And the world’s your oyster? Well not quite the world, but perhaps the UCI Asia tour if all goes to plan and nobody indulges too heavily in the local sandwiches and gets banh’ed (sorry, but at least it wasn’t a pho pun). Rather, after years of mistaking Vietnam veteran bumper stickers for Catalan flags without the right number of bands, I will be making my own (somewhat more welcome and with somewhat more volition on my part) tour of Vietnam. The travelling circus will begin on the 17th of December, and myself and a team of intrepid youth from across the globe are assembling in Ho Chi Minh City to grow.
Having spent a little while back on the bike since I last shattered my fragile skeleton into more pieces than it originally came in, I have been racing in Mexico (chronicled daily for your stage-reading pleasure here, here and finally here) and “racing” in el tour de Tucson, (here’s my account of that particular appearance of my Tucson hex) and training up and down the highway 101 with the Christmas stars. It’s approaching the time of year where old men in sunny climes must peak in order to crush all comers on the Thanksgiving group ride and the Boxing Day bash. Spandex-covered Isaac Newton that I am, I can stand on the shoulders of these giants in order to get in some good training days while the rest of the cycling world drinks beer, eats chips (or frites), and does races which involve getting off and walking on the uphill parts.
I am pretty excited about the prospect of another fun UCI tour, with the travel it brings, the new roads to explore, and new competition. New foods and new friends are always a part of these races as well. Our ongoing partnership with GoPro allows me to document these events in a way I haven’t been able to before, so look out for diaries, in-race footage, and potential pranks galore. I hope to be able to give you, dear reader, an insight into the reality of these races. It’s not all team buses and beetroot smoothies here, this is bike racing like it ought to be. Young lads, tiny shared rooms, and more enthusiasm than you’ll find behind a Bradley Wiggins one-fingered wave.
This isn’t the sort of stage racing where teams bring chefs and rice cookers; this is about local “delicacies” provided by the race director and late night trips to street food stands when the rumbling of your stomach won’t let you sleep on the rusty, squeaky bed. No gaudy team cars either, you’re lucky if the organization spots you a pick up. Far from the “space legs” compression systems of the tour, these races see your afternoons spent on a moped buzzing around vibrant cities, taking in incredible sights and desperately searching for tubular glue.
We have a few of these races lined up this year. The Tour of Vietnam organizer has been kind enough to help us out with all the expenses apart from flights. One of my big goals this year is to take guys who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance and introduce them to the world of cycling and expose them to bike racing. Part of this is the non-profit I am running in Tucson, which is helping Native American people embrace cycling as a way of transforming their diabetes management and health. This scheme will aim to use the bike as a way of saving and changing lives, and reform the conception of a much-maligned, persecuted, and misunderstood people. Another integral part of what I see as a linked mission is taking young, talented cyclists from the area where I am living now, an area which I understand to cover both sides of the border, and to expose these kids to racing on a higher level. To teach them to be good representatives of their community and role models for their peers.
To that end I am looking to fundraise to get these guys equipped and sent to races. The more I can raise, the more guys I can take on and the more of a difference I can make. Even five dollars can help, and we would appreciate your support. But even if you don’t have a penny to share, we would appreciate your good wishes, support, and post-race travel tips.
As I wrote on my last blog, cycling is an adventure and a game, it’s enjoyable and beautiful, and it should never be too serious. Cycling isn’t about big money, big pharma and big threats. I hope to be able to share these adventures with you, be they a bluegrass banjo band outside a church in Arizona (video of that upcoming once I work out how to compress it), or a buffalo ploughing a rice paddy in Vietnam.
I hope you can enjoy with us what cycling is really about – and that’s having fun.