In case you’re wondering, the way I snagged this junket was through NeilPryde Bikes. These guys are very well known throughout the windsurfing world and have now ventured into the cycling market. NeilPryde is sponsoring the Tour of Friendship and also advertising on this blog, so I thank them for also inviting me to be part of their team.

I’ve spent every waking hour over the past couple days scoping out the competition around the hotel trying to guage what type of race this will be. I’ve been closely inspecting leg definition, checking out equipment, eavesdropping on conversations, googling names, etc. Are these guys a bunch of ex-pros with a heap of disposable income now reliving their race years? Or are they a heap of D graders who just want to experience what a challenging stage race is like?  Well, as it turns out it’s a mixed bag and everything in between.

Background

After the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, a bike race was organised in Thailand with the support of 40 commissaires. It was first called the “Anti Drug Tour of Thailand”, but with a bunch of Master 1/2/3′s participating this name didn’t hold water (kidding of course!). It’s now named the Tour of Friendship, has 120 support staff, and is basically 200 expats from all over Asia flexing their muscle and showing off their bling.

The race is 5 stages and looks to be quite a challenging route (see details here). Stages range from 120-150km long and some big hills are thrown in. I haven’t done a race like this in a long time and I can’t say that I’m overly confident of my form. Day 4 will be the true test to see the cream rise to the top.

Prologue

Today was the first stage of the race. A 7km prologue on an unbelievable course. I was blown away. Three lanes of closed roads and a festive the atmosphere at the start/finish line. This was nothing like what I had expected.

How did I go? Well, I really have no idea. I’m quite sure I didn’t break top 10 (or 20 for that matter), but the truth came out and the pecking order is now set. The timing system consisted of only a young Thai girl with a watch and a clipboard, but that’s fine. So far everything is much better and more organised than I ever expected and the road stages are what I’m looking forward to. There are some big hills in the coming days and our NeilPryde team has a few ringers to make the race interesting!

Now, I’m off to get a thai massage and eat some more Pad Thai. Have a great weekend and I’ll write more when I get a chance.

Over 200 bikes were transported to the start of the race in these two modified trucks. I was hesitant at first when I heard that we were piling all our bikes up in the back of a truck!

What are the chances that my mate Marz would be on the same flight and in the same race this week (I’m gonna smash him the first hill we hit)

The organiser has arranged each team with their own bus and driver for all the transfers.

Thanks to Rapha, we’ve been given these awesome new Pro Team jersey and knicks to wear. They’re sensational in the heat and we’re the best looking bunch in the race.

Team Excellent Noodles. Don’t be surprised to see these guys in the World Tour next season.

This is the rig that I’m using this week. A NeilPryde Diablo.  Of the two models of bikes they have at the moment (the other is the Alize), this is the more agressive and “racy” one. From what I can tell after this morning’s hitout, I’m gonna enjoy riding it this week.

Notice the red shirt? That’s probably not because everything else was in the wash this morning. I’ve also noticed that number plates are either red or yellow. Unfortunately mine is yellow and I’m expecting a molotov cocktail to be thrown at me at any moment.

At the start/finish: Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup, Cashew Chicken. Does it get any better?

Some of these blokes brought out the big guns for the 9km TT. One poor guy brought his $15k TT machine only for the chain to fall off right after he started taking at least 30 seconds to put back on! I have a feeling that this competition is much more than about who wins the race. It’s about who’s best dressed!

Meet Dave Christenson, the maker of over 25 Rapha movies all over the world since 2007, and lots, lots more. He’s filming this whole tour and I’m keen to see the finished product.

Cycling Australia is gonna have to lift it’s game. Ice cream after a TT? I might just have to move here!

My Garmin wasn’t working properly, but you can see Daniel CarruthersStrava data here. He came in 6th in today’s prologue.