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The itinerary (updated!)

Itinerary of the Team Dai Challenge 2012 (8-11 March 2012)

Day 1 – “The Appetizer”: We’ll depart from Vientiane Capital and take Route 10 towards Tha Ngone, cross the bridge, pass Ban Keun and cross the Nam Ngum by ferry near Meuang Kao. From there we continue to in Phonhong (Vientiane Province’s capital) where we meet Route 13 North, which we follow until Ban Thaheua, where we spend the night. The first half of the route the road will be flat, while the second half will have some rolling hills.

Day distance: 130 km
Road condition: All tarmac, in various conditions.
Tyre recommendation: slicks

Day 2 – “The Kill”: From Ban Thaheua we cycle a couple of kms to Ban Houaymor where we will turn right onto Route 5. This road starts off with some rolling hills, but just before Ban Lak 24, where route 5 disappears into Nam Ngum 2 reservoir, there is a one more serious hill to take. Once we’re over it, we transfer by boat to Ban Natou, approx. 23 km further, where route 5 resurfaces and we get back on our bicycles. From there the fun starts. A first 9km uphill (450 m altitude gain) will bring us to the first peak after which we’ll get a little reward in the form of a nice downhill (280 m altitude loss over 5 kms). However, this is then followed by the kill: a 15 km climb to the Xaisomboun plateau, in which you will gain 740 altitude meters (average slope of 5.2%). Once you’re at the top it will be another 8km to the Phou Bia Hotel in Xaisomboun’s District Capital where we will spend the night.

Day distance: 62 km (on the bike)
Road conditions: Diverse, including good tarmac, good, hard dirt roads, bad dirt road (primarily just before the ferry pier), but overall quite okay
Tyre recommendation: slicks or knobs

Day 3 – “The Surprise”: The plan is to leave Xaisomboun Town in southern direction along “the road less travelled”. Since we don’t have survey data for the first part of the route for this day, it’s going to be a surprise. What we do know is that we will lose 800 m of elevation, but it’s highly unlikely that it will be only downhill! Estimated distance for this part: 60 km.  We’ll join “the road more travelled” (especially by Phu Bia mining trucks), and proceed over some rolling hills for around 20 kms to Hom District Capital (better known as Longxan), near the border of Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area. After lunch, we will then have 14 kms of flat road before the last mountain of the Challenge presents itself. A 12 km climb (480 m altitude gain) will bring you to the top. A final, well deserved downhill (with a few little uphills on the way) lasting for about 30 km brings you back into the Mekong valley. Thabok, on Route 13, where we spend the night, is then only 12 km away!

Day distance: 148 kms (estimate)
Road conditions: First 60km: unknown, but likely not very good, think bad dirt roads; last 74 km: Good (tarmac and/or hard dirt)
Tyre recommendation:
knobs (unknown road conditions) (or  knobs until lunch, then slicks)

Day 4 – “The Triumph”:  The final stretch is along National Highway 13. 90kms of smooth tarmac brings us back to our beloved Vientiane. However, just to avoid some busy part of Route 13 close to the city, we turn left at the Sea Games stadium, turn right onto 450 Road and then meet Route 13 again near the southern bus station, from where we continue to Phatuxay, for our triumphant arrival. 

Day distance: 90 km
Road conditions:
All tarmac, in good condition.
Tyre recommendation:

Total cycling distance over four days: 430 km