With sensational beaches, incredible flora and fauna and excellent value for money, Thailand is a well-known tourist hot spot. What is less well known is the fact that the road racing scene in Thailand is fantastic and gaining notoriety year by year.
Thailand is where I completed my first amateur stage race (Masters Tour of Chiang Mai), and it delivered on exactly what I was looking for as an amateur bike racer. The opportunity to race on consecutive days in a foreign environment. Now with several other Thai stage races under my belt, I can say with confidence that Thailand is a great place to visit for road racing events.
Thailand has a great calendar of quality stage races each year. Events such as the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai, Tour of Phuket, Friendship Tour and Tour of Chaingrai are all well organised stage races where you get 3 - 4 days of high quality competitive bike racing.
The cost of entering a race in Thailand is always very reasonable. All-inclusive packages are often available, however if you need to (or wish to) find your own accommodation for an event, Thailand is inundated with luxury accommodation at really affordable prices.
The ability to relax by the pool in Thailand’s tropical weather between stages, or getting an hour long massage on tired legs for the equivalent of US $15-$20, makes racing in Thailand a somewhat lavish affair without a ridiculous price tag.
Thailand’s main stages races (as noted above) have been running for a number of years and are run by excellent race organisers with a lot of regional and international racing experience.
These races also attract a lot of very good amateur riders from the region. This includes Thailand's amateur teams of RooJai, Niche100 and Singha to name a few, as well as several quality expat club teams from Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. These teams, along with many individual riders visiting from abroad, fill the peloton with experienced and competent riders from all over the globe.
Scenery and Nature
Racing in Thailand will include breathtaking moments of beauty. For me, some of my highlights include riding up a mountain in Chiang Mai with elephants on the road, coastal roads in Phang Nga with the 'James Bond Islands' just over your shoulder, riding through rural back roads with spectacular rice fields on both sides of the road and passing some amazing temples and statues that other tourists are simply not aware of.
Furthermore, you get a wonderful opportunity to take a sneak peak at real Thai living as the race routes will usually take you off the main roads and far away from the tourist beaten paths.
Bike racing is always dangerous and you have to take every possible precaution when riding.
Road conditions in Thailand do vary from excellent to quite poor at times, and roads are often not closed for these events.
Despite open roads, the prevalence of small motorbikes and scooters, particularly in the more rural streets, makes the roads feel quite safe to race on. Not only is this due to there being fewer cars on the road, but the general flow of traffic is slower and I have found that drivers are well accustomed at safely and respectfully passing cyclists on the road.
Furthermore, the organisers of Thailand's established stage races have been (in my opinion) very competent at controlling the traffic. With the use of scooters and support vehicles in front and behind the riders, they do a great job at alerting approaching vehicles and pedestrians.
The heat in Thailand can be a safety factor for those coming from colder climates, however in this case, the experience of the race organisers again shines through with well equipped neutral water service. It usually only takes a quick raising of the arm for a scooter to approach you with a fresh bottle of cold water within seconds.
Racing in Thailand is where I found a way to combine my passion for cycling and travel. These events are not to be missed and adding time to your trip to explore this beautiful country and region after the race is always a bonus. Highly recommended!!