» Le Tour de Cambodge

Le Tour de Cambodge

It is that time of the year again: the grandest of cycling tours began on Saturday, the 5th of July, albeit at an unusual starting point, with the first three stages of the race taking place in England for only the 4th time in the 101 year history of the event. The Tour de France, or Le Tour as it also affectionately known, is one of the greatest sporting spectacles on the planet and something quite beautiful to watch: there is plenty of drama; blood, sweat and tears, glamour, prestige, guts & determination; agony and ecstasy!

This year the race will cover a total distance of 3,664km, made up of 21 stages. An estimated 1 million spectators lined the route for the first stage alone… just to give readers and idea of the popularity of Le Tour.

One can therefore understand that I felt a tinge of jealousy when I saw the footage of the riders making their way into London during the third stage of the prestigious race. For a moment I certainly wished I was also standing there amongst the thousands the lined The Mall where the stage finished.

Today, when I set out on another countryside adventure Le Tour was not exactly something that was on my mind. We had another beautiful afternoon here after the rains swept through: rain drops were still clinging to the leaves, shining like diamonds and the green colour that dominates the landscape had that extra special luminous glow that can only be seen for an hour or two after the rain has passed. The dark clouds were beginning to clear with the towering white cumulonimbus clouds slowing drifting by as hints of blue skies began to show. This is the time to take photos in the countryside and it always remains a sight to behold.

We headed off in the direction of the Tonle Sap lake, past Krabei Riel, to an area that we know well, especially for the beauty of the landscape there.

It is here where the Kingdom of Wonder produced another wonder, as if to say: “no worries, my son, just have a look around you…”. As we were standing by the roadside taking photos of the stunning panoramic views around us a group of kids came cycling past, probably on their way home from school. Not long after another group came past, and then another. Then some adults also came past on their bicycles, also heading home after a long day’s work and then it struck me: We may not have Le Tour in all its glory, but what I was seeing was something truly beautiful also: Le Tour de Cambodge! This ‘race’ takes place every single day of the year. Thousands, if not millions, across Cambodia get on their bicycles every day to cycle to school or work: out in the morning and back in the late afternoon. Some people easily cycle 15-20km into town from the countryside (and back again at the end of the day).

As I stood there watching more and more groups came riding past and I felt so lucky and happy to witness this in the setting where I was: almost everyone smiled a warm smile as they came past and this combined with vast rice fields behind them disappearing in the distance as well as the towering cumulonimbus clouds overhead I think I had one of the best view points of Le Tour on that day.

So, I want to dedicate this blog to everyone that gets on a bicycle in the morning: whether it be to ride to school, to work, for sightseeing or participating in the Tour de France or participating in the Tour de Cambodge!! Viva Le Tour!

Just as footnote, and not to be outdone by the Tour de France:

In the Tour de France one has the sprinters that come to life at the end of stages when they race to try and cross the line first… We also have sprinters in our race and they really sprint: in fact, so eager are they that they get off their bicycles and sprint with their bicycles in hand!

Cambodia's Mark Cavendish leading the sprint (before getting injured) Cambodia’s Mark Cavendish leading the sprint (before getting injured)

...And Cambodia's Marcel Kittel following shortly behind …And Cambodia’s Marcel Kittel following shortly behind

 

The Tour Leader always wears a yellow jersey (to make them easily distinguishable from the other race participants) and low and behold, we also have a wearer of a yellow jersey!!

 

Our race leader in the Yellow Jersey Our race leader in the Yellow Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Le Tour, the King of the Mountains (the cyclist that performs the best in the stages that include steep climbs in the mountains) becomes the wearer of the polka dot jersey. Well, in Le Tour de Cambodge we do not have mountain stages (at least in the Siem Reap area) so we don’t have a polka dot jersey to hand out, but we do give a brightly coloured pyjama outfit to the person that worked the hardest during the day!

The hardest worker in the Pyjama Outfit The hardest worker in the Pyjama Outfit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, in our Tour de Cambodge with also have a unique rule: In our race participants are allowed to help out their friends so if one is a bit too tired to cycle, no problem! Just get on the back of your friend’s bicycle ;)

Team work Team work

Helping out a tired friend Helping out a tired friend

 

 

Ah, the Kingdom of Wonder never fails to bring a smile to my face!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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