Tour de Timor
Words by David Lyons
The Tour de Timor mountain bike race for 2013 was held from 2 to 6 September and was bound to be a little different this year after administration of the race was removed from the people who had successfully established and run it for the previous four years, and handed to the Minsterio do Turismo with just over three months until start day.
The previous organisers had already arranged most of this year’s race and it had been officially launched in Dili, but now it was all in doubt, even the early registrations were refunded. No one with any experience at all was now on the organising committee. The website was owned by the previous organisers so there was no means of communicating information about the race so I established the ‘Save the Tour de Timor’ Facebook page.
Many people were scared off by what had occurred and only 173 entries were received by the time registrations closed instead of the usual 300 – 400. About 120 of the entrants were Timorese, which was the largest amount of local entries ever. Prize money was reduced to about half of the usual $USD 100,000 pool. The race this year was also reduced from six days to five and distance to 464 km.
Due to this year being my fourth Tour, having placed third in my category last year, as well as setting up the Facebook page, the organisers referred me to the makers of a TV documentary. I took part in about four lengthy interviews which will have parts included in the production due for completion later this year.
I have absolutely no doubt that the Tour de Timor would have been a dead duck this year if it wasn't for one man. Thank you David Lyons. Numbers-wise, it was an ordinary Tour. But if it wasn't for that hard looking bloke in the black and blue jersey at the centre of this picture, there wouldn't have been enough riders to have a tour at all. We all owe him a debt. I know the Tour changed my life just a bit more again this year. I'm more considerate in traffic; and I've refocussed on the things that are truly important - thanks in part to a conversation I had with Brynley Abad - but that conversation would not have been had, if David Lyons hadn't saved this Tour. I'm pretty sure none of us know how much he did. Jabbing Aqualino in the ribs; encouraging people to enter; phoning medical support to make sure they were coming; and stuff we will never know about. By doing too much he probably put himself in a hole that resulted in the illness he was suffering when he arrived in Dili. Thanks David for your company... and saving our Tour. - David Dennis
Stage 1 saw drama before the start with almost all Timorese entrants, except for the elite, sponsored riders, walking out at the start line. This was apparently due to a lack of assistance from the government. This left a field of only 60 riders in total.
The five stages covered 464 km with the longest two being around 125 km each. The race initially travelled from Dili along the North coast before crossing the country and going along the South Coast before crossing the country again and finishing in Dili. The entire race is on public roads which are closed during the race and road racing tactics are used. The roads are in poor condition and there are numerous long climbs and short ascents up to 18% gradient. 4WD or trail bikes are the only motorised vehicles able to be used. The race is won and lost on the climbs. Stage 4 saw a HC category climb from 200m altitude to 1860m in just over 40km.
Medical assistance was provided by National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre from Darwin. Cooked meals were supplied daily and were excellent. Riders supply and set up their own camping gear.
My category (men’s 35-44) saw only 13 entries from Australia, East Timor, Singapore, Portugal, USA and Scotland, down from 58 entries last year. I finished in fourth place which was disappointing, after catching a cold two weeks before the start. Overall I finished 17th out of the 60 competitors who started the race. Despite the race being about 100 km shorter than last year, it took me about 30 mins longer at 23hr 30min, due to the difficulty factor this year.
The organisers gained valuable experience and did an amazing job to organise and run this race with such a short time from being handed responsibility to the start date. 2014 is looking like being the best race yet and hopefully the confidence of international riders will return and give us entry numbers back above 300.
If you are looking for an amazing experience, a great race and social event, and top prize money for those at that level, do the Tour de Timor. It is only an hour’s flight from Darwin and pre and post-race accommodation is very cheap. However, it is a tough week. The race combined with the camping and weather conditions is a real test mentally as well as physically. East Timor is a third-world country so if you want fancy hotels and hot showers, this race is not for you.