Quick: In just three months, put together an international mountain bike race to help commemorate a major historical milestone with no staff,money or cycling experience.
It was May 2009 and Michael Stone, an assistant to President José Ramos-Horta, received this directive to build the Tour de Timor, a cross-country bike race that commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Timor-Leste vote for independence. Stone didn’t ask many questions; the clock was ticking.
“It was a major challenge to say the least,” he said. “A lot of good people came together to make the impossible possible.”
That was in 2009, and with every passing year, the Tour de Timor has grown in attendance and international popularity. The 2011 race wrapped up in September and clocked in as the most successful year yet: More than 350 cyclists from across the world, including 100 Timorese, participated in the international event. Australian rider Luke Fletch was the race winner, while Peta Mullins was the top female rider.
The grueling 6-day race covered more than 300 miles with each night spent in a different village, allowing riders to experience the diverse topography and culture of Timor-Leste.
“We wanted the race to introduce all participants to the diverse culture, geography and history of this young undiscovered nation,” Stone said. “We have aimed to make the race one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world, so that the people who participate never forget.”
It worked. Cyclists from across the world, including from the U.S.,Germany and Portugal, competed and their feedback spoke to the rigor of the race.
“It was at times the most challenging,grueling and difficult thing I’ve done on a bike.It was also among the most rewarding, memorable, enjoyable and satisfying thing I’ve done on a bike,” one cyclist said.
The Tour de Timor has also become a symbol of Timor-Leste’s resilience.
“The 2011 Tour de Timor is an auspicious occasion for this young nation.With the enormous success of the first and second iterations, it is fair to say that the Tour de Timor has become a memorable annual event on the calendar for both professional cyclists and tourists alike,” Ramos-Horta said.Early bird registration for Tour de Timor 2012 begins in November. For more information or to register, go to: www.tourdetimor.com.