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43 degrees, no shadow and a small road that winds steeply up the mountain from the mighty Mekong river. The tires of the riders stick to the melting asphalt while the sounds of the jungle stimulate the imagination. Further down at the river elephants and children wave to the exotic cyclists.
This is the scene of the third race of the "BikingMan" ultracycling racing series: Laos, the pearl of Southeast Asia.
The race series consists of six races around the globe with distances between 700 and 1,600 km. Cadence has already reported on the races in Oman and Corsica. This time Jonas Deichmann was again at the start for and didn't have a lot of luck. The German world record holder uses the racing series in preparation for a world record attempt from Northern Norway to Cape Town at the end of August.
In the dark, the riders start together from the Race Village at the Sanctuary Hotel in Luang Prabang. As a pack, we cycle along the Mekong. After 20 km the sun rises above the river, a spectacular sight with the surrounding mountains. The thermometer is already 30 degrees in extreme humidity, a taste of the heated battle that would follow in the afternoon. After 120 km, I reach the first long climb in the four-man lead group and quickly break loose from my companions. After the pass at 1200 meters, it goes constantly up and down through small villages and dense jungle. At a height, it is a few degrees cooler and just bearable. Unfortunately, I find nothing to eat on the roadside except bananas and was already warned that restaurants need a long time.
After a fast descent, I reach a long valley. The road passes rice fields and small villages. The thermometer shows now 43 degrees and the tires stick to the melting tarmac. I drink over two litres in an hour and it's still not enough. After 250 kilometres I stop and order a noodle soup. The food situation has drowned me and I urgently need to refuel. During my break, a few cyclists move by and I pick up the chase. In the evening I reach the jungle and it is an adventurous feeling to be alone on the road. Suddenly a big snake crosses the street right in front of me and I instinctively jump over. I try to interpret the jungle sounds and my imagination becomes very creative. After 15 hours I reach the first checkpoint and decide to spend the night there. The heat and the jet lag made me tired and it does not feel safe to ride through the night.
When I continue cycling at dawn, I am surprised that I am still in the fourth position. The extreme heat has bothered everyone and only two have pushed through the night. We continue along the Mekong with one 15% ramp after another to the border with Thailand. Here the route turns west and there is a 100-kilometre stretch on a small road through the jungle. The road conditions are extremely bad and it goes up and down steeply. The day before I had a 26kmh average speed despite more than 4,000 meters of climbing, today it is not even 18 kmh although I feel strong. When I reach the beginning of the Kasi pass after 220 kilometres, there are already 5,000 vertical meters in the legs. At the top of the pass is Checkpoint 2, and I'm firmly on track for the podium when my bottom bracket loosens right at the beginning of the climb. Repair attempts fail and I find a guesthouse for the night.
There are still 250 kilometres and 6,000 meters of elevation in front of me but giving up is not an option. On the other side of the pass, there is a car mechanic and I push my bike the 30 kilometres to the pass. Unfortunately, the repair attempts of the mechanic also fail and I now decide to push the bike to the finish and to be there before the finisher party on the evening of the fifth day. I mostly walk barefoot until the asphalt gets too hot at midday but still can roll down the passes.
Although it is not what I had hoped for, I still have fun and now have more time to discover this beautiful country. I just make it to the finisher party in last position but still within the time limit.
In two months I will be riding BikingMan Peru and the Andes will surely be a great adventure as well. More on jonasdeichmann.com