World Wide Cycling

                 Tour of Sri Lanka 2004



Marco Polo Cycling Club

In an extremely successful early season for the Marco Polo Cycling Club, with already 7 victories until the first half of February, the adventurers travel to Asia again. February 24 until 29 2004 they will participate in the Tour of Sri Lanka. After an 8 KM prologue the race will cover 750 KM in 5 days. At the last day also a women's team of the Marco Polo Cycling Club will compete in a race finishing in the capital Colombo.


The start-banner of the Tour of Sri Lanka 2004. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


The Marco Polo Cycling Club travels to Sri Lanka with the following team:


The men's team:

Jos Kaal, Ralf van Heugten, Maint Berkenbosch and Remko Kramer from the Netherlands and Lionel Syne from Belgium.


The women's team:

Willeke Evenhuis and Eyelien Beckering from the Netherlands and Francis Cerny from Germany.


The staff are Gudo Kramer, Joost Vijselaar and Christian Baerends.


Tour of Sri Lanka Race Route (Men)


Feb.24 - Stage I/Prologue - 8 km Koggala Airport road

Feb.25 - Stage II - 155 km Galle to Ratnapura via Kalutara

Feb.26 - Stage III - 129 km Ratnapura to Kandy via Kegalle

Feb.27 - Stage IV - 184 km Kandy to Trincomalee via Dambulla

Feb.28 - Stage V - 108 km Kantale to Anuradhapura

Feb.29 - Stage VI - 171 km Dambulla to Colombo


Race Route (Women)

Feb. 29 - 37.7 km Negombo to Colombo



Report by Remko Kramer


February 23


We arrived at Colombo airport and got our bikes, some boxes were damaged but luckily the bicycles were o.k.


We were picked up with two vans and a truck for the luggage. After a crazy ride through Colombo traffic we arrived at a nice and quiet beach resort.


We were welcomed with flower chains and fruit cocktails. Behind the hotel was a swimming pool with many palm trees around it and a wonderful white beach.

After a quick lunch and some work on the bicycles we made a ride to loosen our legs from the long flight. We rode through a tropical landscape with palms and banana trees everywhere. At some parts it was almost jungle. The road was o.k. pretty bumpy but not many holes in it. The traffic was the only thing that made the ride not so nice. Cars, trucks, busses, motorcycles and many many tuck-tucks (three wheel taxi motor vehicles) all drive like crazy here, they take over whenever it seems possible or not.

The Marco Polo Cycling Club team on a ride in Sri Lanka. (Photo: Remko Kramer, Nikon camera)



The next day the Tour of Sri Lanka started with a 2 KM time trial. 8 KM was planned but the organisation had to find another location and here was a landing area of a military base available.


February 24 - Stage 1


Sri Lanka music and dance at the openingceremony of the Tour of Sri Lanka 2004. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Early in the morning we rode to the military base a short ride from the beach hotel. The opening ceremony was nice with flag raising of all participating countries and music and dance in colourful costumes. The commissaries needed some time to place time keepers at start and finish. But then the race started with each minute a rider.

We rode very well. This is also our strength, coming from racing in Europe at big gears and with high speed. Jos Kaal had the best time, then I, Remko Kramer took the lead but finally Maint Berkenbosch showed his great form and won the stage and took the first leader jersey.


Results stage 1, 2km time trial Colombo

1. Maint Berkenbosch (Marco Polo)

2. Remko Kramer (Marco Polo)

3. Jos Kaal (Marco Polo)


In the afternoon we had to leave for Galle. It was a "60 km" from the hotel so some of us took a ride, the 60 became over 100 km...


February 25 - Stage 2


Maint Berkenbosch pins his number at the first yellow jersey of the Tour of Sri Lanka. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


The second stage we started at the main road through Galle. It took a while before everything was in right order, but then we started, still worrying for a big traffic jam like we saw many times the past days. But the roads were free to race, because the people in Sri Lanka were all waiting to see the tour pass. It was a pretty big event in this country and people loved to see the race.


We controlled the race by jumping in breaks. After a while I got away with 5 Sri Lankese riders. Lionel Syne made a good chase and joined the group. We pulled hard, but the peloton stayed close. The Siam Team from Thailand was leading the field and was trying to get us back. We tried to reach the second points sprint at kilometre 75, but never saw the sign.

The peloton joined again and we turned at a twisting road landinwarts. Three Sri Lankese riders got away and we slowed down. They got a 3 minutes gap so we started riding. Lionel was superstrong and after a while he pulled the group into pieces and Maint and Lionel were in the first part.

The road was going up and down and Maint who could save all his energy up to then, attacked and got away with Sri Lankan Varna Shanta. He dropped him with 2 km to go and secured his yellow jersey further.


Results stage 2, 155 km Galle - Ratnapura

1. Maint Berkenbosch (Marco Polo)

2. Varna Shanta (President's Team)

3. Mohd Sayuti Molto Zahit (Malaysia)


We stayed in a local hotel with jungle sounds in the evening and some real hot curries for dinner.


February 26 - Stage 3


Before the start one of the commissaires and a high police officer had a serious talk with the motorriders behind the peloton. To get drinks to the riders and to have spare wheels nearby, there are motorriders between the cars and the peloton. A lot of the over 100 Sri Lankese riders have their own staff/family/friends/fans at motorcycles with wheels, bottles and buckets to give some support. Gudo Kramer had to sit at the back of a motorcycle to do this job for us. He told us about the crazy race behind our race. 50 to 80 motorcycles race behind the peloton. All the motorists try to be at the front and fight their way past the others. Crashes don't matter, they catch on again quickly.


The talk didn't help much still the same crazy motorrace.


Teammanager Gudo Kramer at the back of the motorcycle with spare wheels and drinking bottles in the middle of a motorrace. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


From the gun the Sri Lankese attacked and were trying to force breaks. Lionel took care of the first attacks and got away with two others. They got a nice gap and we could take it easy.


Maint had to take a pee after a while and tried to tell the first riders that he just wanted to go a bit to the front to stop. However when he rode away, the riders that understood him before, chased him down immediately. So he decided to stop and find a nice tree. This was the sign for the Sri Lankese to launch attacks from everywhere. Riders were shouting for their teammates to attack as hard as they could.  We tried to make clear that it was not very fair to attack the yellow jersey when he stops for a pee. But here they have other ideas, attack when there is an opportunity.

Maint had no problem to get back. And when he came back, we were at the foot of a serious climb, he took over immediately and forced a break. Later we heard that riders were telling stories about Maint stopping for coffee and an ice-cream, getting back on his bike, ride back to the peloton and just pass it and ride away to the stage win.


It was not that easy. Untill the last hard climb, there was still a main bunch together. Jos and Ralf were doing good work and Lionel had trouble at the last climb were Maint got away for the stage win. Over the top, Lionel could ride the big gear again and came back and won the sprint for the 8th place.


Maint Berkenbosch wins stage 3, 3 victories in a row! (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


Results stage 3, 129 km Ratnapura to Kandy

1. Maint Berkenbosch (Marco Polo)

2. Mohd Sayuti Molto Zahit (Malaysia)

3. Jayantha Pushpakumara (Paragon Peddlers)

In Kandy we stayed at a beautiful mountaintop with a nice view, however riding to the hotel the mountain was not so nice...


We enjoyed the tasty Sri Lankese food and slept well for the next day, a long 185 km stage.


February 27 - Stage 4


At the start, good-old Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh from Mongolia had some plans. He started like crazy and in the chase that followed we could catch on with Maint, Lionel and me. We had a serious gap on the field, but with 185 km to go... We kept riding and Jamsran was pulling. After 15 km on a long hill, the Malaysian team and especially their leader, who is second on GC now, closed the gap.


Then three Sri Lankese, 10 minutes from Maint in GC, got away and the peloton got quiet for a while. When they got 5 minutes, Jamsran decided that it was enough and he send his young teammates to the front. They pulled a good chase and the peloton stretched single file. After a long chase, the time difference came again; 6 minutes! Here was something wrong...


We started also to attack to get the tempo up. Then Maint had a flat tire. This was the sign again for the hardest attacks of the race. I gave Maint my wheel and together with Ralf he chased the peloton. After my wheelchange I also went for a good chase, but the friendly commissaire at the motorbicycle made sure that I had all space to ride. He waved away all cars from the caravane, so I was riding without any cover and never came back.


Meanwhile the others were together again and Jamsran and Lionel got away for the stage win. Lionel was the fastest in the sprint and took care of victory 4 for Marco Polo.


Results stage 4, 184 km Kandy to Trincomalee

1. Lionel Syne (Marco Polo)

2. Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh (Mongolia)

3. H.L. Krishanta (Sri Lanka National)


The Sri Lankese spectators wanted to help the riders by cooling them down a bit with water. With over 30 degrees, some water sprinkling from a hose or a sponge are nice refreshing. But here they have another habit, they throw with anything that can hold water, bottles, plastic bags and complete buckets of water were thrown at us. So half of the time we were soaking wet.


Wet, wetter, wettest (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)  



The beach resort we stayed in was a longer ride on some bad roads. We passed some military check-points, because this area was under Tamil power. But the ride was worth it. The beach was absolutely beautiful and squirrels and monkeys ran around the cabins. At dinner a band was playing at the pool and we would have loved to stay here some days more...


But the next day we had to race again.


February 28 - Stage 5


A short stage, today only 108 KM. We arrived just on time at the start village but the truck with bicycles was late. The commissaries almost started the race, but we could convince them to wait until we were ready.


The start was like each day, attacks, attacks and attacks. Jos was really motivated to make a good break. And he got away with 4 others. We controlled the peloton. This meant that we had to chase all race. The Sri Lankese never give up and keep attacking. They throw in all their power, they are not afraid to fall back and just race to the front.

Jos tried to get away in the last kilometres but the Sri Lankese raced strong. They had a strong sprint and became 1,2 and 3. Jos managed to get to position 10 on G.C. now.


Results stage 5, 108 km Kantale to Anuradhapura

1. Sampath Krishanta (Sri Lanka National)

2. M. Kapila (Sri Lanka National)

3. Laithai Kunhintung (Thailand Cycling Union)


In the afternoon, the local organiser took the foreign team on a nice tour through the historic city of Anuradhapura. We visited an old Buddhist rock temple and we saw the oldest historical tree in the world. After dinner, there was a show with drums and dance. Maint had to go on stage and he made some western drumsounds.


February 29 - Stage 6


The last stage of the Tour of Sri Lanka 2004 was also a race for the, as they call it, standard bicycle racers. This is a sport on it's own in Sri Lanka, bicycle races at normal transport bicycle. Hundreds of participants race in the event today. Many of them are in race uniforms and have completely rebuilt the bicycle, with bottle racks and clipless pedals. This sport is also very popular in Sri Lanka.


In the beginning of the stage, we had to chase again after the many hard attacks. But at a longer climb in the beginning of the race, a small group breaks of the field. Maint, Lionel and Jos made it in this break. But behind, the Sri Lankese kept attacking all the way. All stage they try to get away and chase each other down. Impressive how persistent they are in their attempts to get away from the pack.


The group stayed away and Lionel had a good feeling for the final sprint. Maint pulled as hard as he could the last 5 kilometres to keep the group together. And Lionel showed that he deserved the green jersey! He won the stage and Maint was the overall winner of the Tour of Sri Lanka 2004!


Results stage 6, 171 km Dambulla to Colombo

1. Lionel Syne (Marco Polo)

2. Mohd Sayuti Molto Zahit (Malaysia)

3. Jamsran Ulzii-Orshilkh (Mongolia)

Francis Cerny with the best Sri Lankese girls. (Photo: Remko Kramer, Nikon camera) 


This day the Marco Polo girls also had their race. They had a hard time. The Sri Lankese were so scared for the European cyclists, that they only sat on the wheels. When our girls didn't ride, the tempo fell down bellow 20! Eyelien Beckering tried many times to break away, but the Sri Lankese chased her down each time. In the sprint it became clear that they were really fast. They got first and second and our Francis Cerny became 3rd.


It took forever to have a ceremony for the price winners. But the people stayed all the way and hundreds of spectators were looking for all winners of the maybe 20 races that were held that day. Finally the girls got on the podium and received flowers and a trophy.

And as last the men's stage race was celebrated with Lionel and Maint on the podium.


Mister Gill from the UCI hands over the 1st price in the team G.C., from left to right, Mister Gill, Gudo Kramer, Lionel Syne, Maint Berkenbosch and Remko Kramer. (Photo: Francis Cerny, Nikon camera)


The dinner and party were in the garden of the luxurious Thaj hotel. It was a great atmosphere among the teams and with some drinks everybody was tired soon.


At the airport on the way home. We were greeted by many people. And even the people at check-in knew the name of Maint before he showed his passport.


We would like to thank the organisers of the race especially Mister Sanjeeva for their great hospitality and the super-event they organised.





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