I have always loved watching cycle racing, maybe that was because it’s something that I know I could participate in, without making a complete fool of myself. I know I can cycle over long distances and I know at times I can cycle fast. But for many people at 49, (sorry at 21, I wish), competitive cycling may be pushing one’s body beyond its limits. My dad told me ten years ago that cycling was a young person’s pursuit, but as usual, I simply ignored him. I know as I am sure you know that there are many cyclists out there in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s and possibly 90s, and that’s a credit to you.
The opportunity to race down in Chonburi at the Bangkok Bank Cyclefest came up, so I decided to go for it. I have only raced competitively once before and came 10th in a line-up for my age range, of 50 cyclists, too which I didn’t think I did too bad.
My wife and I travelled down to Chonburi on Friday 23 November, in the hope of making a weekend out of it. We stayed at my wife’s friend’s apartment in Pattaya.
We arrived in the evening very late, after my wife convinced me that going through the city centre would be much shorter than skirting around the ring-road, which had been my original suggestion. As it was, we got stuck in gridlock more times than I cared to remember.
It was 7 o’clock by the time we reached Victory Monument, it had taken us the best part of two hours to get there. I could only imagine how long it would take us to get to Pattaya, next week at this rate, I suppose.
We arrived at Pattaya well after 11 o’clock and I was tired out and full of cold and yes, I was racing the following day.
Saturday came around, we got up at the crack-of-dawn and drove to where the ‘Bangkok Bank Cyclefest’ was taking place. That was somewhere near the Siam Country Club, Pattaya.
Being under the weather was bad enough, but once I’d fixed my bike up, I realised that my gears weren’t working correctly. This would have been such a perfect time to allocate a good starting position too, but that was not to be.
We eagerly looked around to find a service engineer or somebody who could fix my dilemma. Fixing a bike of yesterday, was so much easier, but now they had become technically too complicated for me to fathom out.
We found a Shimano Bike Service centre and waited patiently in the queue. Time was becoming a crucial element, as we saw hundreds of cyclists heading for the line-up. As it was, my cable was broken and I needed a new one. This only added to my woes. For 100 baht I was ready to go, but now I had lost the advantage as there were some one hundred cyclists were positioned in front of me.
Well, I took my position in the middle of the crowd, knowing quite well, that there were scores of other enthusiastic cyclists coming up behind me. Annie took photos of me and the event, but eventually, she lost me in the mass of cyclists.
The fastest cyclists must have cruised at over 40km/h. I managed to get myself in the second main group, we were pushing 38km/h for the first two rounds. I thought I was doing well, but for four laps and a course covering 62km it was too hard going for me, and on the third lap I began to slip back.
I’m sure from the outset, I overtook more cyclist than those who passed me. Many of the cyclists looked in much better shape than I did. By now we had all spaced out and the leading two pelotons were out of reach and about 400 metres ahead of me, with the rest of the field lagging somewhere behind. There were drink corners along the way, just in case you wanted to quench your thirst, but stopping would just eat away at the time. The temperature was just right, not too hot.
There were several cyclists I passed that had miss judged the bends and had consequently crashed out of the race or had found the going too much for them.
With tired limbs and nursing a cold, I eventually came in at 73rd out of 235 that finished. I suspected at least 15 had given up. I knew deep down I could have done better if only my condition had been up to it. Colds are colds when all said and done, and they tend to linger around a bit, especially when you don’t want them to.
There were lots of gazebo tents selling cycle gear, and lots of exhausted-looking cyclists freewheeling around the show stands. The set up was excellent and so was the venue. But because of my condition, my wife and I decided to head off after a while.
That evening we ended up heading to the Pattaya Park Building, one of the tallest buildings in Pattaya at 180m tall.
We had dinner at one of the revolving restaurants. The views from up there were quite something, as we began with overlooking the sea, but as we slowly turned on our axis, dusk materialized, as it dragged in the evening, that brought in the night. By the time it was dark, I think we’d revolved about a third of the way around, and we now had the city in our sights.
We were entertained from the outside by the brave devils who cared to jump from the top. Every now and again a brave soul took his life into his own hands by leaping off the roof attached only by a zip-line. ‘Geronimo!’ came to mind.
Annie (my wife) and I enjoyed the evening. The buffet that had been put on for us was divine, talk about the school of gastronomy. My wife love seafood, she’ll eat absolutely anything.
As night crept in, so did the change of atmosphere outside, as the office blocks, and street lights began to glow, creating a whole different perspective to the outside world. Some of the buildings had their own illuminations while others just stood there in the dark acting as silhouettes against the other buildings.
Sunday came around. The first thing we did was to go to the top floor of the Lumpini Park Beach apartment before the sun got too bright. We took photographs of the views up there, the weather was absolutely fantastic and so was my wife.
Later we walked along the beachfront admiring the gardens and palm trees. Pattaya it seemed was all in bloom, but I suppose everything comes out once you’ve had five months of the rainy season.
The thought of Monday was yearning us to head back to Bangkok, but before leaving Pattaya, we decided to visit the Buddha Mountain at Khao Chichan. This was the largest carved Buddha image in the world and at 109m high and 70m wide, it wasn’t hard to understand why.
Next year, hopefully, I will compete more, and maybe, just maybe, I might do much better. Thank you for reading this blog and all the best in whatever you might do regardless of which part of the world you live in.