After his last incredible feat, winning the 158 mile (255 km) Tour of the Dragon race in Bhutan, Kona Endurance Team racer Cory Wallace spent a few more days in Bhutan after the Prince extended his visa. From there he headed to East Timor for a five day stage race, the Tour de Timor mountain bike race. Read on below for Cory’s detailed recap of his challenging time in East Timor and a 2nd place finish with his team:
After Bhutan it was back on a jet plane for a couple days to head over to the world’s second-youngest country in East Timor. This proud nation situated in Southeast Asia is just 14 years old and is full of an excited group of locals working hard to push their country forward. In 2010 they hosted the first ever five day Tour de Timor MTB race to promote the country as a peaceful place for adventure tourism and ever since the race has been an annual event.
This year the Tour de Timor was on the international cycling calendar (UCI) and attracted 120 racers, many of them top riders from Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Australia, Singapore – and one Canadian. Home to a very hot climate and a crytsal clear blue ocean, the countryside makes a perfect place for a bike race. There is very little traffic and the rough dirt roads traversing all over the mountainous island make for some tough but great courses.
In 2014 my UK friend Catherine Williamson and I came over for the Tour and were blown away by the rawness and roughness of the race. It was a long week rolling with the punches, sleeping 2-3 hours a night, losing weight eating white rice and dulling our teeth on leather-like beef. It took its toll on us but we both managed to come away with the overall titles. After a year of recovery we both opted to return in 2016, this time being blown away by the improvements which included proper food, huge police and army support shutting down all the roads to ensure our safety and a pretty solid overall organization. It was still a proper adventure given the grim living conditions at camp as we slept in dirty concrete rooms, showered with swamp water beside shitters and had little way of cooling down after racing in the scorching heat.
Teaming up with 2015 winner, Craig Cooke from Australia, and Catherine, it looked like we had an unbeatable 3 person team for this years race. We named ourselves “Team White Rice” and proceeded to fry ourselves to a crisp over the first 2 stages as the course this year stuck down along the ocean in some scorching temperatures and maxed out humidity. Trying to race against heat-resistant tiny Portuguese and Asian climbers was mission impossible for my Canadian Beef as I was overheating before we even started racing each stage at 7am. By the time the sun really came up at 9am, I’d be in full meltdown mode. Catherine being one of the toughest and most accomplished marathon racers in the world, looked at me after having a meltdown in stage 2 and said “I’m not sure about you but I’m getting to old for this stuff.” Being mid thirties, that’s far from the truth. The real truth is that 38-40 degrees is just too damn hot to ride a bike in!
The week would roll along with hot racing, rough living conditions, but an all round great time as we had a solid group travelling together to take in the crazy experience. My buddy Ben had organized a support car for the week with Belinda and Joane looking after 6 of us riders. This made the week much more enjoyable than in 2014 and helped take the mind off the tough racing that was on hand.
Stage 3 looked easy on paper starting with a 20 km descent, a long flat stretch then a short climb to the finish. Hell came to earth in Timor this day as the heat and humidity took out close to a third of the field. Craig collapsed at the finish needing medical support and I had a bad case of heat exhaustion, unable to eat much of anything for the rest of the day and staying up most the night with a fever. Stage 4 was a survival mission, and by stage 5 the body was somewhat back in the game. By the end of the week, Team Fried Rice would end up 2nd overall, with Catherine finishing 2nd in the women’s division, Craig finishing 4th in the men’s, and myself 6th.
After a couple post-race days hanging out on the island it was off to Singapore for a couple nights staying with my friends Ken and Laura. They were amazing hosts, helping me run around picking up more supplies, preparing nutritious meals, and finding a local shop to fix my Kona Honzo race bike.
Originally my flight was booked back to Canada for September 21st, but the organizers at MTB Himalaya were pretty persuasive and I now find myself up in the northern mountains of India getting ready for another 8 days of racing as I will attempt to reclaim my title from 2014.
I’ve been lucky to have had such great support this trip and am actually still feeling alright considering all the travel and racing that has been going on. It will be an experiment to see how the body is going to handle this race but theres only one way of finding out its limits. After 10 days of high altitude training in Bhutan, 1 week of high heat training in Timor, and some OK rest I have my fingers crossed for something to be left in the tank.
Huge thanks to my friend Ben Jones and Shimano Australia for sending over a bunch of replacement parts and for Walton at Attitude Bikes in Singapore for giving my bike an overhaul as she has been hurting ever since riding 250 km across Bhutanese mud at the Tour of the Dragon. Of course without the huge support from my title sponsor Kona Bicycles this trip wouldn’t be possible as they have stood behind my adventures for over 7 years now.
Off to find some more curry to fuel up the tank…