When Arran and Jorgen finished their Friday warm up ascent of Doi Suthep, strava told them a little story. Their yet to be met team-mate Natalie, climbed it in almost half of the time they had just taken. In fact, she had been QOM until a couple of days previous. Great substitution Donna!
We should have twigged then that when she said she had ridden the course in reverse and there were a few steep climbs and it was likely to be muddy and hot that she was a mistress of understatement…
Now it’s out there on YouTube for the world to see thanks to our friend the Durianrider and his camera.. ‘the hardest century ride I have ever done’… with cameos from your very own Anza teams.
The first 40 km were a delightful meander thru the beautiful Thai country lanes with optimistic trains of riders in their new very colourful new Rapha team clothes. This totally took your mind off what was to come. Teams of 4 at two minute intervals were bunching up as enthusiastic riders stretched their legs.
We hit our first climbs on first class roads and settled in to our own rhythms…these seemed long and hard .. but its all relative. Quite a lot of people were starting to walk or help weakest team members. This is well before the turn on to a minor concrete road at 60km. Then it started.. into the national park we go…
Grooved concrete on the uphill, severely broken concrete rattling your teeth and stretching your brakes on the very steep downhills… Now if we are making all these descents does that mean anything?
You betcha! Sharp ascents steep enough that conventional cars would be struggling to get up them. My compact crank and 11/27 setup was not going to make it without continual zig zagging… which meant the fastest way to the top was direct via shanks’ pony… prompting the Durianrider in his you tube to comment that he” didn’t know Trek and Moots made prams”. He was on a 22/40 setup… and as he described it ‘Frooming’. From my memory Jorgen said he saw up to 28% on his strava.
Oh yes… plus mud, gravel, sand. Bike handing was a constant challenge for 40km.
And then the real climbing started! Blah!… in 40 plus degrees with over 100 very hard kilometres in the legs… “see how you go son” “come to Chiang Mai and I will show you some climbs’ claims the Durianrider.
The long ‘police box climb’ might not have quite averaged in the teens but the immediately following 7 steps (switchbacks) was well into the teens… which left Arran ready to have more than words with the organisers. Is that the sign of a successful Rapha ride?
The Durianrider points out that even with his light weight and extreme cadence he was having to pump out over 300 watts to get up these very long very steep climbs… but at least the roads were decent again.
If my Garmin says I was descending in the high 70’s you can be sure the Jorgen’s was registering well in to the 80’s.
Another 30km down the valley and into a hot and sticky Chiang Mai saw the two ANZA teams home hours before anybody else and knocking a good hole in the beer supply. Around 7 hours on the bike. and certainly, more than half an hour pushing the pram. Natalie didn’t bring a pram!
Well after dark teams were still straggling in. Yup there were a few prangs and some broken bones. This was road bike handling at the extreme. Last words to the Durianrider… “i reckon that’s the hardest Rapha ride in the world… if anybody knows a harder one let me know”
I will be back … with a 22/40 and having learned ‘Frooming’ properly.
The cycling scene is Singapore is great. There are a large number of cyclists in different groups at varying skill levels. The roads are some of the best in the world and finding a pothole here can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Despite all the wonders of cycling in Singapore, it becomes an inevitable desire to see other great cycling destinations around Asia. There are so many good choices that you could keep yourself busy for years choosing new destinations. Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam all have exciting cycling opportunities for the Singapore- based cyclist. Like most things, these opportunities come along with risks. While it is important to plan and prepare for overseas cycling adventures, it is advisable to plan for the risks along with all the fun parts of your cycling travels.
I have lived in Singapore for 16 years and started road cycling around eight years ago. Like most cyclists I was keen to try new terrains after cycling mind-numbing round-the-islands (RTIs) for years and having done far too many loops of trusty Mount Faber. Tapping into a regional network of cycling friends, I have managed to take some amazing cycling trips to Vietnam, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. Usually these trips fall on one of the many public holidays in Singapore in order to give you enough time to travel and get some quality kilometers on the foreign roads. My wife and I have developed a well-honed system for these travels: I dismantle and pack the bikes and she does everything else. This includes arranging air tickets, hotel, ground transport to the airport and any other things that need to be done. Pretty fair trade I would say. One of the other things she did organize was our travel insurance. It was something I gave very little thought too but something she had the intelligence to arrange given the multitude of issues that could arise as you embark on an overseas cycling journey. In December 2013, I had a first hand experience that would highlight how important travel insurance was for such an overseas cycling trip. After a ride on December 30th, 2013 I will never travel or ride again without travel insurance.
Phuket Thailand is a great place for cycling. I have been actively cycling there for a number of years and know enough different routes to keep an active cyclist busy for a month. For the past five years we have traveled to Phuket with a group of friends for a holiday that would provide an excellent mix of riding, eating, drinking and lounging around on the beautiful beaches of Thailand. December 2013 was no different and once again we were back in Phuket for some serious cycling fun. We had done a few shorter rides and on Monday December 30th we had decided to go for the big one: Phuket- Krabi – Phuket – or “PKP” as we call it, 335km of riding that would connect us to another major tourist spot and back to Phuket…all within one day. We set off early in the morning in order to return for a celebratory dinner on Surin Beach later that evening. The ride was going very well and for the most part we enjoyed it so much we stopped to take some pictures along the way at some beautiful places in Phang Nga and Krabi. We arrived in Krabi for a relaxing lunch around noon before starting the 165km ride back to Phuket. At 2pm we set off with our tired legs and full stomachs on the return leg back to Phuket. A few untimely punctures put us a bit behind schedule. Given that the daylight disappears by 7pm our goal was to finish most of the ride before 7pm and coast home in familiar territory around Surin Beach. We stopped for a short break in the city of Phang Nga, a nice little town around 80km away from Surin Beach. One final push to get the ride done and it was almost 6pm. The pace was nice and steady as the aim was now to get back in time for some serious food and wine with our families and friends.
We passed the giant monk that is always a great thing to see when coming or going to Phang Nga. My riding partner had to get back for a business call and finished the ride in Phang Nga. Therefore the last 80km would be on my own. After giving me all his lights, tubes and luck, I took off with hopes of being home by 9pm for dinner. Flying by the Big Monk (pictured) meant only 60km to go and only 23km to the bridge that connected Phang Nga to Phuket. I was feeling good…could taste the pasta and wine going down nicely after I upload this big ride to Strava.. 50km to go and I was in the section I would describe as ‘dark and gravelly’ – dark because the highway lights on the Highway 402 do not cover the area and gravelly because there was always gravel kicking around and I never understood where it came from. I was almost through the section…it was 6:45pm and the last fragments of light were quickly disappearing.
If you have been to Thailand you know that motorcycles represent a key form of transport for locals and foreigners alike. Actually, one of the things I tell first time cyclists in Phuket is how safe it is given that cars are so accustomed to riding around the motorcycles that they would rarely knock you over if you ride like a motorcycle. Motorcycles also operate differently in Thailand than in most other countries. On motor highways for instance, it is very common to see motorcycles riding the wrong way against traffic in the shoulder lane. As a long time cyclist in Phuket you know this and you just avoid them by pulling out a bit further…after my ride on December 30th I will need to adjust how I describe cycling in Phuket slightly.
I could sense the Sarasin Bridge in the near distance…only 10km to go and it was almost as good as being home for me. I saw a motorcycle approaching in the distance in the dark and gravelly section. He had a light shining brightly and I had my flickering little bike lights on the front and back to ensure that the world could see me. As usual I checked to ensure no cars were approaching from the back and then eased out to give the motorbike enough space to pass me.
The next thing I remember is hearing a strong cracking noise, smelling smoke and rubber burning and seeing the bottom of my downtube as I flew through the air before I landed on my knees and collapsed to the road. It took me a few minutes to figure out what happened. I looked backwards to see a helmetless man lying on the main highway, his motorcycle stopped but the engine still running, my bike still back there with my flickering bike lights, pure darkness. My knees…open and exposed with blood running down my shins. The dark and gravelly section was empty…there was nobody around. He was passed out, I was dazed and confused and not sure what happened. Somehow I was able to grab my bike pump and Garmin, both of which had flown from my bike, and roll off the main highway and into the ditch. It was dark and quiet and nobody was around. After a few minutes, a lady on a scooter approached (again driving the wrong way on the shoulder the way everybody does). She was moving slowly and came to a stop when she had seen the fallen older man and me with my bloodied knees screaming in English ‘help me’. While she did not speak English she definitely was able to assess that the situation was bad and started to make phone calls.
At this point I fell asleep or passed out and the next time I awoke policemen and ambulance drivers surrounded us. They quickly loaded us in the primitive ambulances and took us to a small hospital in Klok Kloi near Phang Nga Thailand. After a rough ride we arrived in the hospital most likely at 7:30pm. I was terrified. Nobody spoke English, my knees looked disastrous, I had no idea where my phone, money and ID were and I was in shock from having a head-on collision with a motorcycle. My bike was also gone. After what seemed like an hour the medical staff realized that I needed to go to the Bangkok International Hospital in Phuket Town given the extent of my injuries. So after some basic cleanup they loaded me back in a more sophisticated ambulance to make the 60km ride into Phuket Town. I managed somehow to find my phone and was sending messages back to family and friends to meet me at the hospital in Phuket Town.
After what felt like hours I arrived in the hospital into a waiting room. My friends and family were yet to arrive so I sat patiently talking to the nurses as they provided me with basic treatment. I had never been in a hospital in Thailand so this was a new experience for me. A hospital representative approached to check in on me and ask me a few basic questions: name, nationality, what happened…etc. He then asked me how I was going to pay for any treatment I would receive. That was a great question…I honestly had no idea as this was new too me. Surely I was insured…I work at a major global MNC in Singapore and maybe even have other coverage. I did not know the answer to that question as that was part of my wife’s department. Without insurance I always had the luxury of using my credit card to ensure payment but one thing was clear for sure – without some form of payment or guarantee I would not be going anywhere out of my waiting room area.
Luckily for me my friends and wife all arrived to intercept this hospital representative. Also a bonus was that my wife had arranged travel insurance that covered such instances when abroad. Working with the representative at the hospital, we called our insurance provider (DirectAsia.com) hotline who immediately worked with the hospital administration team to provide what is called a Letter of Guarantee- basically stating that they would cover up to a certain amount of costs for any medical treatment provided to me. Despite all the bad things that had happened over the past two hours, I saw a bit of hope after learning first that we had insurance and secondly that my wife knew who to call in a time of emergency. I was ignorant to both facts prior to this experience.
Having friends and family and being back at a modern hospital like Bangkok International in Phuket put my mind at ease. I was taken to an operating theater to repair damaged cartilage in my left knee- the knee that took the full impact of the sidecar on the motorcycle, and to get some stitches on my right knee, which served as a landing pad after during the accident. Subsequently it turned out that I had damaged cartilage on my knee, a torn quadriceps muscle which would require a major surgery and a follow up surgery in March 2014 to remove excessive scarring.
Medical costs can be high. We do not have kids and in general are young, healthy and fit people. Therefore our exposure to medical facilities has been minimal in our 16 years in Asia. The past few months have been an eye opener. My knee injury is now costing in excess of S$200,000 and the follow up physiotherapy costs and doctor visits are still ongoing as of late March 2014! I was surprised to learn that the coverage provided for me at work was not nearly as comprehensive as the coverage provided by the travel insurance we had at DirectAsia.com. (keeping in mind I work for a company listed on the Dow Jones Index- a major MNC)….I was surprised. DirectAsia.com has also been extremely helpful and customer friendly post accident. As you go through the rehabilitation process the last thing you want or need is complications on who is covering what and when will you get paid, etc. Luckily we have had excellent service from DirectAsia.com.
Even today I continue to deal with the aftermath of this accident. I am not yet able to ride again as I am still going through the healing process of three surgeries. I also need to get a new bike as my old one was completely destroyed by the accident. I was pleased to learn that the travel insurance also provided some coverage for the cost of the bike! I have taken the time to learn more about the insurance given how crucial it has been for our family over the past three months. When I consider the coverage and protection we have under our policy with DirectAsia, the premiums are extremely reasonable. As someone who travels with groups of cyclists many times of year, I now make a few suggestions that I offer to you here:
1. Get good insurance from a provider such as DirectAsia.com 2. Have the contact numbers handy– a plastic bag in your rear pockets or even taped to your bike – if you ever need them time is usually in short supply – share them with your cycling group in the unlucky chance your are unconscious 3. Watch out for motorcycles and avoid riding after 5pm in Thailand (there is actually a law in Thailand that you cannot ride a bicycle after 6 pm)
In the end this has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I am still dealing with the aftermath of the accident as I have yet to fully physically recover. I was disheartened to learn that the driver of the motorcycle was heavily intoxicated when he ran into me. I am looking forward to getting back on the bike and getting back to Thailand and other great locations. One addition to my plastic bag in my jersey back pocket is my DirectAsia.com policy number along with the number to call in case of emergency- which my friends will also know. Get travel insurance….it is good for your family, your bike and your long term health!
A bit about Jeff Paine :
Originally from Canada I have lived in Singapore for the past 16 years. I have enjoyed cycling around Asia for the past eight years and regularly take part in local and regional cycling races. Most exciting cycling experiences include completing the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011 and the Trans Malaysia Express (TME) ride from Thailand to Singapore in 43 hours in 2012. Now in training for Paris-Brest-Paris 2015 (well when I recover).
When Sarah, my wife, announced that the children were old enough for us to do a family cycling trip I was delighted. She had been beavering away at the laptop for days and finally raised her head to say she had found the perfect trip. A SpiceRoads family trip in Chiang Mai for five days. “Great, how far are we riding?” I asked. “95km” was her reply. “Fantastic, that will fit right in with my Etape training. 95km a day with some hilly terrain. Isn’t that a bit far for the kids though” I added as an afterthought, “never mind, they can always sit in the bus”. “No, 95km in total over 4 days of riding with a day riding some Elephants” she replied.
Some quick mental arithmetic determined that this was a daily distance that, to paraphrase Linda Evangelista, “was not worth waking up for”, and so I was resigned to it being a family holiday rather than a hardcore training week.
Oh the sacrifices we make!
We’d been on a SpiceRoads one day temple tour round Bangkok a few months earlier and the bikes were good then, but a couple of people said the bikes could be a bit touch and go so Sarah decided to bring her Mountain bike, which she hadn’t ridden for at least 18 months. Step 1 get it serviced. Step 2 get a box. Step 3 pack it (First problem, mountain bikes are chunkier than road bikes, so I had to pack the wheels separately) Ok, we’re ready to go!
Once in Chiang Mai, we had a day bumming around the town but the night before the cycling was due to start I thought I’d better reassemble the bike. Ah! Looks like the bike has taken a knock on the plane and the derailleur hanger has done its job of saving the rear derailleur beautifully by shearing right off. Looks like Sarah is using the tour bike after all and a few panicky emails make sure that they do, in fact, have a bike for her to use. No problem we think, we can put the clip in pedals on the tour bike and Sarah can still wear her mountain bike shoes. That seems like a plan right up until we find that the Singapore climate has done its evil work and the straps break off the shoe as soon as she tries to tighten them! Ho Hum, running shoes just like any normal tourist them!
As luck would have it, the bikes are all new this year and in fantastic condition.
We were the only people on the tour, so it’s just us, our own personal guide, Noom (although he said he didn’t mind if we wanted to call him Moon) and our driver Thai, now how am I going to remember his name?
I think I break one of The Rules by putting road pedals on a mountain bike, and away we go.
Day 1 was a 26k bimble through some great countryside followed by a 5km canoe across the reservoir for lunch. All pretty flat apart from a really unexpected kick to get up to the top of the dam. Danielle attacked, Luka followed, I was not to be beaten by either. So half way up, a hand on Luka’s back as he looks about ready to fall off, and we slowly pull Danielle back passing her just before the top. Luka is stoked, Danielle is furious. I just don’t understand where these children get their competitive streak from 😉
We hit the canoes thinking it won’t be long until lunch. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LONG IT TAKES TO CANOE 5K ON FLAT WATER! We keep thinking that it is just around the corner. Our spirits raise as we see some lakeside houses, only to be dashed as the guide paddles on past. On and on we go, Danielle thinks it will never end, Luka has a sense of humor failure and just as we think we will die on this lake, the guide pulls into what must have been absolutely the last restaurant on the lake. The effort, the desperation, the pain are all quickly forgotten as we tuck in to some lovely rustic Thai food and the kids embark on trying to out dare each other into jumping off the highest platform. Not sure these would pass Australian or New Zealand Health and Safety! The night is spent in a small resort on the river Ping. Nothing special but clean and pretty much what you’d expect in rural Thailand.
Day 2 was the day we decided to be team ANZA 2011/12, resplendent in our gold and black kit (Still the best design of club kit in my opinion). It started strangely with a ride in an ox cart. Fast these animals are not, and it can only be said that suspension and rubber tyres were a good invention, but it took us dutifully to a local village where they had some locally produced craft products for us to buy. No really, they were locally produced, and absolutely did not come from the same Chinese factory as all other tourist craft products. Anyway, Luka acquired the best souvenir a small boy could ask for, a catapult and proceeded to fire small stones anywhere and everywhere.
Once the tourist activities were over the serious matter of riding 30km downhill commenced, and a very enjoyable day was spent putting in next to no effort whatsoever as we travelled through the northern Thailand countryside. Only one small piece of drama ensued when we had finished at 29.8km. Danielle was therefore instructed to take the Garmin and run 100m up the road to ensure we bagged 30km for the day (but that’s a secret so don’t tell anybody)
That night we were eco-tourists. We spent the night in an adobe lodge where we helped make some more adobe bricks, built some models out of the mud/clay and then helped cook our own dinner. We even had to introduce the children to that strange thing called washing up your own plates and cutlery. If you’re a 5 Star hotel junkie, you might not like it, but it was clean simple and just fine to crash for a night.
Day 3 and another eco-tourist start to the day as we went to ride a water buffalo and learn all about how they plant and harvest rice. Suffice to say that all is well in the rural world of Northern Thailand. Husband talks to tourists while wife does back breaking work of planting and harvesting rice.
Bring on the cycling and the children are starting to feel a little tired and hungry. A little way into the ride and they are demanding a lunch stop so Noom obliges with a perfectly timed stop at a roadside grill. BBQ chicken, lamb, prawns and oddly enough eggs are hungrily eaten and declared delicious and the original local redbull is tried and declared disgusting! We ride on to our pickup point (I should point out at this time that the length of each day can be extended or shortened, so if you think your kids want more or less, that can all be fitted into the plan.) That night was spent in an idyllic bamboo lodge where they served dinner outside your room and thai massages were part of the package. I’m sure the picture doesn’t do it justice, but the surroundings really were beautiful.
Day 4 is a rest day, well of sorts. No bike riding today, today we ride something
altogether larger and more unpredictable. Today is elephant mahout day. We met our elephants, making friends by using a bunch of bananas and then proceed to be shown how to ride by sitting on the neck locking our knees behind their ears. The kids and Sarah look fine, but I was feeling distinctly unstable as they gave me the largest elephant and it looked like a very long way to fall.
So off into the hills we go about an hour until lunch and I’m finding inner thigh muscles that I didn’t know existed
(oh boy this is going to hurt tomorrow I think). After lunch, we proceed to give one of the elephants a mud bath, or was the elephant giving us a mud bath, I can’t be sure really, but she certainly seemed to enjoy lying there while we shoveled mud unto her.
Once done, it was a long ride down to the river where we gave the elephants and ourselves a much needed bath before heading back to the ranch for showers, cold drinks and souvenirs of photos in frames made out of elephant poo!
Day 5 and I’m right, riding an elephant uses muscles that nothing else does! Today really is a tourist cycling day. We start at an umbrella factory where we get to paint our own umbrellas and have the real artists paint designs on anything you own. A great opportunity for a truly unique iPhone or camera case. Then we’re off on the final stage of the journey. Luka is complaining that either his bike needs oil or he does and we put it down to him being tired at the end of the week especially after his sandbagging on day 3 where he hung back all day before charging ahead with 2km to go! Much later after he has ridden most of the day with my hand on his back, we identify that in fact the front brake has been rubbing all day, I knew I should have checked that in the morning, oh well, a good workout for me.
We had a quick stop at a tin/silver factory to check out those lovely designs that you haggle over at Thai markets and to buy a few things at a fraction of the price that you could even haggle the market dealers down to. This brings us on to lunch. After 4 days Noom has realised that we’re not interested in finding anything even remotely western and we want to try the real local food and so we stop at a little roadside eatery where we get the most exquisite Northern Thai curry I’ve ever tasted it’s called Khoa Soi and is much more subtle than the usual red or green curries. And so to the end, a total of 121km ridden and we finish at a local hot springs where we can shower, bathe in the hot spring fed swimming pool, and then cook some eggs in the boiling spring water as it bubbles out of the outlet. It is a great way to finish the day, before Noom and Thai drop us off at our hotel back in Chiang Mai.
Fantastic job SpiceRoads, a thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended family trip.
Sunday lunchtime and I’ve just finished the 2nd of 2 burgers. Just reward for three back to back hard days and the multitude of early mornings leading up to this weeks Tour of Friendship. I’ve got 5 pretty easy days ahead to taper before all hell kicks off in Saturdays Time Trial.
ToF is an annual ritual for many of the more racing minded in the region and this mornings Hammer ride was a sure sign that people are taking in seriously and are in form. Words like tapering and skinsuit were being bandied around by some of the shredded leg crowd and it’s clearly a target for many. My contribution to serious training was limited to switching from latte to americano (lower fat!) and dropping my lunchtime cake habit. I’m at 64kg with veins popping like superman with a viagra addiction. I’m also a realist and know that it’s not good veins that win races like this.
For most, ToF is the closest that we’ll ever come to playing at being a real bike racer. 5 days in the hills of Thailand with a race convoy, motorbike support and a nightly awards ceremony. For $700 -including hotel and food – it’s an absolute bargain and one I can’t recommend enough. The downside is that the racing is super hard, over some serious hills whilst battling 41 degree heat.
2014 looks easier than last years buttock smasher and definitely a bit flatter. Five stages and around 600km – including a TT, 2 hilly stages and 2 flatter ones.
ANZA is fielding a number of riders this year including:
Open: Pierre Alain, Dave Cox, Peter Bennett, myself with a handful of Direct Asia HK boys that we’ll hook up with
40s: John Bateman, Nico Las
50s: Steven Wong, Bill Olver
If WiFi and energy levels permit then I’ll aim to give you a daily update from the arse end of the Open peloton.