The Tour de Timor got underway through the streets of Dili this morning. A neutral 20km section through the neighourhoods of Dili showcased the event to the locals whom all seeming get behind this race. Thousands of screaming fans cheered the riders more or less from start to finish of today’s 83km stage. Another example of what this race means to the country and it’s people, of course the loudest cheers are saved for the local Timorese riders whom number close to 100 in this years event. Many of these local athletes rely on borrowed bikes from the Timor Leste Cycling federation. Despite this, they show a clean set of heels to many of the Western riders, especially when the road points skyward.
Point skyward today’s race certainly did, after the neutral section through town, the race more or less immediately began climbing and subsequently split the group. From the village of Hera the race continued on very steep local dirt tracks to the first water station and KOM at the 45km mark, the climb then continued for another 15km to the 2nd KOM and water station before a flatter section on very welcomed semi sealed roads then onto good sealed road for a fast descent into the finishing town of Alieu. The Timore Leste Police department did a fantastic job closing all the roads to local traffic making for confidence inspiring descending and racing. Once finished riders will have accumulated over 2100m of climbing making for many tired legs at the finish village.
A flurry of attacks from local Timor Leste riders early in the climb began proceedings before the professionalism of defending champion David Vaz from Portugal took control and more or less rode the competition off his wheel. Australian Peter Arnott from Darwin did the best of those trying to stick with the super lean MTB professional and would be rewarded with 2nd place on the stage. In 3rd cameron Judson from Sydney making a mens for his race last year which ended with a 2week stay in hospital after an encounter with a pig on a fast descent. Local rider Jacinto De Jesus Da Costa showed he may be the surprise packet of this year’s tour riding to a strong 5th place only 3minutes off a podium result.
In the women’s event Gina Ricardo from Sydney whom also races the Australian domestic road scene put her training and experience at this race to good use by attaining a clear lead in the women’s division. Gina finished 53minutes clear of 2nd placed female Maria Lua Marcal Soares. With fellow Timor Leste rider Domingas Guterres in 3rd.
Full results available here.
Riders now settling in to the very well set up race camp in the village of Alieu. Being at close to 1500m above sea level the temperature is tolerable and a nice view of the many climbs that await riders over the remaining 4 days.
For myself, I arrogantly underestimated how steep and long the climbs here are, with a poor choice of front chainring. I will be changing to the 32T on the front to ease the strain on the steep climbs for the remaining stages. The racing itself is exciting reminds me a lot of the Tour of Rwanda in Africa with the huge local support especially in the rural villages. Thousands of spectators cheering every rider on is a unique experience for many riders and is part of the appeal of racing here. the scenery is spectacular! When you are struggling up the seemingly never ending climbs at least there is a nice view off to your left or right..
A shorter stage with some friendlier elevation on the cards tomorrow, however the terrain will be rough with over 15km of riding in a rough river bed.
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