The Tour of Pain runs about 2-3 times per year and is the subject of extensive banter, expectations, anxiety and well, pain. The idea was conceived in autumn of 2005 and has evolved over the years.

Saturday 14th March 2020

In the beginning, the TOP was a ride over a shorter distance than what has become the norm on more recent events. The aim was to capture all of the HK Island hills that might figure over a week or two of regular SIR-rides in one big ride. Our total inability to ride without explosions of testosterone though meant that points were introduced for each hill and there was fierce competition on every segment featuring on the scorecard. The format was simple: one SIR would carry a whistle and each segment was neutralised until the “whistle-blower” gave the signal. We didn’t quite do track-stands on Magazine Gap Road, but we were not far off doing so. At the top of each segment, positions were recorded on the scorecard. You had to ride all the segments to get any points in the final summary. This opened up for some interesting tactics in trying to figure out who was going out too hard and unlikely to make it to the end; or those deliberately pushing the early pace only to skulk off home in a taxi (oh it’s been done) half-way through - the pain of the ride may have ended there but the pain of the online joshing would last for weeks. Pacing always paid off. The last segment was Luke’s, aka Satellite on Cape D’Aguilar, and the top three finishers on that segment were awarded double points; in other words, 6, 4 and 2.

As the SIRs were craving more pain, more segments were added over the years. A story commonly told is that of one prominent SIR (who shall not be named) in charge of both the route and the whistle, adding Old Peak Road to the route for the first time only to get in a taxi in Stanley leaving the group to carry on bewildered. Whether he handed over the whistle and score card, or not, is not known. There was also the day when less than a handful of SIRs finished in a Black Rainstorm. Oh yes...there was also the new rider - big strong and powerful who, having seen the ride posted in the now defunct Yahoo! group declared it to likely be “a walk in the park”. Haha. He did finish, but walking in his cleats up Luke’s...pushing his triathlon bike.

In June 2016, the format was changed and the TOP became a ride of attrition, including almost every single hill on the island, with a very unsocial start time of 4am. It was a farewell ride to the legendary SIR Steve Drake, and totalled 147km and just a smidge under 4000 vertical metres with a ride time of 8 hours.

The TOP jersey was launched in the summer of 2018 building on Sharkey’s amazing design. Only riders that have completed a TOP (any version) are entitled to wear the jersey. It has hence become a symbol of grit and perseverance.

Since then the number of riders who want to test their endurance and take on the Tour of Pain has mushroomed, typically with 30+ riders taking it on. In October 2019 an unusually hot autumn day had about thirty starters but only seven finishers. More remarkable was that four of those steely limbed finishers were above 50 years old.

The endurance concept has visited both Lantau and the New Territories over the years, and while these alternative locations do not demand the 4am start, all Tour of Pain rides required some proper fitness, understanding partners and a serious commitment to make it through a LONG day of riding every steep slope feasible. 

The 2020 New Territories version sent 37 (strava confirmed) riders up the iconic Robin's Nest, a climb once described by a former winner of the SIRS Peak ITT as "unrideable". 

The whistle-blowing format makes a sneaky appearance every now and then so puncheurs should keep their eyes out for that, its more of a leg snapper than a leg sapper, and just as painful!

It's fantastic that the TOP is recognised outside the normal SIR circle of riders, bringing together and welcoming pain-seekers from the many cycling groups in Hong Kong. 

But that is what South Island Road Cycling is all about…welcoming I mean, not the Pain, or….