This hotel executive loves his extreme sports

Posted: May 6, 2014 by kirisyko in Bike, Climbing
Tags: ,

He has swum with sharks in the Bahamas, crawled his way through a twisty underground cave in Belgium and crashed downhill on the slopes of Rizal and Cavite. As a sportsman, Mandarin Oriental’s general manager Torsten van Dullemen likes to live on the edge.

Yet he has brought recognition to the hotels that he managed and finds quality time with his family. It also doesn’t hurt that he has an Intelligence Quotient of 132, thereby making him a  member of the high IQ society, Mensa.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group puts its most senior management  through a special test to help map out their careers in the next five years. Van Dullemen’s  score puts him in the top 1 percent of the world’s population blessed with brilliant minds.

From 2004 to 2007, Van Dullemen was resident manager in Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. Condé Nast Traveler (UK)  placed the  hotel in the Gold List, while its Readers’ Choice named it “Leisure Hotel of the Year” in 2005.

When he was general manager for Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, the property won several Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award and got on the Gold List for its food and service. In 2011 and 2012, the hotel was No. 1 in TripAdvisor for Thailand. Before his Philippine posting, he was GM for the Chiang Mai property,  Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi, which was also lauded for its accommodations and spa.


Van Dullemen arrives way ahead of the Inquirer for the interview. Impressing his guest, he had the table laden with coffee, green tea and assorted cookies. He had just eaten a lunch of blueberry juice, quinoa with cherry tomatoes and spinach, noodle soup and vegetables at Mandarin’s Paseo Uno.

“Since I came here, the buffet has become more vegetarian,” says the Dutchman. “A hotel can be very dangerous. You can eat and drink whatever you want, but it is also an easy way to stay healthy. I don’t drink spirits and beer. I don’t take cream, meat, fish and fried food.”

Asked about his workout, Van Dullemen instead shows his swollen knuckles. One hand was sore from catching himself  after his bike lost control on an army trail in Taguig.  The other hand was the result of him crashing into a tree at the Enduro Race in San Pablo, Laguna.  From other expeditions, stitches on his knees or legs would be his “mementoes.”

Nonetheless, he remains devoted to mountain biking because it provides the exhilaration of being amid nature’s beauty. On weekends, he meets up with friends who are equally fit—triathletes and ex-members of special forces—in  Fort Bonifacio army trails,  San Mateo, Antipolo, Cavite and Laguna.

“I don’t like to go where others don’t go,” he says.  His group favors  daunting trails that are obstructed by trees, huge rocks, gravelly soil and roller-coaster terrains.  He likes the challenge of the 2,000-kilometer uphill climb which takes more than an hour followed by the steep descent.

“You have to be fit, or you can get easily injured,” he says.

“Mountain biking is tough on the body. You get beaten up so often. You go downhill on craggy terrain. There’s tension all the time. It’s so hard to sit on  the bike for four hours, climbing  and bouncing on rocks. You need to continuously hold on to the steering wheel because you might end up against a tree or rock. Your heart rate is 190 or 195.  You carry three liters of water on your back because you get dehydrated.”

Van Dullemen uses a  hardtail bike or full suspension bike for speedy expeditions and the dual suspension bike for steep trails. “It’s  like a motor bike without an engine. You can jump and go downhill,” he explains of the latter.

The 46-year-old hotelier recently joined the Nuvali Summerfest Masters Cross Country Cup, finishing in the top 10 of his age group, Master D (45 to 49 years old, men’s division), in Calamba.  He completed the 30-km nature trail in one hour and 51 minutes. Despite the sweltering temperature of 39 degrees Celsius, he pedaled at an  average speed of 18.7 km per hour, which was fast for a mountain bike.

To date, his fastest record is 68 km an hour going downhill in Tagaytay.

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