let it dangle for the remaining 3 hours until turning the screws with 25k to go. The breakaway was caught with just 3k to go and we all got a free ride courtesy of the Japanese and Hong Kong teams. No time gained but also no time lost. Tomorrow will be another story... 115 miles of mountains. Ah vacation.

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Stages 2

Stage 2-into the mountains

Man that was hard! 100 miles with tons of climbing and I am still not over my effort from the first stage. I was proud of myself though, I raced super smart and conservative, always letting others do my work for me. There were many moments of distress for me but I always stayed within the main group until the final 10-15k when a split occurred in an attempt to reel in the 2 man break up the road. The race finished at the top of a dam where I managed to make up a bit of ground on some of the riders who spent more time working than I did. I finished in the top third of the field. Today was about limiting the damage, plain and simple. Probably my smartest race ever.
Here's the cycling news report.


Stage 2 - January 21: Kanchanaburi – Sri Nakharindra Dam, 160.1 km Fukushima
in yellow after a day-long breakaway

*By Laszlo Szilasi in Sri Nakharindra Dam*

Strong Japanese rider Koji Fukuchima (Team Nippo Meitan) won Tour of Siam's
second stage, a 160 km's run from Kanchanaburi to Si Nakharondra Dam, which
is one of the most important national parks in Thailand. When crossing the
finish line this very emphatic and emotional Asian rider used the
traditional Thai greetings, a gesture of paying respect to the local fans
called WAI.

Fukushima spent most of the day in a break with an Australian rider before
going off the front alone 25 km from the finish. The Japanese rider won the
stage comfortably ahead of Askari Hossein (Giant Asia) who broke free from
the main bunch on the last hill.

Asian Games gold medallist Wong Kam Po (Hong/Kong) led the peloton home, 49
seconds behind the stage winner.

The victory is Fukushima's first of the season and will see him wear the
yellow jersey on tomorrow's third stage.
How it unfolded

The second stage of this year's Tour of Siam started from Kanchanaburi, in
front of the city pillar shrine, not far from the world famous bridge over
the Kwae River. The weather conditions were similar to that of the first
stage, hot at around 33 degrees.

The race started again with lot of attacks and after 20 kilometres a
seven-strong group formed off the front, including three riders of the
Japanese Nippo team. They never maintained a big lead, but worked fairly
good together.

As the race started to reach the mountains, the front group blew apart and
the peloton began catching them again. Only two of the break managed to stay
in the front, stage winner Fukushima and Giant Asia rider Jai Crawford. The
peloton seemed to be satisfied catching five from the original seven-man
break, and so the duo on the front started to extend their lead.

Today's first King of the Mountains was 87 kilometres into the stage and
taken out by Crawford with the peloton a further four-minutes behind. After
a fast descent it was a U-turn for the riders and they have to climb the
same mountain from the opposite side.

Fukuchima decided to attack 25 kilometres from the finish, leaving his
breakaway mate alone. The Nippo rider was a bit unlucky, puncturing right
after his attack, but had a quick wheel change and was on his way again.

He caught Crawford again quickly and attacked immediately. The Japanese
rider was successful, and rode most of the last 20 kilometres alone, with
the peloton still some three minutes behind him.

Fukuchima lost a lot of his lead on the three kilometre long ascent to the
finish line, but held on and to take a well deserved stage win, one minute
ahead of the peloton.

After the race Fukuchima, who spent most of the day off the front, answered
questions of the race presenters in the local Thai language before going
onto sign autographs for local children.

"Today is a very nice day for me. I didn't planned a so long attack, because
after yesterday stage I felt very tired," explained Fukuchima, who learnt
Thai while training in the country's Northern regions. "We work very well
together with the Giant Asia rider, he was very good up on the hills. At the
final phase I still had to attack him, because I saw he ran out of energy. I
won this race before and would like to keep the yellow jersey as long as
possible. The last months I spent in a training camp with my teammates
around Chiang Rai, the life is much cheaper in Thailand compared to Japan
and the environment is very good, that's why we like train here. "

Australia's second placed Crawford was also pleased with the outcome of
today's stage. "It was a good day, Fukushima and I worked well together in
the break," he explained. "On the climbs I felt very well, but I was too
tired in the last 25 km. Yesterday I arrived in 13th place so I'm not too
far behind in the GC. Tomorrow is a flat stage so I will try to recover
well, because Stage 4 has some mountaians again, which is in flavour for my

The race continues tomorrow with a 133km-long stage which features
moderately hilly sections.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cycling News coverage of stage 1!

Hey everyone!

Here is the report from cycling news on stage 1 (read my last post first if you haven't. I was in the 17 man move they refer too) of Tour of Siam. I'm sure they have photos up on too. Read on...


Stage 1 - January 20: Suphanburi – Bung Chawak – Don Chedi, 128.9 km Dutch
win in Thailand

*By Laszlo Szilasi, in Bung Chawak.*

Thailand's most prestigous cycling race, Tour of Siam started today with an
155 km opening stage with the start and finish in the historical city of
Suphanburi. The town - which is located about 100 km north of Bangkok - held
a very nice opening ceremony for riders, where local dance and music groups
encouraged by the crowd to get into the atmosphere.

The race took of downtown at 10 am with the first 5.5 kilometres a neutral
section in the city. After the real start, attacks began immediately, as was
predicted. Lots of riders tried to break into smaller groups, but never got
too far from the peloton. After the first intermediate sprint at kilometre
35, 17 riders formed a break.

About half of the participating teams were represented, so it semeed that
could be the break of the day. When the lead group had a one-minute
advantage, the main bunch started to react, with several teams making turns
on the front. The next 20 kilometres was around lake Bung Chawan, which
contrsained some very tricky roads with lots of twist and turns. The
peloton, which started to lose some riders, couldn't gain back time on the
leaders, so halfway into the stage the lead group had a advantage of nearly
two minutes. Though the riders didnt make the most of this opportunity to
put time into the bunch as they didnt work too well together.

Around 100 kilometres into the stage the japanese Nippo team decide to start
the chase, even though they had just one rider in the front group. They were
travelling around 60km/h for a long distance, which made life harder for
some others at the back of the bunch. The gap started to come down slowly
and when the race arrived to the Don Chedi monument, 25 kilometres from the
finish, the leaders had only a 30 second lead. At this point some strong
riders attacked from the lead group, which blew apart.

With 15 km remaining a lead group of seven riders was off the front, with
the other riders falling back into the peloton. Just five kilometres later,
with the finish line nearing, the remaining seven riders had been caught by
the peloton.

Another three riders tried a last minute escape, but at the end a bunch
sprint decided today's stage, which was won in a close finish by Holland's
Ger Soepenberg (Altipower), followed by Russian Sergey Kudentsov (Marco
Polo) and Japan's Takashi Miyazawa in the third position.

"This is my first race in Asia, so it's a really good start. We came here
for training, so todays win is a really nice surprise," said Soepenberg, who
earned 28000 Baht (around 7000 USD) for his team with the win. "The stage
was fast and the heat made it even more difficult. I will try to keep the
yellow jersey as long as I can. I'm not a real climber but I can come over
the shorter hills good."

Third place Miyazawa was a bit dissapointed, after his team was the driving
force behind catching the 17 men breakaway.

"It's true that we had one rider in the front group, but we knew that he is
not very good in the sprint," explained Miyazawa. "That's why we decided to
chase and we hoped that some other teams would have helped us. At the
beggining three Australian riders did some turns, but after that we had to
do all the work on our own. Maybe we spent a bit too much energy today, I
had strong cramps in the final. Our team leader is Fukuchima so I will work
for him in the next couple of days."

Giant Asia rider Ryan Connor returned to the race for a third time and was
again impressed by the local people's attitude to the race by turning out in
huge numbers along the route with Thailand flags, supporting the local
riders as well as the foreigners.

After the stage riders were transferred to the city of Kanchanaburi, which
is at the coast of the famous Kwai river.


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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stage un

Well, we're back at it again. One more race to go. This little stinker in Thailand will set is back about 100 miles a day for 6 days. It's also very hot out. Oh yeah, and there is an Olympic and world track pursuit champ here from Australia (that's 2 different people, not one)

Today's stage was a big one for me. I finally managed to squeeze myself into THE breakaway. 60k into the race I miraculously managed to effortlessly slip myself into the right spot and was wisked up the road with 15 other riders. This was the last taste of "effortlessly" I would have for the next 2 hours. We managed to put a gap on the field very quickly. We were rotating very cleanly with about 1/2 to 2/3 of the riders doing the work (including me, so far). Now this is a time for a rider with no teammates around him to do some thinking. With a group of that size it's pretty easy to sit tight and stay out of the wind. Doing this or not depends on many things. Do I think the move will ultimately last? is my help required for the break to survive? It's the first day which is critical in the formation of alliances and partnerships with other teams. So I have to ask myself who I might piss off by not working. A good reputation early in the race can lead to a lot of favors later on down the road.

In the end I opted to work most of the time and take my feed sessions with the team car as time to sit on the back and watch. If riders got agitated then I would move into the rotation and work. This seemed the best option and i'd say the work/rest ratio was around 70/30. So this went on for around an hour and a half, at which point the shit started hitting the fan. Since the group was so big it began to attack itself. Now, I consider myself to be in good shape, but keep in mind though that in this group of 16 riders I am likely the only one who isn't salaried to ride. So when the guy with the world champ stripes on his shirt decides to attack I start saying Hail Mary's and hanging on. At this point there's just 10 miles to go but guys are really giving each other the business. Finally the group splits and a few guys out some distance into the rest of us. By now I am blind and deaf in one ear and I think I might even have a cramp in my thumb. I am crushed. Then I look over my shoulder and there is everyone else bearing down on us. We've been caught with just the last bit of miles to go. What a goddamned bummer man! All I could do was get onto the back and babble to myself for the next 15 minutes. In the end the group caught everyone and it was a sprint finish. That's bike racing as they say... See you tomorrow.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

spicy basil noodle or pad thai? You decide.

Hopefully this is the hardest question I will have to ask myself on this, the last week of my journey. I've just left bankok airport and am in a van being whisked away to where the race starts on Saturday (I still don't know "where" that is). I will reference jared's handy Thai travel guide (see attached photo), I'm sure the name of the town is buried somewhere between the part that details what banned substances you can get arrested for and the part that tells you how to ask for the toilet. Stay tuned...hey stefan, is that a chick or a dude?......

Monday, January 15, 2007

photos from tour of Malaysia!