Tour de Timor is a five day Mountain bike stage race in East Timor, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Although the race itself is a true challenge, don’t sign up based on the race itself. You get a lot more (or less, depending how you look at it) than that:
The race entails five stages totalling 395km and 8200m of climbing. The surface ranges from smooth pavement to crater deep potholes to gravel to throw-you-of-your-bike rocky terrain to deep sandpits. But even as the most untalented mountain biker, I myself could handle the terrain. Although the race course is challenging, other factors make this an epic experience:
Camping of some sort was the theme for most stages. But don’t imagine a nice quiet camping area with a BBQ grill. Camping is done in or out of basic building blocks with livestock casually passing by. With the regular bark or cock-a-doodle-doo during night time, you were ensured that breakfast and lunch have not gone missing yet.
The Timorese wash tradition entails a scoop and a bucket full of water. Throw the water with the scoop over your head and you got your shower. The water quality ranged from see-thru liquid to microbiological aquariums. For the most part, the dirt on my body outweighed the dirt in the water bucket.
If you are gluten-free, lactose intolerant, wheat allergic and paleo, you are in luck, because Tour de Timor provides almost for every type of diet. Having rice and meat served every day all day, you can be ensured that you will not accidentally get milk, wheat or any other Western intolerances from this diet. Just don’t mind the occasional diarrhoea or stomach cramp.
If you are looking for big crowds cheering you on, you came to the right place. Children of all age will never leave you wondering if you took the wrong way.
The best of all were the fellow riders though. As you might be able to read through the sarcasm in the previous lines, we went through a lot of ups and downs. Sharing the glory, the pain, the suffering, fatigue and the joy of accomplishment with this great group of people made this experience very special. We grew together as a group, got to know each other’s habits, food schedule, blisters, and other pains (I spare the details but the other riders know what I am talking about).
Tour de Timor is not just a mountain bike race – it is an experience of a very poor country and what comes with it – lack of clean water, cleaning facilities, variety of food and sleep quality add to the strain of body and mind on top of the race itself. By getting pushed out of my comfort zone on so many levels, I gained so much more out of this experience than just fitness.
I want to thank the fellow riders, the med team and the fantastic support team for sharing this incredible experience with me!
Many thanks to River City Cycle for providing me with an awesome Salsa El Mariachi for this race.