I’m sitting on the plane in the seat right above the wing. Worryingly I can’t see the aforementioned wing at all due to the mental driving rain at 5000 feet.Thailand is not looking like the land of smiles when we finally get down – it’s cold, windy and absolutely pissing down.
Fortunately the downpour passed by mid afternoon and we managed to get out for a spritly 40km warm up prior to getting our race packs. I’m shocked to note that the Open A field has only 14 registered at sign-in -but it does guarantee me a top 15 place!
Stage 1 consists of 80km with a solid hill halfway though. It’s an easy looking day compared to later in the week but a good chance to sniff out the opposition. In reality, the 15km neutral section turns out to be 30km. The 80-85km race is actually 74! Mai Bin Lai as they say here – it’s pretty laid back and nobody really cares.
Due to our small peloton, Open A is together with Open B and the 30s. We roll out with ~70 riders and it’s immediately game on. The first 10km has a flurry of attacks which we all get sucked into participating in. Eventually a small group hunting the KoM jersey get away and we settle down to a comfortably swift pace for the rest of the morning.
The KoM appears 5km earlier than expected and I find myself on the front of the peloton most of the way. A desperate need to visit a bathroom signifies that I’ve hit max heart rate 200m from the top and I ease back slowly into the group and sit in for the descent.
By the 2nd major climb, our group is down to about 30 riders and it stays that way to the bunch sprint. On the open highways, rolling speeds are well in the 50s but it’s super smooth and a nice ride.
Ben Arnott has a serious crack at solo victory with a fine breakaway at 10km out. Only the sign that there’s 5km to go spurns the pack into action and we wind him back in.
CCN win the sprint over Vincent Ang from Singha-infinite. Mark Scoular (TDA) gets 6th and Rowdie Loughlin a well deserved 7th for putting in so much effort throughout. I come in metres later with the rest of the front pack. 43km is the average speed for the day.
in 50s, Steven Wong takes 3rd and Bill Olver 6th.
thai hospitality has some fried rice and water served up within minutes and the awards are done and dusted swiftly afterwards. A fine kick off to the Tour with all riders safe and in decent positions. Tomorrow looks a tad harder though 😦