“We Are Lao is overseeing the Kasi Checkpoint for BikingMan.” The call came from We Are Lao’s Managing Director John Morris Williams.
The Kasi Climb (Photo courtesy of Uncle Tom’s Trails)
“I knew it,” was my response as John’s partner in We Are Lao. Normally, we discuss and decide, but our 30-year friendship means he can read my mind.
I had previously asked BikingMan Founder and CEO Axel Carion, “Who’s covering the Kasi Checkpoint?” No one yet. “Don’t worry, I’m sure the gears are already turning in John’s head.”
Then came the call, and John’s logic. “When I first heard of this opening, I immediately contacted Axel and offered my support for Kasi Checkpoint 2. I thought the Kasi Climb would be good part of the race, and a great place to camp out.”
I pushed for more. “I have not been there and would like to be on site, meet up with Uncle Tom (a motorbike tour operator based in Kasi) and a few others, take some pictures, and give my time to support.”
It started sounding like a working holiday, and John confessed he was taking leave from his job as Luang Prabang View Hotel’s General Manager to do this.
Great Views (Photo coutesy of Laos GPS Map)
“Kasi is a great place to be out on the mountains, a place to relax and watch the world pass by, and in this case, watch the world’s best ultracyclers giving the steep climb a go!”
Sanctuary Hotels & Resorts is hosting the Race Village and start/finish line in Luang Prabang, and Checkpoint 1 at its Pakbeng Lodge, but no one offers accommodation on top of Mount Kasi.
“We need a banner across the road to welcome the BikingMan racers. You know, stretching between two treetops,” I said.
“There’s nothing up there, Bernie. Last year’s typhoon knocked down the big trees, but I’ll think of something,” he responded.
“I’m sure you will,” but what about food, medical, showers, and toilets? Sounds like rough work, but John considers this a holiday. He lives for this like Rodney Sonnco cherishes the challenge of climbing Mount Kasi. They’ll both pull it off.
It can get nasty out there.
However, erecting and riding to the Kasi Checkpoint pose other challenges, with weather high on the list. Laos just came off a scorching heat wave, and is just starting to see brief pre-dawn and dusk showers, though there has been short periods of thunderstorms with major gusts.
“High wind and rain would definitely present challenges for everyone. The road can get dangerous with trucks and cars when the weather is out,” John said. This could send tents at the Kasi Checkpoint flying, but John is more concerned with “creatures of the night and some snakes.”
The details of We Are Lao’s responsibilities have yet to be announced, but John said, “for sure it’s to ensure the riders get up the slopes and pass us on the way back to Luang Prabang.”
With the uphill comes the downhill
As one of BikingMan Laos’ local sponsors, We Are Lao is contributing to the race in other areas. “I went to Mr Soulithip Norkhounphon, Director of Luang Prabang’s Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, for the go ahead,” John said.
“From there, I have been active in moving things forwards and supporting Green Discovery Laos, the contracted sponsor, to ensure everything is on track and all the required documents are issued.”
I learned about We Are Lao’s support for BikingMan Laos much like I found out about the Kasi Checkpoint. For me, the news was like striking gold. We Are Lao’s mission is to market the country as a tourism destination, and holding an annual world championship event attracts loads of global media coverage for free.
While most of the media will focus solely on the ultracycling race, I’m eyeing bikepackers, targeting travel agents that offer cycling tours, and assisting Lao travel companies in developing a tourist trail that follows part of the BikingMan Laos circuit.
Much like BikingMan, We Are Lao is entering its second year, and are pushing to place Laos on the global tourism map. BikingMan Laos will go a long way in helping us accomplish this…even if John has to climb Mount Kasi.
BikingMan Laos kicks off on 20 May. To discover more about the event and follow the racers in real time on an interactive GPS map, click here.
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