Friday, May 13, 2011

Tour of Friendship part 1

A month of international racing has come and flown by, and it's back to the reality of a 9-5 job and early hours training before work. I recently returned from Thailand after participating in the five day Tour of Friendship stage race. Neil Pryde Bikes was one of the sponsors for the race, and I was there to race for them as part of their epic rider program.

Mere days before flying to Thailand, I had raced in Brazil at a UCI 5 day stage race called the Tour of Gravatai that, simply put, was incredibly brutal. A race of attrition where nearly half the field did not finish, I broke almost everything I possibly could on my bike, but managed to come out relatively unscathed considering I crashed twice at high speeds.  Broken Frame, bottle cage, saddle rail, two tubular carbon wheels to name a few...

I was unsure what the competition would be like in Thailand, but rumor had it a few Asian pros were in attendance to spice things up a bit. I felt I was in good form after the intense racing in Brazil, and was hoping I could win the overall GC for the Neil Pryde team.

I landed in Thailand at 2am after 22 hours of flying, and easily found a limo service to drag my "coffin" and my carcass to the hotel roughly an hour away from the airport. Not knowing how the taxis would be in Thailand I opted for a pre-paid limo service.  It turns out I wasted some money, but it was still cheap compared to NYC taxis.  I had a nice luxury SUV, and a white gloved driver to tote my belongings and deposit me safely at my hotel.  Called the Nonthaburi Palace, I had high hopes for a relaxing few days before the start of the race, but my dreams were quickly squashed as I observed the soot stained exterior walls, and drab looking carpet leading towards my room. Tiny, black bugs were everywhere inside the room along with some unseen menace, perhaps fleas, that did a number on my legs south of the knees. By the way, it was still really warm for 3am. 30C and very high humidity.

Time to eat.

Pad Thai at 3am never tasted better. I was pleased to discover Chelsea Thai near where I work in NYC was similar in taste. My first taste of local Thai food reminded me of a sunny summer day a few years ago when I was at a roof top party at a friends apartment, and I was speaking with a Thai woman who snobbishly responded about the inferior qualities of Thai food in the States when I mentioned I loved Thai food. I sampled everything I could find in Thailand, and the only major differences I discovered were the cost of food, somewhat spicier dishes, and the occasional perk of fine tasting fresh fruits. But the prices really stand out.  It's significantly cheaper in Thailand.

But I was here to race.

The next day I went for a 50km ride with some teammates. Donning the fancy, new Rapha kit we were given for the race, we hit the road on our Neil Pryde Alize's and Diablos. This was the first time I had seen a Diablo in the wild, and I have to say it looks like a great bike! Pedaling away from the hotel with Dave Christenson leading, we were quickly surrounded by traffic. And then there were flashbacks to Brazil as we navigated our way amongst the trucks and scooters on the perimeter highways of Bangkok. Hazy, hot, humid. Enough of that. Back to the hotel to eat some more, check out a temple nearby, and get ready for the racing to begin the following day.

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