Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tour of Friendship part 3

After a great first visit to Bangkok, I awoke feeling rested and was ready to tackle another hot day of cycling.  Today's stage 2 was mostly flat with a small climb at the end.  Unfortunately it was raining before the start, and it did not look like it was going to clear up any time soon.  We were transferred from the hotel to the start, a roughly 30 minute drive.  The organizers did an incredibly good job dealing with the movement of 200+ bikes each day.  They had semi-sized trucks loaded with bike carriers that they loaded each night in to the wee hours of the morning.

Our rockin' luxury van.  It had a huge, bumping custom sound system and mood lighting.
Rob Gitelis right of me, Mike Pryde behind, and Simon Kessler to my left

the scooter patrol that kept us safe and hydrated

I had no interest in rubbing shoulders with riders of varying degrees of experience on slick roads, so I told the few guys who I thought would be GC contenders I had full intentions of breaking away early on if the rain held.  It did.  So we broke away. 

the start of the race.  the orange truck is one of the bike carriers.

The roads truly were flat, but unfortunately they were on highways that were not blocked from traffic.  The race officials did a nice job keeping traffic away from us, but it was still a bit nerve racking having vehicles buzzing by at high speeds especially considering the conditions.  

Did I mention it was still raining?  Well, it was.  The skies turned darker as the km's accumulated, lightning lit the sky in the distance - right where we were heading.  The rain came down harder and harder.  I was in a break with about 8 guys.  I can only imagine what it was like in the peloton a few minutes behind us.

This is taken from our van behind the race, but we had to ride through this as well in the pouring rain!!

The roads began to flood.  We went through puddles that went over our bottom brackets.  I began to worry about what I was drinking off the road.  What seemed like gallons of nasty liquid was being sprayed in my face off the wheel in front of me.  Visibility was near zero.  The rain felt like needles pricking my skin.  Huge gusts of wind came from the side making things even more treacherous. 

Finally we turned off the highway.  The rain was still coming down hard.  We hit the hairpin turn to take us off the highway, and my tire felt wobbly, like I had a flat.  I did my best to coast around the corner while eyeing the tire - not an easy task in this rain.  The tire appeared to be fine so I continued on.  On occasion, the bike felt unstable so I kept checking my tires.  They seemed to be fine.  Our group came to a railroad crossing where cars and trucks had slowed so we had no choice but to brake as well.  Chaos ensued.  The guy in front of me immediately went down, sliding...and sliding...and sliding.  Two others, including my teammate Simon Kessler, pulled over saying they had flats.  What the hell just happened?  We weren't going that fast to warrant such a crazy slide, and why all the flats when the road seemed clean and smooth?  The guy was still sliding in front of me going back and forth on the road, and I was having a hard time dodging him.  Eventually I couldn't, and I ran over his leg and continued on.  Sorry about that, buddy.  After the race I found him, and it turned out he was fine, and he barely even had a scratch.  Hoverslide.. 

4 of us remained.  We carried on, and I eventually picked up the pace and dropped the others.  I went in to TT mode and noticed my rear tire was sliding back and forth with every pedal stroke.  Everything suddenly made sense.  The roads were covered with a film, I assume, of diesel fuel making things incredibly dangerous.
The climb began and I knew I was near the end.  I picked up the pace again, but my rear tire kept slipping.  Standing up was not an option in the steep sections!  I got to near the top and the motorcycle official tailing me pulled diagonally in front of me blocking my way.  He said "you winner."  I looked around and saw no finish line.  Confused.  I tried to figure out what was going on from the official, and got something like 'dangerous crash on top'  OK, good enough for me.  I'm done.  So I was left standing on the side of a winding mountain road in the pouring rain surrounded by lush, dense green jungle wondering where to go next.  Clearly no car was going to whisk me away from my secluded spot.  A few minutes went by, and the chase group found the two of us still trying to communicate and figure out what was going on.  I explained to them the little I know - it's over, and after ascertaining the hotel location was back down the climb, I walked, then carefully rolled, down the hill back to our beautiful resort hidden in the jungle where I enjoyed a nice dinner with my teammates while Thai people performed Karaoke on a stage in front of a hundred or so of their own.

and a bonus photo.  Not from my group - we'd never do such a thing!

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