The Ford Tour of Samoa is here and ready to go. Riders started arriving over a week ago, come Sunday afternoon everyone will be here and eager to ride.
This is the 5th year of this international event that brings Samoa riders from around Australasia. There are ten women riders, the most in the five year history of the Tour and twenty three male riders.
Early on Monday morning while it is still dark, the riders will set off from Apia. Day 1 will end 100 kms later at Maninoa. The first day is all about getting ugly early, there are the climbs at Le Mafa and Afulilo to overcome. They are mountains, not small hills. It’s a shocking welcome to first time riders that didn’t study up on the course. Suddenly, the idyllic coastal island of the South Seas tourism brochure is well and quickly lost in the hot sun and steep climbs. At this point riders start to ask the question: How do I survive six days of this?
The good news is, by the time first time riders find the answer to that question they will have circled Upolu and Savaii, conquering the landscape and their own limitations. They are finishers of the toughest tour in the South Pacific islands. At that point too and many make plans to come again.
Fifty per cent of this year’s tour riders have been before. The other half have never been to Samoa, or even considered visiting here. Chances are the strange allure of a tough tour will bring them back.
Returning this year is 2017 tour champion Brendon Madden-Smith. The Auckland lawyer beat a competitive field last year and came out on top. The whole family was here, including Brendon’s then 14-year old son Michael who was also a rider last year. Both are back for another crack at the tour.
“I think it is always a good thing to come back to an event to defend your title if you can. I had no hesitation in deciding to come back to the Ford Tour of Samoa – confirming my entry for 2018 the day after the 2017 tour finished.”
“Racing in the Tour this year will have special meaning for me and my son Michael because my Dad passed away last month. It will be good for us to ride the Tour together as father and son at this time.”
The tour course will come as no surprise to repeat-riders. The course is full of other challenges. Aside from the long hills to climb, and some short steep ones too, the condition of the road surface can be a challenge.
Brendon adds, “I like how the Tour route is a circuit of both Upolu and Savai’i – it really is a tour of Samoa.”
“The first stage over Le Mafa Pass is a tough test and it should be clear after that stage who the strongest riders are.”
Once the tour starts everything becomes a blur because of the rapid movement of not only the rides and the daily change of accommodation.
Brendon knows exactly what to expect on each of the riding days.
“The individual time trial from Manase to Vaimoana on day 3 is another key stage because it is quite long for a time trial in a stage race and the course is quite hilly after you turn inland from the coast. And then of course there is the 100 km to cover on day 4 when everyone’s legs are pretty tired.”
One thing that stood out for Brendon in last year’s tour was experiencing Samoan hospitality from a different perspective. He had visited before with his family as a normal tourist.
“Seeing Samoa from a different perspective was refreshing, and the way the Tour group operated as a family was special.”
What he is looking forward to this year is some warm weather and revisiting friendships with last year’s riders.
“It will be great to get away from the grey winter skies in New Zealand to the beautiful blue sunny skies of Samoa. And I really took a liking to taro and palusami last year, so I can’t wait to get hold of some more of that.”
There are three local riders taking on this year’s Tour. They are Daniel Afoa, Samasoni Maoga and Elia Lasa.
The Ford Tour is the fifth tourism-focus event this year for Samoa Events.
Immediately after the Tour ends, the final international event for the year starts, the 5 islands Swim Series.