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The Riders of 2009

posted Jan 14, 2012, 10:03 PM by Bruce Knox   [ updated Jan 14, 2012, 10:10 PM ]

The riders of the Team Dai Vientiane to Luang Prabang 2009 Ride are a hardy bunch of cyclists hailing from all corners of the globe. The following rider profiles have been submitted in part by the riders themselves, with extra information added post-ride.

Please note that post-ride comments are based on real life events, some more loosely than others.

No post-ride comments are entirely ficticious.

BRUCE "The Pusher" KNOX


Bruce has been riding bikes since the age of two (according to his mother) and finds his garage full of more bicycles than anything else. Usually found each morning rolling along some dusty South-East Asian semi-paved road-like surface he has seen his fair share of majestic sunrises and mindless driving in his seven years in Vientiane but cannot resist the urge to pedal. Having organised the inaugrural Team Dai ride of 2008, he is looking forward to the magnificent scenery of northern Laos, the companionship of three days in the saddle with a bunch of like minded folks and the thirty kilometre downhill run just outside of Kiewkacham! Brakes, he asserts, are for the feint hearted!

While not on his bike he can be found coordinating and teaching IT at Vientiane International School or singing as the front man for 'the best funk band in Laos', Klustafunk.

Bruce earned his nickname "The Pusher" during the 2009 ride to Luang Prabang for his selfless and somewhat reckless 10km of pushing a debilitated team mate to the Day 2 lunch stop. Not having a working chain, this teammate had been floundering on the roadside for some time when Bruce came upon him. Whispering words of encouragement and placing a sweaty hand in a warm place, Bruce strained and grunted as he pushed his floundering team mate up the hills to the eventual lunch stop.

No special thanks to the Flying Sausage for his bout of amnesia!


GINNY "Screamer" COLEMAN


A veteran from the ride of 2008, Ginny took to the road in 2009 with the confidence of one who knows how things need to be done. The Team graphic designer and costumer, Ginny was responsible for the outstanding team jerseys of the 2009 ride and organising the fantastic buffet of treats awaiting the team in Luang Prabang at the conclusion of the 2009 ride.

While enjoying the easy going of the meandering plains Ginny was not in her element until the gradient hit 10% and she was descending. Ginny earned her nickname of "screamer" on these descents as she ignored her brakes and literally screamed past teammates on the way to the bottom of the steep mountain descents.






ANDREW 'WIL' " The Wingman" WILLIAMSON


Rumoured to be the most natural athlete in the world who has never realised his true athletic potential, Wil stands out as the fittest rider of the entire team. Feeling bad for being so fit, during the ride Wil was spotted dousing his head and soaking his shirt under a roadside waterfall to make it look as if he was actually sweating.

Earning his nickname of "The Wingman" through his selfless attention to those not as fit as he, Wil trailed the pack throughout the 2009 ride to Luang Prabang offering words of encouragement, technical advice and occasional motivational quotes to the few team members suffering from the distance, heat, steep gradients and the fact that they had never ridden a bicycle before.

Wil has a long history in cycling and wields a bicycle pump with the same sort of lethal grace only ever seen before when Obi Wan Kinobi clashed light sabers with Darth Vader that fateful night on the Deathstar.




PANY "Tenacious P" SILAVONG


With a history in cycling as long as the down tube on his Trek MTB, Pany was looking forward to the challenge of 400km, a bicycle and a jar of nappy rash cream. Having participated in the gruelling training rides, Pany thought he was in good shape to set the road alight with his speed and determination so decided to handicap  himself prior to the start of the 200 ride to Luang Prabang by getting a good case of giardia.

Having not kept a morsel of food or water in for a period of 48 hours prior to roll out, Pany freely admitted that he was "not good" as the ride began and had clocked up 13 toilet stops before we had hit the 80km mark. The mind was willing but the body was weak, so with some strong words and physical threats from Bruce "The Pusher" Knox, Pany rested up over the last half of day one to prepare his body for the next two days.

And what preparation there was.

Over the next two days, strong words, physical threats and the heartless taunt that the nappy rash cream would be taken away did not move Pany from the cycle. He rolled through scheduled breaks, left early from lunch stops, thumbed his nose at those of us sipping from the cooled waters of the support vehicles and rode on - and on - and on - and on, until he found himself in Luang Prabang! With someone asking where the on/off button was for Pany, he earned the title "Tenacious P" by pedalling and pedalling and pedalling until he could pedal no more!


MARK "Back Snapper" WILLIAMS


Over the course of the 2009 ride to Luang Prabang, Mark set the rather odorous record of being the only rider to wear one shirt for the entire ride - the free Handicap International shirt handed out to all riders at the pre-ride team meeting. The request from Bruce "The Pusher" Knox was for all riders to have this shirt available for the final descent into LP to present a uniformed spectacle to those awating us at the final rendezvous point. Being the conscientious young man that he obviously is, Mark did not wish to upset Pusher Knox so thought he would wear it from Day 1 so that he wouldn't forget to have it available for Day 3.

Come Day 3 it was no longer the sparkling white that it was when he originally donned it and unfortunately, the uniformed spectacle hoped for by Pusher Knox did not quite eventuate as Mark's was a decidedly off-white, some may even say 'cream' shade of whiteness. Not only was the colour slightly off, but the aroma was too!

Whether it was the aroma of the three day old shirt or the fact that Mark was so often overcome by the beauty and majesty of the northern Lao countryside, he was generally found at the back of the pack, riding in to scheduled stops with the tail enders with his camera bag bulging with the images he so often stopped to capture all the way from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. If you haven't seen his pictures yet, you should.



DAVID "The Rhythm Method" CAMERON


I am a musician, cyclist, and educator who is, at the present time, living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I currently teach music to children at the United Nations International School, direct productions for the Hanoi International Theatre Society, act, write and perform my own music, and engage in an assortment of other creative activities  Previously, I lived in Vientiane, Lao PDR and Northern California.  I am an avid cyclist and have toured throughout Lao PDR, Vietnam, New Zealand, Tasmania, Nova Scotia, and the west coast of the United States.  Team Peace Dove, a kind of amorphous brainchild of mine, is a work in progress, an idea to combine music, cycling, and education to bring about positive change on our planet.  I like dogs more than cats.

During the 2009 ride to Luang Prabang, David found himself in the role of Team Guru. Having clocked up more miles on a bicycle than Barrack Obama on a campaign trail, David had been on the road for a total of 4532 hours and 45 minutes and had something to say for the riders of Team Dai, and it was something like this...

"When you are riding with mountains you must find the rhythm of the mountain. Let the mountain find you. Ride with the mountain. Find it's rhythm and ride to the rhythm."

Those in Team Dai who were not impressed by the sincerity with which this pearl of wisdom was delivered were at least went to bed with the clear impression that this guy was weird. Most thought nothing more about it until... the mountains.

By the end of the three days there were more than a few Team Dai members who had been overheard whispering furtively to companions that they had "found it".

The knowing look of the Team Dai guru as he sat sipping his chai tea in the corner of the upstairs of the Luang Prabang Joma Cafe & Bakery said it all. The rhythm of the mountain.







ELENA "Borat" OLIVI


Elena's illustrious cycling career took off on a less than glamorous pedal -- her first cycling memory is of her mother suggesting that she join her on a tricycle ride around the block after returning home from her father's locked office, wherein Elena had shat her pants because he took too long in a meeting, leaving her with no evacuative recourse, pun intended. Unfortunately, her four years on his earth had already instilled in her too much stubborn pride to admit to her parents that she needed to wash up and change her clothes before mounting the saddle. So on she went, meekly waving to her neighbors and swearing never to be persuaded to ride again.

To this day she sometimes wakes up in a cold sweat dreaming about that incident and the resulting goo. But she's decided to conquer her fears and get back on the saddle for this epic journey to Luang Prabang. 
NB: She will be cycling with a change of underwear in her back pocket. Bad dreams never say die. Er... Bad dreams never say DAI.

This trip will be one of her last Lao Hurrahs before moving to Kenya where she will continue her work on malaria prevention with Population Services International.

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride, Elena showcased what was for many, the most confronting aspect of the 2009 ride, her "duds".

Elena chose to ride in her own brand of cycle attire, breeding the sleek body hugging form fit of Lance Armstrong with with the sleek body hugging form fit of Sacha Baron Cohen to create the Lycra Borat. While it was enviously eyed by a number of other ladies on the team, one more discerning female cycle veteran wondered aloud how one would demurely visit the bathroom in such an outfit, what with the "whole body" approach.

We can see by Elena's childhood experiences (detailed above) that this nuance of long distance cycling has never been high in the list of Elena's considerations.


Julia "Snickers" McWilliams


In an interesting case of Will-I-Won't-I, Team Dai was unsure if McWilliams would "go all the way" with the team after she raised concerns with the Team Management prior to rollout about the heat and her lack of significant preparation for such conditions. It wasn't until late on the afternoon of Day 1 that McWilliams, having ridden on the tail of Pusher for the most part of the day pulled him aside at the second to last scheduled stop and confessed, "I want to go all the way with you."

Somewhat aghast at such a brazen proposition from a young lady who knew full well that he was married with a daughter, Pusher was momentarily left speechless until it ocurred to him that McWilliams was referring to the rest of the ride and not him personally. Disappointed and excited at the same time, Pusher enquired as to the sudden change of heart. As McWilliams, as it turns out, launched into her pile of nonsense about finding an inner strength that her therapist had always alluded to and that she had only fleetingly glimpsed in the past, Borat Olivi, who had been on the outskirts of the conversation, fired up.

"It's the bloody snickers bars she's been wolfing down! She's knocked off 6 in the last half hour!"

Pusher, his head still swimming from the "all the way" comment, could do naught but acquiesce.

So McWilliams became "Snickers" and continued on to conquer the mountains of Northern Laos whilst single handedly wiping out the chocolate bar supply north of the Nam Song river.


EMILY "Empower" RUSSELL


Emily's relationship with biking goes back to her childhood job of delivering newspapers on her hand-me-down BMX  (complete with a attached milk crate).  She upped the anti on the bike front in first year university upon discovering it would cost her $100 per year for a card to prove she couldn't afford to pay full price for public transport.  Instead, she invested the money she would have spent on concession cards over the next five years in a bike.  Since then, she has been hooked.  Her proudest touring moments include conquering the hills of Tasmania and New Zealand and a spectacular month-long unsupported off road trip across Australia's semi-desert Kimberley region.  After nearly four years in Laos, Emily is excited to be spending her last weekend here (before moving back to Australia) in the saddle climbing hills and enjoying spectacular scenery with friends old and new, in support of two fantastic causes.

Entering the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride vying for "Most Toured Rider" status with Mr David "Rhythm Method" Cameron, Emily's reputation as Ms. Indefatigable was up for examination. Having passed all tests with flying colours and an average speed of 299,792,458 metres per second throughout the two month training phase of the Team Dai event, there were very few on the team willing to publicly question the power contained within the 7'3" frame of this veritable cycle powerhouse.

Not wishing to disappoint and aware that should she not succeed, banishment from the PDR was a real and ready consequence, Emily was a picture of clarity and focus as the Team rolled out of VTE at 4:00am on March 7. Immediately finding her rhythm and spinning at a cadence Lance Armstrong and noted astrophysicists Tycho BraheJohannes Kepler and Joseph von Fraunhofer in their collaborative book entitled, "Lance in the Pants - The Astrophysical Approach to Happy Cycling" described as "not only dangerous to the rider but a real threat to the space-time continuum", Emily wasted no time in reaching terminal velocity minus one (TV-1) and suddently disappeared.

It was not until Day 3, 10km up the grinding 30km ascent that Emily suddenly reappeared at the back of the pack, overtaking The Wingman, Dry Leaves Corletto and Pusher Knox with incredible and enviable ease. The quizzical looks shared between Winger, Leaves and Pusher were silenced with a single comment from Russell.

Not quite sure what to make of the comment, the three men decided it best never to speak of it again and pedaled on with more on their mind than there had been a matter of moments before.What was not left unspoken was the sheer power this woman possessed and hence the name was born. Empower.


FRAUKE "Rock Solid" HAAKE


Moving to Vientiane last September I realized I had to leave behind my bike which was my best companion throughout the last 14 years, taking me through Northern Germany, around Lake Constance, along the river Rhine, through the Netherlands, the UK and on a final trip trying to ride from the UK to Germany – which unfortunately ended in heavy snow fall in Maastricht… Luckily there will be no snow on the way to Luang Prabang and I am really looking forward to the trip through Laos’ amazing landscape with a group of motivated cyclists, raising money at the same time – these should be enough reasons to make it up this extremely long mountain and also a good excuse to eat chocolate!

Not on my bike I can be found nowadays either at WWF’s office working on sustainable energy for the Mekong countries or in the nice restaurants and bars in Vientiane, thinking where to travel next.

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride, Haake was the embodiment of the pure sustainable energy that she grapples with in her 9-5er. Winning the award for the most unassuming and inspirational rider of the tour, Haake navigated the 400km with not a whisper of suffering, discontent or concern. In fact, if it wasn't for her envious transformation from daytime, lycra-clad machine to glistening-ringletted-Phu-Khun-starlett, Haake would have completed the three day event completely under the radar.

Not only capturing the attention of the gentlemen of the tour as she sipped a cool Beer Lao in a languid and relaxed fashion in the town triangle, Haake was the belle of the ball with the local vegetable sellers who had never before beheld such "pom ngam", which in the local parlance amounted to "beautiful hair".

For her unyielding consisitency and uncanny ability to transform herself with but a 44 gallon drum of ice cold water and a 2 watt globe, Haake earned the title, "Rock Solid".


NICOLETTE "Shiftless" BAAN


Hi I'm Nicolette and been on my (city) bicycle almost daily since my father taught his 5 year old the Dutch skill, letting go of the saddle.... and of his third daughter... help!

I had my first taste of mountainbiking in Nepal in 2001 and was knocked unconscious two months later when I missed a u-turn during my first race. After recovering from the concussion (did wear a helmet!) and a few more years practice we flew our bikes to Lhasa. And cycled back to Kathmandu via mount Everest basecamp (Tibetan side) in 13 days. I do remember those 25km ascents very clearly... Not sure which is worse, the icy dryness of the altitudes or the hot humidity of Laos. Its hard work and I love to test my body to the limits -its addicting. And you know what - now I can take my son along (and watch his back for most of the way)! I can't wait to breathe in the scenery and connect with the villagers along the way.


My family has been in Laos since 2004, with SNV and I'm doing volunteerwork with social-urban issues. Pusher has been a great motivator & navigator to get the dusty mountainbike out I am excited to join the group!

During the course of the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride, Baan Snr had a moment of temporary madness that defined the rest of her ride.

60km out of Vientiane, in the darkness afforded by the hour of 5:00am, Baan Snr experienced a departure. As the 5:00am turned into 5:05am, she realised the departure was directly related to a piece of her bicycle. With most bicycles not generally festooned with bits and pieces designed to "depart", Baan Snr soon realised that the recalcitrant object was in fact the right hand thumb lever that allowed her to change gears, otherwise known as the "bottom shifter". At the next scheduled stop after the unexpected departure, Baan Snr decided to alert team management.

Team Management, after coming to grips with the nature of the problem, suggested some options but were led to understand that Baan Snr had a pretty good take on the location of the departure and could reliably navigate back to the departure point to reclaim the missing part, which was about 5cm long and 1cm wide. When, with further questioning team management learned that Baan Snr was about to engage in a sweep of 8km of road in the half light of dawn for a black object 5cm in length an executive decision was taken.

Get on your bike. Keep riding. You shall now be known as "Shiftless".


JAAP JAN "Yum Yum Guy" BAAN


JJB, the youngest member of Team Dai (ever, in the history of the event) was an enigma.

Riding his bicycle as if it had only one cog on the back wheel (and a frigging small cog at that), JJB rode the entire distance with nothing but clear road as his frontal view. In common parlance this suggests he was the fastest rider of the team and was always in front. Not ever looking like he was in any pain, he soon became the idol of those whose younger years had already drifted into that zone of "I'm not sure if this really happened or if I'm making it up". JJB, who was, on a daily basis, not making it up, continued to impress throughout the entire ride and just happened to impress some more than others.

A certain young chocolate bar labelled lass was left drop-jawed and disappointed to learn of his 1994 entry into the world, having designs on the slightly-younger-than-expected cycling powerhouse, and was consoled in a minimal manner by assigning the somewhat presumptuous nickname of Yum Yum Guy.




KIRSTEN "The Princess" FOCKEN


I have not always been the happiest cyclist. Cycling to school and university in the horrible German winter was not really a joy. Living in big cities since then made it also not very appealing to fight with cars, buses or motorbikes. So my interest in riding bikes really developed in Laos.  The beautiful country, pleasant climate and not too many cars (yet) make it possible. Not sure though if the Luang Prabang trip will turn out to be the highlight and end point of my short cycling career. There are lots of other sports I enjoy such as running, tennis, swimming and also less physical activities like going to nice restaurants, watching films and reading books.
Since beginning 2007 I am working with the Lao National Tourism Administration as a Marketing Advisor as part of the German cooperation. Maybe I can convince them to organise and support more sporting events such as cycling or marathons in the future.
Arriving exhausted at the end of a grueling second day of long uninterrupted climbs and hot sun, the grumbling that had characterised Ms Kirsten's final 20km reached a crescendo. "I am not going to bathe with a drum of water with shrimp in it!" was her exasperated call as she dismounted in the idyllic mountain setting known as Phu Khun. And with that she left in search of alternative lodging.
Returning a few minutes later, it was obvious to those strewn across the town triangle that Ms Kirsten had made a discovery, which she immediately shared.
"I have found a guest house with large luxurious king sized beds with matresses of the softest flax and pillows of goose down and sheets of the finest silk. The bathrooms are modeled on the ancient baths of Rome with steaming hot water, rose petals and rare oils from the Orient. The water closet is of the finest porcelain. I will be staying there tonight."
The slower ones listening were soon trampled by the stampede of similarly shrimp-water-bucket-disgusted riders clamouring for an opportunity to also enjoy this luxury for the evening. Ms Kirsten, now firmly renamed as "The Princess", turned on her heel and thought she heard a slightly miffed, "I hope you find the pea!" comment from somewhere in the direction of a thoroughly unwashed group of male Team Dai riders.


LIEVEN "The Flying Sausage" GEERINCK


While spending most of his working life on the water, it would be dangerous for one to assume that this man would be like a fish out of water when on land. His ability to find the absurd within the mundane completely endeared him to his Team Dai team-mates over the three days of the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride.

One of the few veterans of the 2008 ride to Luang Prabang, Geerinck came into the team with a pedigree only associated with the Corsini Valencia Tervueren which went on to place third at the French National Dog Show Championships of 2008. His antics of the 2008 ride were already legend and a popular topic of conversation throughout the two months of training in the lead up to the 2009 event.

While generally happy to be asked for the authoritative version of the 2008 legends, Geerinck was consistenly unwilling to plumb the murky depths of the story relating to how he earned the 2008 title of "The Sausage". Forunately for Geerinck, the only surviving veteran of the 2008 ride who could shed some light on the story was not participating in the 2009 ride, which only fuelled more rumours. Apparently the wife of the absent veteran, on learning that Geerinck was planning to "ride again", had vehemently forbidden her husband to return to the 2009 event, reminding him of his post-ride comments of a year ago.

The exact nature of those post-ride comments can only now be speculated upon and really should be put to rest, but a bike rider with a mysterious story is like a dog with bone and so the conjecture remained and continued. The team, not willing to let this barking dog lie were understandably reluctant to rename Geerinck and lose such a tasy morsel of rumour, so conceded that he was "damn fast up those hills" and according to Toolz Fink, "like a possessed demon" on the downhills so simply added "Flying" to the mysterious name of a year past.

The Team Dai Hall of Fame has it's first member - The Flying Sausage!


MARIKO "The Smiling Samurai" HARADA


The most remarkable feat of the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride was perpetrated by the diminitive in size but gargantuan in heart Harada of Japan.

In what many considered from the outside to be a classic case of delusion, Harada of Japan joined the team in January of 2009 without what most would consider to be an essential piece of kit for a three day, 400km bicycle ride - a bicycle! Always maintaining a positive outlook and a smile that could not be erased, Harada of Japan was not fazed by the nay-sayers and simply overlooked the fact that she did not have a bicycle in order to focus on the positives. She was part of a team. She was going to ride to Luang Prabang. She was going to get fit.

Arriving at one of the first training rides without a bicycle, Harada of Japan soon realised that an important issue needed to be addressed and so, after stubbornly refusing to be put off by the fact that she just could not keep up with the rest of the pack when they were riding bicycles and she wasn't, she purchased a bicycle.

After attending two weeks of training rides without a bicycle, her first training morning with a bicycle came as quite a shock to her. "This bicycle riding is great when you have a bike. It is soooo much easier!"

With only six weeks of on-bike training, the short money was on Harada of Japan to be the first to find the going too tough and make a graceful retirement prior to roll-out. How wrong could they have been.

With only six weeks of on-bike training, Harada of Japan rode the plains and mountains like her countryman and olympic cyclist, Tomohiro Nagatsuka who launched himself into the media spotlight by announcing he was planning to wear a swimwear beneath his tracksuit in his quest for a medal at the Beijing games. While it is impossible to confirm if Harada of Japan went to such lengths in her quest for speed it cannot be denied that she absolutely killed the mountains and gave some of the more seasoned riders a real run for their money. And all with an incredible smile. Harada of Japan, the Smiling Samurai.


MAX "Spare Ribs" CHEVALIER


1. Name: Max Chevalier from the Netherlands
2. Physiotherapy mentor for Cope and spent 15 yrs in developing countries (Sierra Leone, Afganistan, China among others)
3. It was always my wish to cycle the mountains, to hurt myself while beating some of them, no matter where. As you know Holland does not have that many so this is once in a life time opportunity for me. 
4. These days more a runner (3 marathons) and tennis player than a cyclist but that was my favourite sport 20 years ago within a team that spent more hours after, talking in the cafe (discussing new strategies..) than the cycling by itself.

The man with more years under his feet than any other Team Dai riders in the history of the Team Dai phenomenon, Maxim Chevalier rode the mountains he so misses in his lower-than-sea-level home of Holland with the ease and grace of the 60 years that he has not quite clocked up yet and the battle scars and three broken ribs sustained in a training mishap a week prior to roll-out. Apparently finding the mountainous terrain much easier than anticipated and three broken ribs not enough of a problem, Chevalier took a leaf out of the book of Tenacious P and decided to increase the difficulty level to "extreme" by selflessly donating his chain to the children of Ban Gebroken Kettin. With his philanthropic deed nicely out of the way, Chevalier suddenly realised that the rest of the trip was not all downhill when he mounted his bike to start coasting up a 10% incline. Little did he know of the disasterous consequences this Robin Hood like gesture would soon precipitate.

Suffering the full effects of gravity and a somewhat essential piece of kit now missing, his plaintive cries for assistance were ignored by all except one, and mostly by the Flying Sausage. Expecting assistance to be called in via the Flying Sausage Telegraph (FST), Chevalier and The Pusher took a moment to reflect on the complete stupidity of random chain donations to children not owning bicycles. That moment extended to moments, which extended to many moments and finally concluded when the two men realised the FST had failed to get the message through. So with the ability to repair the damaged chain fully negated by the complete stupidity of random chain donations to children not owning bicycles, Pusher rolled up his sleeves and placed his sweaty hand in a very warm place and pushed.

On arriving at the lunch stop some eight and a half kilometres distant, many Team Dai riders commented that the smile on the face of Chevalier was much brighter than normal, but stopped short of attributing that smile to the placement of Pusher's sweaty paw. After the lunch break the Team was met with a descent of epic proportions where Chevalier was able to finally feel good about the complete stupidity of random chain donations to children not owning bicycles due to that moment's chain superfluous-ness.

Chevalier's good feeling however was rudely interrupted by a small pig which was accustomed to listening out for the distinctive noise made by a chain spinning at high speed before crossing the road. Known to be very short sighted and placing high reliance on their sense of hearing, the small pig assumed the coast to be clear and stepped out. Chevalier, whose complete stupidity of random chain donations to children not owning bicycles was by this time well established, did not have a chain, and therefore did not have a bicycle creating the only sound providing that small space between life and death for pigs crossing roads. That small space was erased as Chevalier silently thundered past and over what would have been, for the very last seconds of it's short life, a very bewildered pig.

Maxim "Spare Ribs" Chevalier was sat in the corner that evening during the dinner meal.


NAMI "Alto" NELSON


To make good use of a line from a song that has already had too much good use for its own good, "the hills were alive...(you know the rest)" during the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride.

Whilst considered by many to bear a striking resemblance to one Ms J. Andrews, it was not this striking similarity in looks that led to Ms Nelson's nickname settling at "Alto", but her willingness to let the fresh mountain air and her general joie de vivre inspire her to lift up her voice and sing.

Truly an uplifting experience, to see such unfettered happiness in this often determinedly bleaker and bleaker world of ours, the Team Dai riders and management wish that all could have joined in to sing their cycling heart-song.

On second thoughts, if everyone but the Flying Sausage could have lifted their voices to the skies then that would have been fine.

Maintaining quite a humble approach to all the limelight, "Alto" Nelson pointed to others rather than herself to highlight the real inspirations, but was overheard in back chatter saying, "Well I can't help it - I just like to sing!"

If more people shared this spirit the world would be a much better place.


PETER "The Absent Presence" SEMONE

Peter grew up in the mountain biking epicenter of the world - Marin County, California - and throughout his youth he was an avid cycler.  During the past 20 years, Peter has lived and worked in Southeast Asia, where he has always owned a bike.  However, during this time he has had varying degrees of commitment to riding his bike supported by a litany of excuses.  As a resident of Bali for nearly a decade, cycling was high on his list of priorities.  This was followed by a prolonged stint in Bangkok where cycling took a back seat to 'other activities': The excuse being that cycling in Bangkok is an 'extreme' sport of traffic weaving and not very pleasurable.  Since moving to Vientiane last July, Peter has once again taken up cycling with great enthusiasm and has found it to be a great way of getting much needed exercise while exploring the natural wonders of Laos and its people.

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride, many Team Dai riders confessed to unusual feelings of de ja vu along the way, and a strange form of the "vu" at that. It was not so much that they had the sense that they had been there before, but more the sense that someone they knew quite well had been there before.

With this sense of unease growing within the Team Dai ranks, a team meeting was called after dinner on the night of day two. When The Rhythm Method stood up to explain his unease many could have been forgiven for attributing the comments to his left-of-centre approach to life, but the resulting chorus of agreement from those assembled left Team Management in no doubt about the veracity of the claims.

Something was out there, and whatever it was was upsetting the herd!

After an exhaustive investigation the cause of the disquiet was finally revealed in a most unexpected corner. The Pirate, in one of his more lucid moments was heard to wonder aloud, "Where be the Pete?". And it suddenly dawned on everyone.

Pete Semone, a model of consistency and reliablility throughout the entire training regime had left a day earlier with a companion from out of country and was riding one day ahead of us. Being such a tight unit throught the preparation stages of the event, the team was sensing his presence as they flitted through the mist filled valleys and careened down terrifying descents.

Finally the herd was quieted. It was Peter "The Absent Presence" Semone.


PAUL "Legs" VAN STRIJP


Dutch Paul joined the team secure in the knowledge that his fitness and aplomb on the acoustic motorbike would allow him to slide into the ranks of Team Dai without causing a ripple. Unfortunately he misjudged the situation by a measure similar to Mike Tyson when he imagined a small ear nibble would go unnoticed and take Evander Holyfield's mind of the fight. His entry to Team Dai did not go unnoticed and took a number of minds well off the task at hand.

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride Dutch Paul received so much encouragement to "ride faster" and "get to the front" and "feel free to overtake" that certain members of Team Dai became concerned and started gathering in corners to whisper about it.

"Why is he getting all the encouragement?" "Why is he so special?" "Why do none of the ladies say these things to me?" (Flying Sausage).

As the tour progressed the whisperings only increased in frequency as the encouragement continued and the mystery brewed.

It was not until the final gathering of the event that the reason for all the encouragement became clear. Apparently the cause of the ripple within Team Dai came in the form of Dutch Paul's shapely legs.

Not really caring if Dutch Paul rode fast or not, the only goal of the encouragement was to ensure that Dutch Paul was riding in front, thus enabling those behind to behold the lovely sight of his lovely legs.

If Paul "Legs" van Strijp chooses to participate in future Team Dai events he will be required to wear long trousers!


TRISTAN "The Pirate" SKINNER

its all true...

In 1974, Tristan defeated Joe Frazier to retain his boxing world championship. In 1975 he retired from boxing and focused on Cycling. He first notable gift to the world of cycling was in the 1976 when he invented the wheel. This reshaped cycling forever. Tristan developed a passion for cycling as a sport and moved from the Australian beaches to the french alps to train. in 1984 he won the 71st tour de france by beating the great French rider Laurent Frignon in what some say was the greatest finish and becoming the first Australian ever to win the Tour. Tristan felt that his handlebars were steering him in a different direction. With no brakes Tristan moved to Lao PDR to assist in the development of water resources where he is currently working. Tristan is zealous about getting back on the bike, enjoying his round wheels and the opportunity of getting fit. See you in Luang Prabang

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride, Tristan found himself outside of his comfort zone once leaving the Nam Song river basin and as such decided one approach to hide his growing discomfort would be to dress up.

Realising the continued need for a low drag coefficient he decided against dressing up as a woman and settled upon the next best thing. Strongly identifying with the cycling experience and extreme fitness of Captain Jack Sparrow, a major plot feature in the soon to be released Universal Pictures "Pirates of the Caribbean 4: High and Dry in the French Alps", Skinner began incorporating elements of pirate into his road wear.

Testing the waters with a neatly understated scarlet chiffon scarf, Skinner found that the team was very open to his new look. This emboldened him to slowly add more flourishes throughout the remaining 200km of mountainous terrain. Team management unfortunately had to take Capt. Skinner aside as the team was preparing to depart on day 3.

Due to serious safety concerns it was explained to Capt. Skinner that as the immediate stretch of road was wet, windy and to be taken in the pitch darkness he would have to lose the eye patch, the plastic hook and the kerosene lantern. After some negotiation it was decided the large wide brimmed floppy hat with the long pink feather would in fact fit over his bike helmet and did not pose a serious enough safety risk to warrant confiscation.

Tristan "The Pirate" Skinner rode off into the darkness that morning at the head of the fleet, proudly announcing to the world that he was a pirate and a respected member of Team Dai.


NICK "Guts" COX


Many well regarded cycling commentators, including the doyen of the cycling mic, Mr Phil Liggett, went on record prior to the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang tour to question the desire of Cox in relation to the Team Dai event.

Co-commentator Paul Sherwen went further than Liggett when commenting that he had, "spoken to the Cox management team last week who had confirmed that Cox's heart wasn't really in it."

When faced with these comments from the press, Cox expressed his deep disappointment saying that he had hoped for more from such respected journalists but was not surprised.

"Having successfully defended my blood doping charges after the Mongolian event, I know that Paul and Phil have got me on their hit list. They have been very forthright in the past in doubting my integrity and with the recent judgment it looks like they have been left with egg on their faces. Honestly, it doesn't really bother me," Cox said. "I've been a part of the circuit long enough to know that you can't be friends with everyone, but it does hurt coming from Phil."

Thankfully Cox was able to put it all behind him as he rolled out with Team Dai for his 23rd cycling tour of the season.

Flying in from Cambodia the night before the tour began, having only been there for four days after an event in Sydney, Australia, Cox freely admitted he was "feeling the pinch" a little during the early hours of day one but being the elite athlete that he is, did not complain and still managed to emphasise the chasm existing between amateur and professional level riders.

Unfortunately for Cox, there was a lot more "feeling the pinch" to come with a sudden onset of gastroenteritis in the early hours of the first overnight in Vang Vieng. Room-mate and other professional level cyclist, Wingman Williamson, was vascillating between sympathy and annoyance over the plate of warm porridge that was breakfast as he walked back through the events of the night. In the only bout of selfishness witnessed from Wingman on the entire tour he let go in a spray of frustration.

"The bastard was up and down all night! Fair enough he had a gut full of mongrel, but we are on a tour here and I really need my sleep if I am to have any chance in the mountains. We have roomed together on tour plenty of times before and he knows how much I need my sleep."

When it was pointed out that that was a pretty harsh comment to make, Wingman immediately softened, smiled and admitted he had been a bit out of line. "Yeah, I suppoose that was a bit tough. But one thing for sure, he's got guts!"

While we can't be sure, this reporter is pretty sure there was a, "and they bloody stink!" from Wingman as he returned to his slowly cooling bowl of oats.

As the tour continued, Cox went on to prove the quality of his guts as he made quite a number of unscheduled roadside stops.

When competing, Nick "Guts" Cox rides for the "Imodium" team.


PAUL "Dry Leaves" CORLETTO


Paul’s cycling career began in mid 2007 with the theft of his beloved 110cc Honda Wave by the senior Siamese operatives in Thailand’s People's Alliance for Democracy.  Whilst the motorbike went on to play a pivotal role in the seizing of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in December of 2008 and the subsequent ousting of the pro-Thaksin government, Paul’s destiny lay elsewhere with the acquisition of a one-speed ‘bicycle of the people’ from the cobwebs beneath his house.

That one-speed Chinese racer propelled Paul into the world of cycling.  However, that venture into cycling’s arduous uphill battle was almost cut short when the rust holding together the chain on his newly found ‘bicycle of the people’ gave way and sent him dangerously close to being engulfed in one of Vientiane’s bottomless sewers.  This unexpected event ushered in a new phase in Paul’s cycling career with the forced acquisition of a second hand 18 speed kids sized racer completed with non-functional aftermarket Bridgestone suspension.

This bike formed the platform of Paul’s unconventional training regime which involved riding a bicycle 10 time to small for him around the streets of Vientiane wearing a battered motorcycle helmet.  Whilst this training regime helped Paul to condition leg and buttock muscles outside the reach of conventional exercise routines,  it soon became apparent that if he was to be taken seriously by the rival teenage cyclist bandits in his neighbourhood and bring back the glory days of Australia’s history as paved out by Nicole Kidman in that Australian masterpiece ‘BMX bandts’, he would need a cycle to match the shine of that cinematic performance.

The day of 30th January 2009 will go down in sporting legend as the moment that Paul emerged from the ranks amateur cyclist to the ranks of amateur cyclist with a shiny bike.  With the acquisition of a silver and blue Giant racer at that cyclist emporium aptly named ‘the store on Lane Xiang next to ANZV bank, opposite Talat Sao’, Paul emerged as one of the leading contenders in the Team Dai Vientiane to Luang Prabang 2009 Ride.  Whilst still yet to finish any cycling race on any continent, there are big expectations for this wildcard entry in the 2009 Laos regional circuit.

Taking to the highway on the shiny silver and blue Giant, the Corletto machine fast became the poster boy of Team Dai during the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride. Rolling through villages with waving and cheering and high fives for all the little children on the roadside, many unsuspecting vliiagers thought they had just witnessed someone famous, and in many ways they did. The Corletto machine's energy footprint was massive, and for the first half of the tour was inspirational to everyone on the team. Unfortunately, the second half of the tour was not influenced by the Corletto machine's energy footprint in quite the same inspirational way that it had been for the first half.

Heat stroke and a good dose of gastro took all of the fizz out of the Corletto machine and left him, on more than a few occasions, bent over in all manner of yoga-esq positions as he purged either the contents of his bowel or stomach, or on a number of occasions, both, simultaneously.

As the days continued, the Corletto machine continued to soldier on and gradually recover from the continual need to stop and drop. What was not so obvious to the rest of the team was the unspoken of hurt that the multiple stop and drops had wrought upon the Corletto machine's young and tender body.

The dry leaves that the Corletto machine had so often found useful in his stop and drops were certainly not the soft and absorbant that is so often cherished in a quality roll of toilet white.

Paul "Dry Leaves" Corletto is no longer the poster boy for Team Dai but wears t-shirts advertising Charmin Bathroom Tissue - 200 sheet, 2-ply, ultra absorbent, big roll!


ADAM "The Stalker" KAMINSKI

Adam "Snakes" Kaminski has been a committed "go-getter" since he sprung from a catacomb on Australian cycling's greatest challenge: the Whitby Street Mountain. Haven't heard of it? It hasn't heard of you either.

Adam relishes a challenge, as much as he relishes a Double Bacon Deluxe. However, in a bid to stave off those extra kilos and come through with the goods he has forgone all food except for the inspiring Lao trio of Tammakhung, Laab and Khao Neow. While cycling may not be his favourite sporting pursuit, and a degree of clumsiness may hamper his efforts, Adam will be attacking those Phoussies with all the vigour of a young snake.

Outside of cycling hours, Adam can be found working in Lao PDR with Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA on issues of workers' rights, income generation, vocational training, HIV/AIDS and OHS, among others.

During the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride it was unclear to most team members if Kaminski had any idea at all about how to ride a bike. With the good old Asian adage of "looks good, is good" as the core concept of the Kaminski philosophy, questions were bound to arise, and arise they did.

"Does he know that bike pants are supposed to be tight?" "Does he know that his feet are supposed to be able to touch the ground?" "Does he know his helmet is on backwards?"

Kaminski, unconcerned with the whiperings going on around him, was too engrossed in his philosophy to notice. He was seeing through part two of his plan. Look at everyone to see who looks good, and ride as close as you can to them for the whole trip and then you will look good as well. After settling on a team rider who shall remain nameless, Kaminski followed through with his plan to the letter. While he stuck as close as possible to the rider, he was decidedly delusional when it came to imagining it did anything for his perception by others.

Surprisingly, the rhythm of the mountain and the sheer distance of the ride slowly caused an awakening within the Kaminski and he arrived in Luang Prabang a new man. Looking as if he had lost 20 kilos that he had never actually had, Kaminski rode into the Prabang for the first time since he was last there, knowing that while his philosophy might be found a little wanting under close scrutiny, it had allowed him to forge a lasting friendship with the good looking person and had also seen him through some of the toughest cycling terrain the world could hurl at him.

When asked to comment, the good looking person simply stated, "It felt like I was being stalked!"

Adam "The Stalker" Kaminski is the author of three self-help books, available online via websites requiring proof of age and a credit card.



Sirivanh "The Bag Lady" Ketavong


Coming to the team with the only legitimate claim to the title "athlete", Sirivanh, or Siri for short, traded in her marathon running shoes for cycling shoes as she took up the challenge of riding 400km in 3 days. More accustomed to running 40km in less than 3 hours, Siri "The Bag Lady" Ketavong was the only bonafide Olympian in the team having represented her country of Laos in the marathon at Athens in 2004.

The rest of the team, somewhat in awe of this Laotian powerhouse, were not only impressed by her tenacity at adjusting from the monotonous pacing of marathon running to the monotonous spinning of cycling, but also with her attachment to the mysterious bag attached to her left handlebar.

When it came to methods of stowing gear on the ride, most other riders on the team had opted for the more traditional approaches to packing stuff. "Toolz" Fink made good use of his rear-pocketed Team Dai cycle jersey and carried with him the entire contents of the Caisse D’Epargne Team mechanics truck, ready for that moment when the rear hub disgorged itself of bearings and associated lubricated bits and needed a full repacking. "Guts" Cox opted for the handlebar mounted pannier in which his genetically engineered carbo fuel cells were cooling at sub zero temperatures while "The Flying Sausage" Geerinck went completely old-school, wore next to nothing, had not a scrap of excess anything attached to his bike and proudly stated to all within earshot that, "My bloody car is right behind me! Why should I carry anything!"

Ketavong however, did not ascribe to any of the methods or techniques her teammates were practicing. No. As if having come straight from the fanciest shopping mall in Bangkok's most fashionable district, "The Bag Lady" Ketavong was more comfortable with a small, twine handled shopping bag dangling precariously from her left handlebar, filled with all manner of delight and necessity which for the duration of the ride, remained a mystery to all.

If it wasn't for the fact that she rode like an actual member of the Tour de France Caisse D’Epargne Team there would have been a much louder chorus of voices questioning the small Laotian dynamo on the contents of the mysterious bag, but as she was often to be seen at the front of the pack, rounding corners and climbing gruelling ascents with the quiet determination of one who knows what it takes to sacrifice oneself for a sport, the questions were left unasked and the mystery remains.

Maybe the ride of 2010 will offer up more answers than questions when it comes to the secrets what is powering this formidable athlete.



SCOTT "Toolz" FINK


This is Scott’s first year to do the ride. He rode from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, thinking it was down hill 5 years ago though. Normally Scott can be found bashing through the jungle on his mountain bike, so this is quite different for him. He is also a full time nanny/house husband.

Fink joined the team late in the piece, but with his fine mountain biking experience and qualifications in aeronautical engineering was welcomed with open arms. Offering all sorts of valuable information, tips and cycling trivia, Fink was the "most sought after cycling partner" during the formation riding of the 2009 Vientiane to Luang Prabang ride as his repartee was a constant entertainment.

Also the most sought after man during scheduled rest stops, Fink put his considerable experience as lead engineer on the original NASA Challenger program to good use as he fashioned scram jet engines out of sticky rice baskets and plastic wrapping twine, a revolutionary new gear changing system out of the old yolk of a bullock plough and a rusty piece of wire, and a somewhat intimidating seat post from a length of bamboo and a discarded car tyre. If it was rice and grasshoppers that held the Chinese communist party together during their long march during 1934 and 1935, then Fink was the  rice and grasshoppers holding Team Dai together over their long ride to Luang Prabang.

Earning the name "Toolz" for his remarkable skill at making the unworking work, he will be kidnapped prior to the next Team Dai event in order to make sure that he will definitely be available.


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