Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Tour de Timor

Plenty of tumbles in Timor's toughest race

Timor-Leste's spectacular and picturesque mountain country claimed several victims on stage two of the Tour de Timor today. Many riders said they had been distracted by the “unbelievable scenery” and that the distraction was enough to cause them to crash.

Riders suffered cuts, bruises and much road rash on the 57 kilometre section of the Tour de Timor from the nation's second largest city Baucau through to Liuhuno in the country's centre.

Four of Timor-Leste's national team fell and, despite being injured, all continued to the finish line 30 kilometres away where a crowd of several hundred villagers gave them a hero's welcome.

Many riders said they had sacrificed valuable seconds because they “had to stop” and take photographs along the way.

Day two was won by 28-year old Australian Ben Mather in one hour 50 minutes and 27 seconds at an average speed of 30.75 kph; just 24 seconds ahead of Luke French, another Australian. Third was another Aussie Neil Van der Ploeg, who won yesterday's stage. Van der Ploeg will keep the Yellow Jersey for Day 3.

The 450-kilometre “race for peace and adventure” is the initiative of Timor-Leste President Dr José Ramos-Horta. The event is also the principal sporting event of the historic 10th Anniversary of the Popular Consultation celebrations which are being held throughout August. The Popular Consultation in 1999 led to a referendum that cleared the way for independence, which was declared in 2002.

The Tour de Timor is a multi-stage mountain bike contest finishing in Dili on Friday (August 28). The race reaches altitudes of almost 2000 metres on day four, and when climbing from sea level, this makes the stage as challenging as any in the world.

Australian Steele Von Hoff fell and suffered a deep cut to his left arm which required stitches when he was in third position about two kilometres from the finish , but he remounted and came in fifth.

Thousands of highland villagers in traditional dress gathered despite the morning chill to give the riders an amazing welcome. Children waving flags chased bikes chanting “Viva Timor-Leste”.

One rider suffered a blown tyre about two kilometres from the finish but he kept on going and actually crossed the line riding on the wheel rim with the tyre hanging off.

Organisers of the Tour said they were delighted with events so far: “We have had very minor teething troubles, but it has been great,” said Sean Ferguson-Borrell, race Media manager.

Last night the 320 riders camped in Baucau in tents and swags in the grounds of the city's cathedral. Local musicians and artists entertained them into the evening.

Day three is 95 kilometres over very challenging road surfaces, a mixture of bitumen and dirt surfaces but it is not as hilly as the other legs. However there are several river and stream crossings and riders are likely to have to carry their bikes across at least one.

Thousands of children are also taking part in the 10th Anniversary celebrations and the Tour de Timor. Thanks to the generosity of HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, the Festa Ba Dame (Festival of Peace) is being held in conjunction with the ride. The festival is aimed at displaying the beauty, gentleness and creativity of the Timorese people. The children entertain villagers and guests at the day's finish line before the riders arrive.

For further Tour de Timor information:
Media and PR manager, Sean Ferguson-Borrell phone +670 7382208.
Race Director, Dave White phone +670 7305095.

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