World Wide Cycling

                 Tour of Thailand and Tour de Okinawa



Marco Polo Cycling Club

Tour of Thailand and Tour de Okinawa (Japan)


Report by Rob Conijn


The Marco Polo team is doing a lot of races at the end of the European season. So for the strong and on -going racers this is a great opportunity to do nice and hard races all over the world in a nice atmosphere. During October and November Marco Polo Cycling was present and successful in the following races: Tour du Faso (Africa) - 2 stage win, and green jersey, Tour of Malaysia - 1 stage win, Tour of Beijing (China) - 3 stage win and overall winner GC, Tour of Thailand - 3 stage win and Tour de Okinawa (Japan).


Here you will read the report of the Tour of Thailand and Tour of Okinawa. It was a nice trip many ups and some downs At the beginning it was not sure if The Marco Polo team could go to Thailand because of several warnings by governments. Possibly you can remember the horribly attack on Bali, this resulted in negative travel advises by several governments. However the Dutch one was not negative so Marco Polo Cycling decided to go.


The selected team had the following line-up:

Lex Nederlof and Rob Conijn from the Netherlands

Kay Kermer from Germany

Rasmus Madsen from Denmark

And Team Manager Anno Pedersen  


Lex Nederlof on the way to winning a stage in the Tour of Thailand, on the frontpage of a Thai newspaper, behind him in the yellow leader jersey, Matnur from Indonesia. Matnur has signed a contract for the Marco Polo Cycling Team, trade team III for the 2003 season.


Marco Polo decided to race the Tour of Thailand to have a good preparation for Tour de Okinawa, this is a hard 200 km continually hilly race on a tropical island of Japan. If riders come direct from the cold Europe in November this will be mission impossible. Therefore the proposal was made to race the Tour of Thailand before Okinawa, none of the riders had problems with that of course...


It appeared that Tour of Thailand is a very nice UCI 2.6 race, good organized, and very relaxed, a combination you don't see often. Racing in nice warm weather, every day about 170/ 180 km racing is the best way to get your form within one week. Starting at 7 am means that you are ready with racing early, so you can have look around later on the day.

Special in the race was also starting in a group of about 170 riders (this is not so special) however also included are the Juniors, Ladies and Masters. For the flat stages, the advantage of this is that the young Juniors, they feel as released in the beginning of the race, are making good speed and make life a bit easier for the Elite racers. The Juniors, Ladies and Masters finish about 100 km so then the real attacking race starts for Elite starts.


The team in Thailand, from left to right, Kay Kermer (Germany), Rob Conijn (Netherlands), Rasmus Madsen (Denmark) and Lex Nederlof (Netherlands). (Photographer:(Anno Pedersen)



Report by Rasmus Madsen





Friday the 1st of November

I had been sleeping very well this first night at the hotel in Phuket City. I certainly had need of this because I had found it very hard to sleep in the plane from Amsterdam to Bangkok because it was so crowded and stuffed with European tourists going for a cheap holyday in Thailand.

The first thing I normally think of when I get up in the morning is a big breakfast. The few times I have been travelling with MarcoPolo in Asia we have normally stayed at very good hotels where they serve big buffets, also in the morning, and my appetite at this time of the day is enormously. Luckily this hotel was no exception, they served a big and very abundantly morning buffet with a mixture of Thai and European style, for example all kinds of freshly prepared eggs or fried banana. Unfortunately everybody else had planned to go training only one hour after the breakfast, which made it a little inconvenient for me to eat very much, even it was no hard training. I just had to spare the appetite for the lunch!


Since the race started Saturday, and were continuing for the next 5 days, we where only going for a relaxed two hours ride.

When you are used to Danish infrastructure, with a lot of small roads with a good surface and without much traffic, training in a country like Thailand can bee a challenge. The traffic in and around the cities can be extremely heavy and with the lack of road signs, and additionally readable road signs, it occurs a little chaotic and planning a suitable route for training seems impossible. But with a considerably amount of patience and the strategy, lets go in that direction, it's normally possible to find a way out of the crowded city and a decent road to follow.

This training was no exception, but after some random riding around Phuket City, we hit the main road leading to the north for the airport and the mainland. Some times it isn't worth making training too complicated, especially not the day before a race start, because you risk to loose your way and waist some time and energy witch could have been used better for preparations. We made the classic choice and rode one hour in the same direction following the main road, stopped for a drink, turned around and went back the same way.

We didn't have much sightseeing during this training, but on the other hand there isn't really anything to see at the Phuket Island. The island is not really anything but hotels packed with tourists, some beaches, stores, the inevitable street traders and of course plenty of places offering all kinds of massage.

One of the things I noticed going about in the traffic in Thailand, were all the scooters and motorbikes driving with a high speed and sometimes carrying three or maybe even four persons (a whole family). Most often the driver was wearing a helmet but the small children sitting behind, in front of, or in top of the driver had absolutely no helmets. I'm not sure they are making any statistics in Thailand of the number of people killed in the traffic, and maybe it's better to keep it that way.

Biking isn't exactly a major sport in Thailand and the appearance of a group of professional looking racing cyclists (well, that at least what we think ourselves) can attract some attention. This day we met groups of schoolchildren walking along the road and when seeing us they started to cheer and wave very enthusiastically. Its quite fun to see such a reaction, especially when you, as a Danish cyclist, are used to people jeering things like: "dope-addict" or "hey Bjarne (Riis), that's the wrong way if you are looking for France". Personally I try to return the kindness, at least in the start, but within a short time I forget or give up to constantly shout, hi, or wave with both arms and legs. Differently with Kay Kermer, he really knows how to deal with all the attention and never stops returning the greetings. Maybe German athletes are doing special courses concerning how to manage publicity.

By the way, don't forget the sunblocker. The sun is really powerful even if it's autumn and the weather seems a little bit cloudy.


In the afternoon I went, together with Anno and Kay, to the officials meeting. We were going all three of us because it would increase the possibility to catch just a little bit of the information, which were given in Thai and "English". According to the race-organisation the Tour of Thailand would be following the UCI-rules for a 2.5 race even though it was no UCI-race. It seemed to be simple, but for the foreign team representatives it was hard to understand the information given during the 11/2 hour meeting.

 It was so funny that the senior-elite was racing together with juniors, old-boys, women and even junior-women. This is great of course for the development of the sport in Thailand, but this meant special rules for the finish. When the junior-riders (or others) were reaching their finish and were going to sprint, they should keep to the left and the elite-riders keep to the right and continue. Along with this there were several strange rules and regulations and any violation would result in either disqualification or a huge fine. For example you were not allowed to raise your arms when crossing the finish line, and you were not allowed to get water from anybody else but the officials and not even your own car. If you actually were disqualified you were still allowed to continue the race but without participating in the competition.  




Report by Kay Kermer


Power Bar Tour of Thailand 2002 Phuket-Bangkok 888km


November 2, criterium in Phuket-City: 

66km, 30 laps per 2.2km, 30 degree temperature and very very hot and dry.

It was a really fast and hard race by points each three laps. Our team tactics was clear, save energy for next stages and try for good result, if we can. I felt good that's why I won the first 4 sprints with the help of strong riders Rasmus and Lex. After the middle of the race a group of 16 riders was gone (all riders of TT3 Giant, Ian Wilkinson sprinter from England and Rasmus, Lex and I), in preparation of the 8th sprint Rasmus crashed in a corner, his first crash, but he was o.k.. On the end I won this criterium with 33 points, 2nd with 19 points was Ian Wilkinson and 3rd with 12 points was Sergey Derevyanov (Giant),

10th Lex, 11th Rasmus, 33th Rob.


Rasmus: " I had been training hard the last 2 month before coming to Thailand and to my own satisfaction I had a very good feeling when we started racing. I'm definitely no sprinter, and together with Rob and Lex, I worked to bring Kay to a good position before the point-sprints, and Kay didn't led down the team and won the stage without to much effort. So it was a successfully first stage for the team but unfortunately not for me personally. Half past the race I had a crash but apparently I got of with the usual abrasions.  The corners were very slippery as a consequence of sand and quite a few riders crashed during the stage."


Kay Kermer winner of the "prologue" points race of the Tour of Thailand. (Photographer: Anno Pedersen)


Report by Kay Kermer:

November 3, 1st stage and bad day for our team, Phuket-Surat Thani,

173km, it was rainy, but not cold. One hill and the rest of this stage was flat with really bad roads (slippery and damaged). After the crash I was shocked and unable to race hart and with out to think about the picture of crash. The giant attack and attack again and play jojo with us (first group: all giant, Lex, Ian, 2 Thai - geys). After this stage was the result of the general classification of time clear, 3 giant (they had the most team riders!!) in front and strong enough to attack again. (result:1st Damir Iratov, 2nd Soren Peterson, 3rd Sergey Derevyanov, 4th I, 12th Lex, 39th Rob) 


The Crash, by Rasmus Madsen.

I must admit I'm having mixed feelings writing a diary of my, unfortunately, few days of racing in Thailand. It will to some extend by an account of the worst appearance in a bikerace of my career. Moreover it will remind me of the worst experiences of my life ever, which I don't think will be very enjoyable for other people to read about.

I'm not very proud to tell of my accident and other falls with my bike, to be honest, I'm pretty angry with my self and feeling stupid. Anyway I also feel that I have been extremely unlucky this season and particularly in Tour de Thailand. During the nine years I have been doing competition my total numbers of falls are seven, and five of them were this season, three of them in Thailand (have I started to need glasses or something?).

Beforehand I had been looking forward to do these races with the Marco Polo Cycling Club, especially Tour de Okinawa, and of course not all my memories of this trip are bad.


Sunday the 3rd of November My lucky day!

As mentioned I didn't really sleep during the night and maybe it had an influence on my state of mind. Not that I felt especially out of sorts, dizzy, or anything.

In the second stage I crashed two times. The first time I hit a big stone on the road when sitting in the bunch, but that didn't bring much harm. The second time I hit an oncoming car, which obviously had forgotten to pull in, and that finished my race and nearly killed me. I'm not really motivated to bring more details.

Well I'm still alive and considering the circumstances I'm fine. But unfortunately I had a spinal cord injury and at the moment it's still to early to predict whether I'm going to recover fully. In many ways I hope to come back and be able to race in competitions, on the other hand cycling is not everything and I'm happy that the outcome of this accident might only be a few minor handicaps.

As a last thing, be sure to have a health insurance covering you when, you are travelling outside Europe. I had, otherwise I would be broke. Private hospitals are no cheap accommodations and an ambulance transport with the flight back from Bangkok is extremely expensive.


Rob Conijn: "In the second stage Rasmus Madsen had a horrible crash. What was frightening, Rasmus couldn't move his arms and legs anymore. After the crash, Rasmus was driven in an ambulance, together with team manager Anno Pedersen to the first hospital, this one was closed, it was Sunday, the second was not well equipped, the third had possibilities to support aid, however this hospital didn't have the high end scanning tools that were necessary to make correct analyses of the injuries. Finally with all warm help from the Thai people including the race organizers it was made possible to go for a 800 km trip with ambulance to Paolo Hospital in Bangkok lead by famous Doctor.... This was hard for Rasmus and Anno because the accident happened at 11.00 a.m. and the depart to Bangkok was at 20.00 p.m. for a 800 km drive... This was a night mission!


After investigation the analyze was made that Rasmus had a serious problem in his backbone, however the good news was that after heavy revalidation he should recover completely, the doctor said. Rasmus laid down nearly two weeks in hospital in a private room with complete support form Anno Pedersen, the team manager helping with food, helping with reading newspapers, arranging all the things with insurance's, preparing all for repatriating to Denmark. Rasmus backbone was completely fixed, so he had to fly horizontally back, using the surface of 7 seats which were pulled out. This was the most expensive ticket Marco Polo ever arranged, although we have lots of experience!!


Fortunately Rasmus arrived well in Denmark where he had to lay in hospital for more than 2 weeks. He is doing a lot of exercise to recover completely, we have the good news that the progress is very good, so we hope that Rasmus can race in the Marco Polo Cycling Team this year again."




Lex Nedelof in the newspaper in Thailand.


Report by Kay Kermer:

November 4, 2nd stage Surat Thani-Chumphon, 176km,

Rainy again and warm. We slept every time in nice hotels and the food was really good, but some times a little bit to spicy.

The most of the work in front of the big bunch makes the Giants. Many attacks were broken in the hard front wind and the strong work of the Giants. On the end it was a big sprint and Matnur from Indonesia won the sprint, he was smart enough to wait in the wind shade and passed all at the finish. Rob and Lex  rode the last 10km faster to prepare a good position for my sprint, but I was to nervous and started to early. result: 1st Matnur, 2nd Ian Wilkinson, 3rd Ching Wong Ngai (Honkong), 21st I, 41th Lex, 50th Rob.


November 5, 3rd stage Chumphon-Prachuap Khiri Khan, 174km,

Windy and warm nice weather. Every day the same picture, we attack and try and the giants catch us and work in front of the bunch. It was really hard to have no team-manager, since Anno left to help Rasmus after his crash. But luckily every rider and the manager of Hong Kong helped us when we needed water and some bars during the race, although it was forbidden to help other riders (every body knew the disaster with Rasmus). 10km to go Lex attacked again and only Matnur followed him, it was the right attack at the right time (old mans experience!!!). Lex won this race. result: 2nd Matnur, 3rd Ian Wilkinson, 4th I, 45th Rob.


Lex Nederlof at the podium after winning the 3rd stage of the Tour of Thailand. (Photographer: Kay Kermer)


November 6, 4th stage Prachuap Khiri Khan-Phetchaburi, 153km,

Hot and windy. 4km to go Paul Redenbach (Giant), Soren Peterson (Giant) and I were gone and 5 seconds in front. After an attack of Soren (he didn't want to sprint) all 3 guys rode alone in the wind, like Belgium-feeling. 1km to go I catch Soren, attack and win.

Soren was not enthusiastic about this finish. But we, the riders of Marco Polo Cycling team were the most  successfull team in this tour with 3 stage wins.

result: 2nd Soren Peterson, 3rd Ching Wong Ngai, 16th Lex, 35th Rob.


November 7 5th stage Phetchaburi-Bangkok, 149km,

Hot and stormy. This was a hard race from the starting line to the finish line. Why, because it was a fight between the Giant-riders, they wanted to win a stage again, but nobody wanted to lose his placing in GC. It was really funny for us to look at this game. It was not my day because I had 2 wheel damages and needed too much energy to come back to the group. Lex was fit and attacked with the Giants. All riders came in little groups or alone to Bangkok.

After the finish it was hectic for the official award, I didn't know which was the result of the end, but this sure: 1st Soren Peterson, 2nd Damir, 3rd Sergey. This was also the general classification by time, maybe 4th Ian Wilkinson, 5th Lex, 6th I.

All in all it was a great experience with a good organization, friendly people and a beautifully country.


A ceremonie with winners from all categories and officials of the Tour of Thailand 2002. (Photographer: Kay Kermer)


The next day the Marco Polo Cycling Team already left for Japan to be on time for the Tour de Okinawa.




14th Tour de Okinawa 2002:


Report by Kay Kermer: 

14th Tour de Okinawa 2002:


It was only a 5 hour flight to Okinawa and not much of a jet-lag. Also the weather was about the same as in Thailand, warm and tropical.

The welcome in Japan was very friendly and exactly planned on time. Okinawa is a beautiful tropical island, clear blue water, coral riffs, white sand beaches and palms.

We met with the nice Dutch women, Arenda Grimberg and Debby Mansveld, they had already arrived in Japan. They also participated in the Tour de Okinawa. Too bad that they didn't race in our race like in Thailand, then they should race 200 KM instead of 50. We stayed in a 4 star hotel and enjoyed the luxury.

The Tour de Okinawa is a great event with cycling in all different categories, like family tours and a 350 KM! tour around the island.


November 10, 200km, 1.5 UCI, great organization, a big high light for everybody.


I know this race from the last year and I didn't want to make the same mistake like last year, that is why the 3 Marco Polo riders were riding in front and looked what the others did, like the Canadians, USA-boys, Irish guys and the strong Japanese pro's.

After many attacks and 78km after the 1st climb, I was in a group of 5, riders from: Canada, Shimano-racing and Nippon Hodo TT3, 3min in front. At the second climb 20 riders caught us and the race and hunting was open.

40km to go, I attack and only Takumi Beppu (Nippon Hodo) and the ex-champion of Japan could follow me. But 100km in a group was a little bit too much on the next climbs, so I saw stars and didn't know where I was. Team Manager Anno spoke German with me, I am German but I didn't understand him, I was smashed.

Rider after rider after rider passed me and I had hallucinations about the finish line. The result was that Paul Redenbach (Giant), remember on the 4th stage in Thailand, won this race, 2nd was Takumi Beppu (Nippon Hodo), 3rd ex-champion of Japan, 18th Lex, 21th I. It is a hard race and everything has to be right to win this. I think this is one of the nicest races ever.


After the race there was a great closing ceremony with food and drinks with all participants. We enjoyed the Okinawa brew Kirin beer and sushi dish together with Japanese culture on the podium, with drums and dancing dragons. Later we went with the opponents in the race from the USA, Canada and Ireland to Karaoke bars. Here we noticed that we have more talent on the bicycle then on stage.

We finished this great adventure on the beach, enjoyed the hot sun and the warm ocean.


Special thanks to Anno, he made a big job in this adventure tour, beyond his energy!!!!!


We would also like to thank the race organisers of these two great cycling events!




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