After the overall win in 2020 and five stage wins as well as second place in the overall standings in 2021, the bar for this year's Tour of Thailand was set quite high for Team BIKE AID from Saarland.
Every day a BIKE AID rider made it into the top ten and, with Adne van Engelen finishing 9th in GC, also into the final overall standings. Under different circumstances, this is a decent result in a race with the best teams from Asia. However, due to the outstanding results in previous years, for the moment it is disappointing.
If things go so perfectly in the previous year, you hope to be able to continue where you left off. If this does not happen, it becomes mentally difficult and the excellent results become a burden.
Solutions were sought on a daily basis. However, there was simply a lack of looseness, which may have caused one or two mistakes in the end.
On the fourth stage, Lucas Carstensen achieved a podium finish in the sprint with third place. The team wanted to build on this the following day. However, after an offensive fifth stage, they ended up in a tactically difficult situation. Nikodemus Holler crossed the finish line in the first group, with the eventual overall winner and second-place finisher picking up important seconds while Holler finished fourth in the stage.
In Mukdahan, the Tour of Thailand ended, as it did in 2021, with a small mountain top finish. The approximately one kilometer long hill to a Buddha temple is located on the Mekong River, which draws the border to Laos here.
The short ramp was almost a matter for sprinters with good climbing skills. Nevertheless, there was the possibility to turn things around for the final result with Adne van Engelen and Salim Kipkemboi. Tactically it didn't go perfectly again and in the approach to the hill Adne van Engelen was a bit too much on his own. Quite far back in the peloton he rode into the climb and finished in 4th place, just behind the winner, missing out on the crucial bonus seconds for a top result in the overall standings. Teammate Salim Kipkemboi followed just behind and finished 7th.
But even without the hoped-for sportive yield, the Tour of Thailand was a special and beautiful experience, which must clearly be noted. The enthusiasm of the Thai people along the route, the magnificent Buddhist temples, the privilege to experience all these impressions, all in a perfectly organized race. All the more the team hopes to participate in this race again in 2023 with the goal of winning more stages again.
Also F2P and KAZE, the Thai partners of the team, have again supported on site and helped where they could. Mechanic Mo set up the new team model for all the riders at top speed and even during the race he showed how well he knows his craft. They also organized a photographer who captured the daily happenings in a class way!
Despite the lack of stage wins, Team BIKE AID can look back on a very successful start to the 2022 season. The top results in Antalya and Rwanda or the victory at the African Championships by Henok Mulubrhan are worth mentioning here.
Already in three days the next highlight of the packed race calendar is on the agenda. For the first time, Team BIKE AID has received an invitation to the Tour of Turkey, where it will face four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome as well as Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España winner Nairo Quintana, among others. Then on April 24th, some BIKE AID riders were to line up at Überherrn, the only road race in the Saarland, before the next big race, the Tour de Bretagne.
Pictures by KAZE and TCA