Last Monday I got up early to watch the start of the Tour de Timor, ‘the world’s toughest bike race’ according to the Lonely Planet. As the sun rose over Dili harbour, a bunch of cyclists in bright lycra tops lined up in front of the Governor’s Palace. A small group of spectators, mostly malae (foreigners), gathered to send them on their way.
The first 60 or so competitors took off in a bunch, including the only New Zealander, VSA volunteer Chris Manson. Later, I was surprised to read that a third of the group rode under the Timor flag – there didn’t seem to be that many locals taking part.
When the last 30 cyclists, all Timorese, reached the start line, they got off their bikes, brandished them above their heads and placed them upside down on the ground, wheels in the air. One launched into an impassioned speech, then stood motionless, as if in a trance. Continue reading