The 3 day race takes place in the tourist meca of Dalat, surrounded in the pine forests in the Central highlands at 1500 M. It’s a great area to race out of with its cooler climate, abundance of trails in the surrounding countryside and laid back atmosphere. The street food is some of the best in the World and is a cheap and filling way to refuel the body every night.
The stages were fairly short for my standards at 45-50 km each stage but the courses were challenging and entertaining to ride as you were either pushing your body to its limits going up a steep climb or else hanging on through a fast descent which required proper line picking as the ground was rough and often on small trails. Passing through small meadows and through creeks kept it interesting on the country style courses. There was an abundance of cows, wild horses and random people doing their things out on course which made it nice having a lead Moto to clear the way! Even with that a guy had to be alert to stay out of trouble on the race courses which were alive with action.
With twice the riders as last year I was expecting some tougher competition as I defended my title. Unfortunately for the other guys my body finally came back to life after the 24 HR World Solo Champs and was on fire. I’m not suire what it is but I’ve had some of the best races of my life 2 weeks after 24 hour races, this time it took 3 weeks for those legs to come around but they were on autopilot once they did.
The local southeast Asian riders are defiantly improving quickly as they closed the gap from last year. Lots of them are very strong coming from road racing backgrounds but mountain biking is still pretty new over here so they are working on there technical skills.
Having a race like the Vietnam Victory Challenge for the riders to train for is one of the best things that could happen for a country to develop its riders. It gives them a goal to strive for and also a chance to test there skills against other riders from around the World. A few people during the race were asking why I didn’t take it easy and ride with the other racers for a while, but for me I wanted to set the bar high for these guys to show them what is possible. I’m sure in a few years they will be setting the bar themselves if they keep improving like they are so I better enjoy the time at the top over here while it lasts!
It will be interesting to see where this race heads in the future as it has potential to be a classic if the organizers are able to get through all the Vietnamese government problems and continue to grow it. Right not they have it dialled and it seems like the race is getting a good name across the board.
The day after the race finished my buddy Simon Trembley and I hopped a flight to Northern Vietnam to start a bike tour from the mountain town of Sapa near the Chinese boarder. Our plan is to ride across northern Laos and eventually end up in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It was a solid 24 hour journey just to get up to Sapa.