We were greeted an ever-changing view over the wall of our encampment. We kept going back for more pictures - they're on my facebook. With such a poor finish the day before I'd dropped out of the top 100. I was number 101 by five minutes. I really wanted to stay top 100 so I knew I'd have to work hard today. It was day five. LOTS of downhill, a good chunk of flat, and pretty good roads. Excellent conditions for me... and for everyone else.
I'd like to thank Grant Knisely for the short prayer he said for me. And as a side note I have to give him, Scott Woodward, and David Flood mad props for all the work they did photoing and filming the Chain Reaction Project girls. They had some long, arduous days stuck on scooters, in the sag wagon, and waiting by the side of the road. Good on you, guys!
There weren't any crashes in the beginning, and we hit downhill right away. I was glad for the tip of shoving a newspaper down my jersey to keep the crisp morning wind out. I discarded it a while later. Riders were taking some risks on the downhills, myself included. One guy ended up with a massive laceration on his elbow and messed up his leg beyond what the hospital in Dili could diagnose.
I was fast and steady all day. I felt really strong on the hills and I just flew down the hills. I caught and passed the Kiwis and they latched on the back. They could barely draft me and I lost them after a while. Fraser and I had stocked up on mentos and I threw some handfulls to the kids as I passed. Fraser threw a huge handful which enticed even the kids from the opposite side of the road to throw all caution to the wind and charge across the road - much to the chagrin of the two riders on Fraser's tail. Everyone was alright, but Fraser was verbally abused later on that day - at least he already knew the guy.
I could almost smell the end and I could even see the Jesus statue off in the distance. I was coming home to Jesus! I tried to catch another group with the help of another rider, but he blew up and I just didn't have it in me to catch them alone. So I dragged him in for about 20km against the strong coastal wind on the condition that he not blow by me at the finish. He did not, but another group did. The finish line was elusive, and I carefully picked my moment to strike back. Only one of them managed to slip by me. I finished 66th. The first of my team and the first "Singaporean".
The riders were led to the Aussie base just behind the Palacio Royal for showers, drinks, and snacks. A hot shower in the men's barracks never felt so good!
The end was a little anticlimactic, but we had a great meal before packing up for our flights home on Saturday. Thus ended my eight days in Timor-Leste. I even came home with an official jersey from one of the Timor-Leste teams.
What a privilege to participate in such an amazing event. I can't wait for next year!