Tour de Timor 2012

Stage 3 - Up into the hills...

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Peter Wall | September 12 2012 | 1 comment

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(Photo: Zoe Morley)

Today was an incredible day, the best so far. The 86km stage stayed entirely within the Timor Leste region of Oecussi. It started where yesterday ended – the seaside town of Pante Makasar – and then went up into the hills and mountains adjacent to the town. The scenery was incredible, the people were welcoming, and the riding was tough. The first two days of the Tour the roads were fairly smooth. Today they were bumpy, bumpy, and more bumpy. Things were so hard, many didn’t finish.

The day went like this: heading out of town, things turned difficult quickly. Ten kilometres into the stage riders reached a large river bed. Luckily it’s the dry season and the river was dry, with only a small stream running through, about five metres wide and half a metre deep. Still, it was enough to get everyone’s feet wet, as riding through it was almost impossible for mountain bikes.

Shortly after, the climbing started. Up, up, and up some more. The road was broken and rough, but the scenery was stunning – beautiful, dry rolling hills. And the many locals lining the roads were happy to see the riders, and made an unusual noise I haven’t heard before to cheer them on. Sort of like a “woooouuu”. The route was up and down, mostly up, until the end of the second “King of the Mountain” climb. From there it was downhill to the finish, though the riders had to navigate several dry river beds, which were incredibly dusty and rutted.

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(Photo: Zoe Morley)

The race was dominated by a Malaysian rider called Sharin Amir and an Aussie named Ashley Hayat. About 35km into the race they took the lead, and worked together to climb through the rugged terrain. But with about 10km to go, disaster struck for Ashely. He was riding on a good stretch of pavement (one of the only good sections) with school children lining both sides of the road. We were just in front of him on the motorbike, shooting backwards. As he biked through the crowd, an older spectator was looking the other way and hooked his arm onto Ashely’s. Ashely went down hard, and the Malaysian rider sped on. After pulling himself back together, Ashley got back on his bike and rode on, but he was too far behind. Sharin Amir went on for the stage win, his first in four tries at the Tour de Timor. “Unlucky.” Ashley says, “not something you’d expect.” He’s recovered from the crash, and will be riding tomorrow.

The past two days, after I’ve come in with the leaders of the race, I’ve gone back out on the course an hour or two later to do more shooting. Today I travelled 20km back up the course to the last of the four water stations. As I was interviewing and speaking with people at the station, the “Sag Wagon” pulled up, and the driver, an intense Australian woman, jumped out. “That’s it for you lot,” she said “into the sag wag!” The race was 7 hours old, and the riders were too slow. They reluctantly did as they were told, and climbed into the convoy of 4×4’s and large trucks behind the lead Sag Wagon. One older Australian fellow tried to sneak ahead on his bike, but the Sag Wag lady was on him: “Excuse me! Where do you think you’re going?” she yelled. “Get back here.” He sheepishly did as he was told. Like the others, his day was done.

As for the Jungle Run team, well, like everyone else we camera people got pretty jarred by today’s ride. Tour veteran Patrick Lavaud stopped at a particularly nasty spot and filmed at least 4 riders wiping out. Fearless camerawoman Jacqui Hocking said today was the most hectic day so far… especially following the leaders over the first 30km (and following them as they road through the river). Rookie Chris Knight had the first media motorbike crash of the tour. “Oh man, when it got dusty and steep there was a bank turn where a bunch of locals had gathered, and my driver decided to slam on the brakes and we went down,” he said. Luckily they were going fairly slowly, and he wasn’t hurt.

And that’s the news from here. We are halfway thought the Tour. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update, when the Tour crosses back into Indonesia, before arriving in Timor Leste.

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