The final stage of the Tour de Timor finished on the tropical shores of the beautiful Timor Sea after another tough and elevation heavy 90km stage from the mid week camp in mountain village of Aileu. Now riders can relax in the comfort of their accommodation in the capital city Dili after a week of tough racing. Yet again the stage today highlighted some absolutely stunning vista’s and cultural sites of this country. From the start riders again more or less immediately headed UP with the inevitable splits in the field occurring early. Race leader David Vaz seemingly in more of a mood to ride with others today considering his GC lead of close to 1 hour rode at a more sedate pace trying to encourage a small but fast group. 5 or 6 made this selection however it was not long until the gradients took to over 20% meaning Vaz’s ‘easy pace’ was too much for those in tow. He again rode off to another solo stage victory. In his wake Peter Arnott winner of stage 4 paired up with Tim Goulding whom also climbs well to tackle the first 2 KOM’s together. This was an elevation gain of over 1100m in less than 20km. The steep climbs through deep bulldust mean traction was difficult to negotiate however those with the correct gearing, nuance and power were able to ride the entirety of the climb. Behind this Aussie pairing Cameron Judson, myself, Jacinto De Jesus Da Costa and Diamantimor Sandro Monteiro Sexas rode in unison evenly matched over this climb and until approximately the 45km mark where the catch of a fatiguing Goulding was made. Eyeing an opportunity to clasp the lead in the 40+ age category competition Judson made a move at this point attacking on the slopes on one of the 3 climbs that lay in the 2nd half of the stage. Judson’s experience in road cycling serving him well as it was also at this point that the remainder of the race turned to sealed road. He would carry on to take 3rd on the stage and win the 40-49 age category overall ranking. With this move also been a threat to my top 3 GC overall position I put in chase to Judson leaving the remaining 3. Seixas and Da Costa whom were both racing for the title of ‘Top Timorese finisher’ were matching each others moves and dropped Goulding in the process. Another fine performance from these athletes whom are now experienced campaigners in this tour both having competed in the first ever edition in 2009. Seixas would come home in 5th today with Da Costa a mere few seconds back in 6th.
Gina Ricardo relished in taking her first ever overall victory at the Tour de Timor after 5 attempts, she also took the stage today competing right up there within the top 10 of male finishing times. Behind Gina it was the flash from New Zealand Lauren Pevy who took 2nd place today just 25seconds ahead of 3rd the local Maria Lua Marcal Soares. For Lauren who now lives in Northern Sydney the riding this week was well suited to her training ground of the rocky, steep trails of Sydney’s northern beaches. Full results courtesy of ‘DURT race results’ all week are available here.
Today’s stage took riders through more populated areas than previous stages which really highlighted one of the most special things about this race and about this country. Each village would come out in droves to support the race with singing, chanting, cheering music to the riders ears as they raced through the populated areas.
Sixty percent of the population of East Timor live on less than US$1.75/ day, it is one of the poorest countries in the world when using GDP/capita. It ranks around other countries like Sudan and Bangladesh. hence, life is TOUGH for much of the population here. What is striking for a westerner from one of the wealthiest countries in the world is how many smiles and joy there appears to be among the people here. There is constant noise in Timor Leste, noise of people laughing, clapping, singing. People appear happy here! A good lesson in the power of perspective maybe, especially when the same can not always be said for the streets of downtown Sydney one of the wealthiest postcodes on the planet. The people of Timor Leste have experienced decades of horrific trauma, now they are comparatively free (Livre) I imagine the relatively trivial things that can plague the minds of wealthy western folk are relatively speaking not so much of a worry here. This is one lesson that visiting this country and doing this race is made more than worthwhile.
Tourism is also one of the industries this new nation is trying to build in order to build it’s economy. With such short and easy access from Australia, this is a trip I could not recommend highly enough. After a sub 1 hour flight from Darwin you can be on a truly life changing adventure. The Tour de Timor is a terrific showcase of an amazing country.
Next year the Tour de Timor has plans to move to an 8 day event and visit the border area of Oecussi that was a hot spot during violent tensions in the area in decades past. This will mark the 20th anniversary since the country’s independence from Indonesia in 1999. Journeying along the Indonesian border adds to the symbolism this race has as a movement and ambassador for peace in Timor Leste. More on the 2019 event to come on their website.