|Changing gears: David Lloyd seen during a training session. The British cyclist will take part in the Everesting challenge on Ba Vi Mountain early next month. — Photo courtesy David Lloyd.
by Khieu Thanh Ha
Viet Nam's capital city was just one of the destinations on David Lloyd's original itinerary, although he and his wife thought they would stay for about nine months soon after they got married.
Their original plan was to head to Argentina, where Lloyd had been offered some work.
"However, we both fell in love with Ha Noi very quickly and decided to settle here for the foreseeable future," said Lloyd.
The couple have now lived in Ha Noi for three and a half years, and Lloyd works as a freelance photographer and writer for a variety of publications.
Recently, he wrote a cover feature on the caves of Quang Binh for New York Times Travel. He is also a contributing author for the 2015 edition of the Footprint Travel Guide to Viet Nam and Laos.
This work involves traveling throughout both countries to photograph and research different places. Over the last few months Lloyd has travelled the length of Viet Nam, from Ha Giang in the north to Con Dao Islands off the southern coast.
"It's an incredibly enjoyable project because I cannot only photograph beautiful places, but also meet many interesting people. This project will finish in December and the books will be published in spring next year," he said.
Amidst all this work, Lloyd pursues another passion – cycling. He also plans to take this to a personal peak next month by "Everesting" the Ba Vi Mountain, preparations for which began, unwittingly, in London.
Before coming to Ha Noi, Lloyd was in London for eight years, and instead of using the underground, he cycled everywhere.
Lloyd found cycling an ideal sport that fit well with life in the capital city. His passion for the new hobby was evident as he enumerated its delights.
"There is a fantastic road cycling community in Ha Noi and also in Da Nang and HCM City. There are a number of cycling clubs, including Thang Long Cycling and TDF, both of which are full of strong riders who are very welcoming, so it's a great means of meeting like-minded people," he said.
"Also, cycling is an excellent way to explore the countryside around Ha Noi and get out of the city regularly. For example, I often cycle out to Thay Pagoda in the early morning and enjoy a mia da (iced sugarcane juice) by the lake there.
"Around 50km from Ha Noi, we are very fortunate to have the Ba Vi Mountain which is an extremely challenging ascent and great fun to descend. Moreover, Ha Giang and Lao Cai are only an overnight journey away and the mountain roads in those provinces offer some of the best cycling in the world.
"Besides the obvious physical benefits of riding, spending time on the bike provides time to completely clear the mind."
Lloyd will attempt the Everesting challenge on Ba Vi Mount on December 13 to raise funds for British charity Newborns Viet Nam, which works to reduce infant mortality in the country by providing specialist training to neonatal nurses and doctors, as well as life-saving equipment.
Everesting is an activity that involves choosing a hill and cycling up and down it enough times to gain enough vertical height to make a grand total of 8,848m, the total height of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.
Rides must focus on only one hill or mountain. It does not matter how long the cyclist takes, but it must be completed in one attempt.
In the first Everesting attempt ever in Viet Nam, Lloyd, 33, will have to cycle up and down the peak more than nine times.
His challenge is equivalent to cycling up and down Mont Ventoux, one of the tallest and toughest climbs in the Tour de France schedule, six times.
"Ba Vi is an extremely tough and stiff mountain. Compared with Hai Van Pass (in central Viet Nam), it is a much harder challenge for any cyclist," he said.
"You can see cars and motorcycles struggling to get up that mountain. So I'm pretty sure it's really challenging. In spite of that, I'm committed to doing it together with friends from cycling communities here in Viet Nam," said Lloyd who recently started a new cycling team – Topas Travel-THBC – that will soon take part in competitions overseas.
The cyclist has given himself about five weeks of hard training in preparation for the test that he has never ever faced before.
History in the making
Giles Lever, British ambassador to Viet Nam, will join some of his friends in cycling with Lloyd on one ascent and descent. Lever said that Everesting attempts were growing in popularity around the world, but very few have succeeded.
If Lloyd can complete the challenge, then his name will become a legend in cycling circles, and the United Kingdom and Viet Nam will be forever linked in cycling history, Lever said.
The public can support Lloyd and make a donation to Newborns Viet Nam at www.justgiving.com/DavidWLloyd. — VNS