e2Value Racing Team member Jeff Vogel lives and trains in Thailand for half of the year. Here is his story of meeting a familiar face while in Thailand.
Last month I did a 200 kilometer brevet sanctioned by the ACP (Audax Club Parisian). The actual distance was 207 kilometers. Add in my commute to the start and home from the finish it was going to be a 250-plus kilometer day. Over 350 riders were registered. it's not a race but the strongest riders treat it like one.
I won't bore you with the details of the first half of the ride. With about 85 kilometers to go, I was riding alone, probably at the back end of the Top 10. A group of six Thai riders comes up alongside me and the lead rider says "Join us!". It was nice to be "invited", but I was jumping on the back of their paceline anyway. The lead rider, wearing a jersey from the Vanilla Residence team, was super smooth. I'm sure he was a racer. He looked vaguely familiar. I may have raced against him at some race in the past. Or maybe he just looks like every other bike racer in familiar kit.
I quickly realized that there was only one other rider besides Vanilla who was capable of doing any work. It didn't take long before we dropped the other four riders. The three of us worked well together until we hit the last set of hills. I was pretty fried at that point. The last hill was several kilometers long and goes up in steps. I dropped off the back. But when Vanilla got to the top he looked over his shoulder, slowed down, and waited for me.
I don't know whether that was a show of respect for the work I did getting to that point or if he thought I would be helpful to work with on the flat roads to the finish. We went up the next segment and the same thing happened — I got dropped, Vanilla waited. We repeated that on the third step too. When I pulled up alongside to thank him, he took off his sunglasses and said "Jeff, remember me?!" I'm not sure how much of a thought process I could have after almost 200 kilometers of riding but before I could even start shuffling through my fading memory, he answered his own question, "Beaw!"
Beaw was a former Thai National Champion who used to ride with our group on his easy days or as a warm up for a longer day. He gave up racing about five years ago and went to work in his family business, a noodle shop. That shows how bleak the prospects are for even top racers.
He's now in his early 30's and has a family, which limits his riding to once or twice a week, weekends only. He had youth and experience on his side but a lack of current fitness. I'm pretty fit but have a definite lack of youth. We were perfectly matched. We chatted for a few minutes and then got back to finishing off the ride. We immediately dropped the third rider.
Trading pulls with a former national champion made the time go by much quicker. It was all pain, but no pain. And that's why I ride.