Gearing Up for Tour de Timor
I arrived in Timor-Leste in August of last year, coincidentally just a few weeks before the riders of the first Tour de Timor (TdT) began the grueling trek across the country’s diverse terrain. On the night before the last day of the race, myself and PDM-TL’s Deputy Director and Matchmaking Associate, Ilidio Ximenes, set out to Gleno, Ermera by motorbike so that we could be up at the crack of dawn to watch the riders go by on their return to Dili. From our vantage point at the junction of Gleno, we joined the throng of Ermera locals watching Timor-Leste’s first international biking event fly through.
This year, President Jose Ramos-Horta promises the race will be “bigger, better and tougher.” 350 riders will be traveling across the western half of the country, covering a total of 410 kilometers in just 5 days. The number of organizers, volunteers, and those who just want to tag along for the ride make this sporting event one of the largest Timor-Leste has ever held.
Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) has been hard at work providing preparation support for the race, working closely alongside the Tour’s organizers. Be on the lookout for official route markers, developed in cooperation with the Office of the President and PDT, that not only point the way, but also encourage racers to buy locally! (Keep an eye out for these road markers even after the race ends.) PDT’s district staff are also at work distributing the district business guides and organizing local businesses and street side vendors to accumulate their wares and prepare for the influx of foreign dollars. And finally, for all those in Dili, be sure to head down to Timor Lodge where PDT has organized a number of handicrafts and artworks to be sold.
The economical impact of a week-long event like the TdT is potentially quite high. International riders will be a stimulus to the market in Dili and, perhaps more importantly, to the undeveloped, rural communities in which they will spend the majority of their time. Local entrepreneurs that very rarely have access to such an international market the race builds will be able to sell their commodities to riders, perhaps earning enough money for the day to fix up a house, send their children to school for another year, or start a new business.
I am eager to hear the stories made from this year’s race. It’s an exciting time to be in Timor-Leste.