The Taupo Challenge

The Taupo Challenge
By Bruce Swales

In November each year the Taupo Challenge is run at Lake Taupo in New Zealand.  Located in the central North Island of New Zealand, Lake Taupo is in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago, and is the largest lake in Oceania.  To put the size of the lake in perspective, Singapore would fit within.

The Taupo challenge is a one day cycling event, which comprises several bike races – both road and mtb. The major event is a road race right around Lake Taupo, but there is also an 80km and 40km road race and also an ‘ultra’ road race that covers four laps of the lake.  For mountain bikers there are also several mountain bike races, including an 85km race.

25th November 2017 saw the 41st running of this event and ANZA’s Bruce Swales and Iain Clarke travelled down to compete.  There were also 7 other competitors from Singapore, and competitors from 22 other countries making up some of the 6,000 competitors across all races.  Ex ANZA Singapore rider Dean Cooper was there wearing ANZA kit, and Kent McCallum (Cycosports) was also there and was spied wearing ANZA bib shorts.  More than 2,300 riders competed in the main race around the lake.  This was Iain’s third time competing and Bruce’s first.

As can be seen in the map and elevation diagram, the course is 153km long, with 1,736 metres of climbing.  Most of the climbing is over rolling hills but there are a couple of very significant hills.  The first is Poihipi Hill, that riders hit only 600 metres from the start line, which averages 4% gradient over 2km’s.  While not that substantial, riders hit this cold, usually having been waiting for an hour or so at the start line.  The second hill, called Hatepe Hill, is a little more nasty and is at the 132km point, some 21km from the finish, with a gradient that averages around 8% over 3km. However, once you are over the top of Hatepe it’s basically downhill to the finish 20km away in the town of Taupo, with one last small bumps along the way.

November in New Zealand is Spring, which means the weather can be unpredictable – it could be windy, wet, cold or warm.  The days leading up to this race were warm (22 – 24 °C) with very little or no wind, so everyone was hoping for a dry, windless race.  Our wishes were granted with the day of the race being an overcast dry day, with morning temperatures below 18 °C and no wind at all – perfect racing conditions. Those hours of training put in by Iain and I in the Singapore heat would certainly pay off in these conditions.

Racing actually started the night before, with several crit races around the town, including a NZ armed forces race (Army, Navy and Air force teams), and elite Men’s and Women’s races.  I met up with Kent McCallum to watch these and compare to the Singapore CFS crits.  Good racing and great commentary by Robbie McEwan.

Come 6.45am on the 25th and the main race commenced, with the elite racers starting first, followed by the other riders starting in waves of a hundred or so riders, based on anticipate finish times.  Iain was in the third wave and was hoping to complete the race inside 4½ hours.  I started in the wave behind Iain’s with a goal of completing the race in under 5 hours.  As predicted, Poihipi Hill started the splitting of waves, with my wave splitting into two by the top (turn left at the giant bicycle), then came the one hundred kilometres of rolling hills.  While some of these ‘rolling’ hills are significant in their own right, there were several long descents to recover on so the race is not as arduous as it may sound.  This certainly worked to my advantage as while I am not a fast ascender I am a quick descender and was able to regain places I was losing on the ascents.  My downfall was, however, having never ridden the course before I took it a little too easy during the first half of the race, in order to conserve myself for the second half, and by the time Hatepe Hill arrived I was fresher than I expected to be but by then it was too late to pull back much of the time that I lost during the first part.  Nevertheless I finished well inside my goal, at 4:49:40.  Iain had a great race and despite puncturing at the bottom of Hatepe Hill still finished inside his goal, in 4:29:37.

Being in ANZA kit was a novelty for some riders, with several comments along the lines of ‘Oh you are from Singapore, aren’t you a long way from home?’ I was also asked by a woman rider ‘Do you know my friend Megan Kinder?’ (Megan, Kath sends her regards).

I met up with Iain at the finish, where we each consumed a free beer (a mark of a well organised race must be a free beer for every rider that finishes!).  Overall this was an excellent event and one that I would highly recommend – great course, beautiful scenery, well organised and a wonderful weekend atmosphere.  I will be back next year!  For those who may be interested next year’s race is on 24th November 2018.

https://www.facebook.com/CycleChallenge/
https://cyclechallenge.com/highlights/

Advertisements

Masters Tour of Chiang Mai – 2017

With photo credits for various shots to SinghaDTK, [and apologies for any dodgy photo cropping. Ed.]

#gordonsgetaways this was not.  Though a much smaller contingent than last year, a good handful of us participated in the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai 2017.  14 of us regulars, including 5 AWKT guys made the trip to Chiang Mai this October.  The four day stage race included 2 road races, one circuit race and one ITT up the famed Doi Suthep.  We have three volunteers to share their unique perspectives on these days.

Day 1 by Reuben Bakker

All 9 riders in ANZA Kit.
Roli, Colin, James, Reuben, Lizzie, Rob, Steven, Peter, Frank

Day 1 was scheduled to be a 74.5 km road race.  We started bright and not that early for our club photo and then rolled over to the starting line.  Just like last year, we had a neutralized, nice and lazy rolling start to somewhere north of Chiang Mai.  This was a nice opportunity to chat around, say hi to other teams, people we knew from out of town and just generally enjoy effortless cycling.

The neutral roll out stopped some 16.5km from its origin.  A much nicer place than last year, but it was different from last year.  After a bushes break and drinking the last of my disposable water, Open A, Open B and 30s lined up awaiting our flag off.Reuben, Frank and Roli waiting the flag off for stage 1

Soon we were off!  My goal for day 1 was simple.  Finish with the leaders, don’t lose any time and if an opportunity presents itself, take it (KOM / Podium).  As we rolled out, there was no flying feeling like last year.  The euphoric feeling of one’s first road race was replaced with a bit of jitteriness of avoiding potholes, cars and crashes.  The peloton rolled on at 42 kph to the approach to the KOM hill.  Unknown to me, there was a break of 3 riders well up the road (none in my cat).  Happy with my ignorance of this and only seeing small groups a couple hundred meters up the road, I sat in the pack.

Green Fields and Blue Skies for Day 1;  calm cycling before we are strung out.

On the approach to the KOM hill, I decided to stretch my legs, so I went to the front and pulled a nice turn to bring catch up to a group a hundred meters or so up the road.  This decision to be near the front of the group for the hill was a good one, because as the peloton hit the hill, someone decided that IT WAS ON.  It was a 2:30 minute hill for me and a 2:10 minute hill for the leaders.  The peloton was strung out and going much faster than last year.  From the middle of the hill to the finish line (half of the race), the front of the peloton was fragmented / single file.  The scenery blurred by.  The only thing that mattered was holding a wheel in a group that was pushing the pace.  Push we did.  Down the hills, over the hills, through the little towns, the scenery blurred by.  The last 40 km was covered with a 49 kph average with the fast bits going by at well over 50 kph.  The euphoric flying feeling was there again.

Then came the onset of cramps again.  My legs didn’t cramp up, but all I could do was sit in.  A lead group (40+) eventually came together 20 km after the hill just after we hit the main road.  There were still 3 riders out front, so the pace was kept high.  Transport trucks were passed.  Whoosh.  I started the count down on the Garmin.  Time to test the legs to see if they could handle anything beyond being last wheel.  NO.  When the group is going 52, it’s quite an effort to push faster.  The legs weren’t having any of this.  I sit in.  With less than 5km to go, the break away is caught and the cat and mouse for winning the stage begins.  Attacks are launched off the front, but nothing gets away.  It looks like fun, but I cannot play.  As we roll to the line, I’m still near the back of the group.  The sprinters finish a second or two ahead, but we all get the same clock time.  Stage 1 is finished with a blistering average speed of 44.7 kph.

Day 2 – Circuit race by Frank Stevenaar

A complete new stage was introduced this year, a circuit race around the Chiang Mai Rajabhat University campus ground. The course was 4.8km long, undulating, closed off for traffic, had perfect tarmac and quite easy wide corners. In other words: perfect for a fast race.  Unlike day 1, the categories raced separately which meant more interesting and tactical racing.  Most categories raced 8 laps with a small KOM climb after the 4th lap.

The 30s team had one objective and that was to make sure that Reuben stayed out of trouble and didn’t lose time in the GC.  To save the legs, we opted for the easy option and took the team van instead of riding over 30km through busy Chiang Mai traffic.

After getting some valuable intel from the guys racing in 40s, we set-off and the pace picked up quickly.  Quite soon, attacks were being launched but they were all reeled in before a meaningful break could be established.  The Matadors tried to make the race hard in order to get their sprinter in a good position and Ben Judas tried his luck with a break but the climbs, wide roads and easy corners meant that it was difficult for him and any other riders to get away.  In the penultimate lap a more serious attack was established by multiple teams but Frank worked with a few Thai riders to close the gap.  Roli took over and by then Reuben was also at the front and the race was destined to end in a mass sprint.  Reuben and Roli moved to the front to get a good result for the stage but the small Thai  riders were better positioned for the uphill finish with Kumut (Roojai Interbike team) and Chatchai (Nich) coming in 1 and 2. Roli finished as the best 30s Anza rider in 9th position.

In ladies Open had one very strong UAE rider dominating the field and the best Anza rider was Lizzy, finishing 8th.

In Open, a break held together and Iron Mike was the best placed ANZA/AWK rider in 4th position.

In 40s, the race also finished in a bunch sprint and James finished in the top 15 with Rob and Colin finishing right behind the first bunch.

In 50s, the race was ripped apart by a couple of strong riders and Steven and Peter finished in the second bunch.

Day 3 by Reuben Bakker

Day three, the day where the hills started and time gaps in the GC would appear.  The route was supposed to be some 97 km including a long out and back along a main road and then into the hills for some climbing.  Thinking that it would be just like last year, where no break got away on the main road, I again, ignorantly and happily sat it.  I had my eye on several riders in the 30s and they were doing the same.  The peloton happily rode along.  Slowly.

On the way out before the u-turn, we were averaging 40 kph.  Somehow, the decision was made to do the u-turn about 7.5km early, lopping some 15km from the route (I heard that the decision was made because we were going too slow and the second peloton was going to catch us).  After the u-turn, the pace was even slower.  I wasn’t paying attention and a significant number of riders went off the front and made some huge time (the riders I had my eye on all stayed with the peloton).  On the way to the turn-off into the hills from the u-turn, the peloton averaged 38.5 kph while the break averaged some 48 kph.

Soon enough we entered the real hills.  From a simplicity point of view, there were three climbs, of 15-20 minutes in length and two descents.  I got over the first one quite well, though the true climbers in the 30s crested some 50+ seconds ahead of me.  The route brought us down some switchbacks into a valley, up the other side, turn around and then up the switchbacks to the finish line.  The only thing I wanted to do going down the switchbacks was not to crash.  I made it down in one piece, though I did come into one corner too fast but was able to stay upright.

Up the other side of the valley, I had the route at 4km of climbing which is what strava told me other people did last year.  I settle into a rhythm, careful not to allow my HR to get too high.  My HR is 170 and power is about 320 watts.  I start out by myself but am soon joined by Romain (from Matadors) and Ed (from Unfound.cc).  It’s my breakaway partners from day 3 of tour de bintan earlier this year.  We stay together for about a minute, casually chatting, but working hard.  Ed decides that our pace is a bit slow and pushes on.  I stay put and continue to push on with Romain.  This is my second mistake.  Though my HR was in the right zone, I should have been able to push 30-40 more watts.  I didn’t even try.  The climbing continues and soon the leaders are zooming down the hill past us.  Trying to be helpful, I shout out rough time gaps.

My garmin says 4km have passed by.  There is no u-turn in sight.  We keep climbing.  Up, up, up.  Soon I see someone I know in the 30s flying by the other way.  We keep climbing.  After another km at a 9.7% gradient, the u-turn appears.  Whoosh, down the hill.  Luckily, a local passes me and I’m able to follow his line down the hill.

Slogging up the first real climb of the day

The bottom of the valley appears and now there is only 2.4km left to the finish, at 11% (270 m elevation gain).  I settle in again.  This time with my HR at 170 and the power at 330 watts.  Soon I’m joined by Romain again.  With nobody else in sight, we spin up the hill.  I’m quite thankful for my 34-32 gearing which allows me to keep a cadence of 70 rpm.  The distance goes by in the garmin.  Less than 1 km to go.  I’m racing, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Just feels like a hard group ride.  There is no final push up the hill.  The tank is not emptied.  Romain and I roll up and over the finish line, finishing 10th and 9th (30’s cat) on the stage.  There is satisfaction of completing the stage, but at the same time feel like something is lacking as I didn’t push my boundaries.  After three stages, I am 6th in the 30’s cat GC, just one spot off the podium and my initial goal of a top 5.

(end note:  the uphill ITT didn’t quite go as planned either.  Overall, I ended up 7th in the 30’s, 1:14 down on 5th place and 2:06 out of 3rd)

Day 4 Doi Suthep ITT.. The Race of Truth. by Peter Williamson

This is it. The moment of truth. You are about to find out how you rank against the others who have flown here from many places and different environments, helped you, hindered you, become your friends or sit one or two places behind you or in front of you in GC… but… in the back of your mind… sits that little voice… you live in Singapore… all these people live in countries with hills… how many positions could you possibly slip today?

If you want a serious racers perspective, then please take a read of what Mike wrote… https://www.ironmikemusing.com/2017/10/masters-tour-chiang-mai-2017/

But from my novice / learners’ perspective this is what it felt like…. 9k’s at a pretty constant 5-6% (yes constant and nagging) … how long is Faber?  1 and a bit k’s with flat bits?

Mike sorry but I pinched your graphic to emphasise the steadiness. It belies the kick up at the end somewhat.

and then … as Mike described it to me … you go past the waterfall and there is the wall… but it does flatten out a bit in the last 400 metres… to maybe 10% or so. But save some legs for the wall … you can easily lose a minute or more there.

It flattens out just up there lads!

Before the wall

After the wall

 

So its game on from 7.30am with the Ladies 35+, Ladies Open, Mens 60+, Mens 50’s, Mens 40s, Mens 30’s, Mens Open B (Juniors) and Mens Open A.

Breakfast starts at 5. 30.. and I am off at 7.53… a 5am alarm with everything all laid out should work. A quick whip down to muesli and yoghurt with some of the Mav’s and yup the egg man is late for work again…

Hmm that’s precipitation! just a drizzle… but it’s going to be completely different from the first three days…wet but uphill so no worries. Ok best bang that on the group messenger chat… “lads and ladettes.. it’s starting to rain!”.

Lizzie and I rolled out of the Kantari Hills courtyard, being careful to stay upright on the slippery cobbles, for the less than 2km journey to the start line by the zoo in the semi light of a grey drizzly dawn.

When we arrive our friendly Thai starter is relaying every conversation he is having with every rider and van driver through his microphone… “ oh yes.. the toilets are over there on the right…”

I wonder how Rueben is going to handle descending afterwards on his carbon unicycle with no bottle cage, bar tape, brakes or paint that he dreamt up while we were having dinner last night?

The only place to warm up is to ride up the course… and it takes 2 or 3 k’s on this colder day to get the heart rate up without burning the legs… and the decent back to the start line must be taken with care … its slippery, there are cars up this road and the brakes don’t work so well.

“Go Lizzie.. hold that steady!” she’s up off the seat on the second corner where the road is too wide to stay out wide to keep momentum… you have to take the inside steeper line.

The ANZA 40 -49’s are arriving just as Steve and I get ready to mount the steps to the start. James is without strapping on the knee today… he reckons it is feeling pretty ok.

As the early riders in our 50-59 cat roll off the ramp Stephen Ames … starting one place in front of me modestly says… “let me know when you are coming past so I can try to follow…”   I pointed out that as it didn’t happen yesterday on the Sameong climb that would be even less likely to happen today. He had completely emptied the tank on day one off the front of the peloton to get Alan Grant up for the stage 1 win. Maybe next year guys you get me to 1km to go on stage 1 and I will try and go off the front and distract Pavol somehow … and you guys sneak on by? Then I have an excuse for stage 4.

All the good luck man fist pumps have been done, Stephen is away, and I am up the steps and hanging on to the ramp bar with the left hand, shoes clipped in … but it feels like my first time steer riding as a kid at our local rodeo.

“five zero two,  Peter Williamson   .. five, four, three, two, one , go!” … down that sharp little green carpet and here we go… up off the seat and pumping…gotta get this heart rate up… just like James would be doing a while later.

For me I had to take a detour just past the end of the TT coned area ahead of James. A tourist was photographing his girlfriend buying a durian at the fruit stall on the corner… he walked backwards into the middle of the road.  What the hell are you doing buying durian at quarter to eight on a wet Tuesday morning?… anyways … ‘mai pen rai khup’… I can see Stephen taking the next corner … there is my avatar… that black and red skin suited Maverick bum…. I think that was the last time I saw it….

However…I did manage to pass some morning riders on their mountain bikes .. and yup eventually a few of the 60+ plus guys… and then .. errrm.. Alan Grant eases past spinning away and occasionally off the seat … then a couple more and despite best efforts there aint no way I can ride that pace seven metres behind. But I did learn about cornering on an ascent like this. Avoid the steep inside corners… do more distance wide and keep the spinning momentum going.

Not far behind comes Andy Brierley.. he started last in our cat but with a time in the 31 minutes he showed his class.. such a smooth easy cadence. At about 8km in the gradient has eased a little and hello! Never noticed this on the reccy drive up in the Van … a downhill section… you have to use the big ring and get your bum off that bloody seat to give those aching glutes a break ..change the angle  even though in 300 metres you are back at 6% again.

For me, when I reached the waterfall what was on my mind was where is Mr Wong? .. He started two back. Number 506 from France had passed me a couple of minutes ago but for the first time I had a handle on how far away the finish line is. You have a computer but when it’s just constant and you have not ridden it before (my flight was late in so I could only ride halfway up on the Friday before it got dark and unsafe) it was dignity over valour for me… I am not blowing up. You really aren’t sure how far away that wall really is until you see it.

I see it… OK Mr 506.. stay right there.. I am coming to join you… now you can give it… but you are just coming up to the 1km marker so ‘giving it’ means spinning it up… not getting off the seat. I managed to spin it up and hold it and nearly dragged Mr 506 in by the time I got to the line. Lizzie grabbed the back of my seat so that I didn’t splat on the road in the middle of the finish line area. Much appreciated… so I reciprocated as our lads came in.. it does take you a minute or so to gather your senses.

I won’t go into times but here’s how we fayred on stage 4:

O&OE.. this is from eyeballing the GC results… sorry if I have you slightly wrong.

Lizzie       12th Equal Ladies Open
Steve       14th Mens 50-59
Peter       12th Mens 50-59
Colin        32nd Mens 40-49
Rob          24th Mens 40-49
James      21st Mens 40-49
Rolland    33rd Mens 30-39
Frank       22nd Mens 30-39
Reuben    11th Mens 30-39
Guillaume DNS
Sofiane    19th Mens Open A
Mike        17th Mens Open A
Will         14th Mens Open A
Adam      9th Mens Open A

Paraphrasing some of Mike’s blog… This was clearly a stage for pure climbers. It did shuffle the podium pack a little further in most Cats GC finishes but the outstanding climb was clearly from Peter Pouly of Infinite AIS.. pushing out an average of 400 watts for a time of 26:51.. almost a minute over the next best in the Open Mens; but not enough to haul in 2017 winner Peerephol Chawchiangkwang of Full Team Cycling. As I quite often hear around the ANZA peletons ‘you’ve gotta ride em to race em… . But that wasn’t the case in the Women’s open with two ladies from AL Asayl destroying the field on this climb and taking the top two GC spots also.

Of course we encountered the Durian Rider… “didn’t know Trek and Moots made prams”…  was his YouTube comment as he spun past Arran and I walking during this years Chiang Mai Rapha Prestige on an off-road pinch climb.  I had a bloody 39 on the front and 27 on the back. His bike here has a single MTB crank on the front and 40 on the back!… mind you his best time up Doi Suthep is in the 27’s .. he knows how to spin out watts

Thank you to Reuben for a fine performance as our guiding/ organising hand… You can tell the race is over when your domestique has a beer as well as a coke in his shirt. Thanks mate! Really appreciated your efforts… organising those support vans and supplies must have been like herding the proverbial cats!

4 Stages done… and plenty learned.

 

 

OANDA Trading Seminar

Would you like to learn more about trading? On 1 November 2017, OANDA will be holding an introductory trading seminar hosted by proud Kiwi Jeffrey Halley. With more than 30 years’ experience in FX – from spot/margin trading and NDFs through to currency options and futures – Jeff is OANDA’s senior market analyst for Asia Pacific, responsible for providing timely and relevant market commentary throughout the region.

Date: 2 November 2017
Time: 6:30-8:00 pm
Venue: OANDA Asia Pacific
50 Collyer Quay, Unit 04-03
Singapore 049321

Register here to attend this event. OANDA look forward to seeing you there.
https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/oanda-introduction-to-trading-fx-and-cfds-hosted-by-jeffrey-halley-tickets-38651190752

CAPE TO CAPE

CAPE TO CAPE MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE 2017

World class mountain bike trails, famous wineries, and breweries, delicious food and perfect weather for riding definitely put the Cape to Cape MTB event on the top of our list when we were planning our race calendar for 2017.

The Cape to Cape mountain bike race is a four day stage event for riders of all levels that winds itself through Western Australia’s stunning south west region. It has been running for the last nine years and traditionally starts at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and travels 220kms to Dunsborough at Cape Naturalist. This year, for the tenth anniversary, the organizers decided to make the event more family friendly and to use the favorite world class trails of the Pines, Boranup and Middle Earth forests more effectively. All of the starts were within a 5km radius of Margaret River town and started and finished at a different winery each day. The hardest decisions to make were how many glasses of wine or beer we should have after each stage so as not to affect the next days racing!

Seven intrepid ANZA mountain bikers made the trip down to Margaret River for the 2017 event, Chris Rawlings, Nick Richmond, Arran Pearson, Hilke Rode, Joergen Nailer, Shane Snijders and Marcin Szot. All regulars on the Thursday night and Saturday morning mountain bike rides in Singapore. As this years event was designed to be more family friendly with an event village and less travelling, most riders came with family as their support crew.

Stage One
Started and finished at Xanadu winery with 55kms of trails around the 10 mile dam and into the world class Pines and Compartment 10 trails with huge burms, jumps and switchbacks. All of the ANZA team finished the stage with no crashes or mishaps other than Joergen suffering with cramps. The stage was an extra 8kms than advertised, which caused a few grumbles from other riders.

Stage Two
Started and finished at Leeuwin Estate winery with 63kms of trails in the Jarrahdine area, Boranup Forest, Highway to Hell and Caves road. This was the longest and hardest of the stages with lots of sandy tracks, which can make riding very difficult. Once again all of the ANZA team completed the stage with no major tumbles or mechanicals. Our race preparation had definitely paid off!

Stage Three
Started and finished at Colonial Brewery with 56kms of trails on fast fire roads up to Middle Earth. With trail names like Mirkwood, Helm’s Deep, Frodo, Eagles Nest, Bilbo Baggins, and Mordor. Almost 20kms along these amazing trails of jumps, burms and swithchbacks and lots of ‘Gotchya’ rocks to throw you into the bush. Again all of the ANZA team completed the stage but Joergen, Arran and Marcin took tumbles along the way. The full suspension bikes definitely paid off on this stage due to the big sections of rock gardens. At the finish line Joergen discovered his phone and sunk to the bottom of a ditch he took a tumble into, alas never to be found.

Stage Four
Started and finished in Margaret River town with a controlled roll out through the town center and then 50kms of trails through the world class Pines forest. Smashing through runs such as, Burnside loop, Princess Leia, and Return of the Jedi, by pumping and jumping all the way through. Next into Compartment 10, for more switchbacks and jumps, and finally swinging by Colonial Brewery and back to Margaret River town. Another awesome day for the ANZA crew who pushed hard through the pain and tired legs to all finish with strong times.

A special mention goes to Hilke Rode with a general classification finish place of 20 in the ladies and Arran Pearson for the most improved FGP training award. Well done to all of the ANZA MTB team who all placed in the top 600 out of 1600 riders. The team represented ANZA proudly and with great team spirit, plus some fun social events with the families and support crew. Well done all, a great effort!

KL – All Change

Gordon’s Getaways have gone away and our captive hotel GM escaped to Yangon, what will KL be like without them?

Friday – By New Frank

Gathering at 2pm at West Coast Highway McDonald’s and after ensuring all bikes were securely loaded, we boarded a very comfortable Malaysian bus. The ride to the Singapore Malaysian border hardly takes 30-45 min. Given the time of day, around 3pm, we cruised past the Singaporean side of the border in no time and set off to cross the border. Arriving at the Malaysian side, we had our passports checked once more and were ready to board the bus again, but not after re-assuring ourselves our precious road machines were still there. Sounds very smooth I hear you say! Indeed, but at that moment our Malaysian friends decided the whole bus had to be “scanned” for potential presence of drugs. True, cycling has been plagued by many doping scandals over the past decennia, but I guess Malaysian border control had other drugs in mind. As everybody knows, we are just happy ANZA folks interested in cycling (and our after-ride coffees and maybe the occasional beer). After an unsuccessful “scan”, that is nothing found, at 4.15pm we were finally on our way to our final destination: Kuala Lumpur!

I had the pleasure of doing several races this year for ANZA, Tour de Bintan, Tour de Phuket and Barelang Six Bridges, but this was my first social trip. From the start the atmosphere was relaxed and very friendly. At the first and only intermediate stop on the good quality Malaysian motorway, we all enjoyed ice creams and other healthy food. Hey, it’s a social trip, not a race!

By 8.15pm, we arrived in KL at the Parkroyal hotel. It took us in total just over 6 hours, which is pretty fast given the time spend at the border. We were treated as VIPs by the lovely people of the hotel and in no time had our road machines in the room. Given it was the first night and Saturday would have a tough ride in store, most of us made it back to the hotel in time for a good night sleep!

Saturday – By Less New Frank

Saturday morning, the day of 145km and around 2,000 meter of elevation, the ride to Genting Sempah, started with an excellent breakfast at 6.30am. We gathered around 7.45am for the inevitable group photo with everyone in the beautiful new kit showing off the names of our kind sponsors. At 8am sharp we were ready for our 15km parade out of Central KL. The ride out of town was smooth and it was surprising to see how considerate drivers are in this big city and leave sufficient distance. You can tell Malaysia has a cycling culture, of which the successful track team is the best example. The experts will recall Azizulhasni Awang claiming the gold medal in the keirin discipline at this year’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships! Unfortunately we missed the cycling disciplines of the South East Asia games which were kicked off on that Saturday.

Hardly warmed up we took on the first climb to the Ampang Look Out Point, a 3 km climb with an average gradient of 4%. The nice thing about a social trip is meeting people you normally don’t ride with given different shape, ambitions, etc. Here were rolled at a leisurely pace to the first hill and regrouped at the top of the hill. After just 20km we were all welcoming the cold refreshments from the 2 support vehicles carrying cold drinks and fruits.

After the descent, groups of similar capabilities and skills formed naturally and we took on several hills of varying gradients. The number of monkeys we’ve seen on the road were countless and it was a relief to Peter Archbold that climbing solo for the best part of the ride with bananas in his jersey pocket and a pace best described as a brisk walk on the hills, thankfully not one monkey seemed to notice the resemblance of Peter to a Deliveroo rider!

The route basically consists of 2 loops and near the end of the second loop as we were approaching lunch time and all stomachs were pretty empty from riding and enjoying the great scenery, only our group was rather unsure of the exact location were lunch was reserved. Our group consisting of around 10-12 riders decided it wise to call the driver of the support vehicle only to realise none of had a network signal. We started to doubt if we were on the right route and returning would imply taking a few hills again, which was not a nice prospect. Only than it occurred to us the restaurant was just around the corner and the driver was already waiving to us. Quite a relief!

The morning efforts had taken its toll on a several riders and in the afternoon multiple groups had formed again. The faster riders reached the Look Out point, basically the gateway to KL. Slowly but surely all riders reached the summit of the Look Out point, the last climb of the day. Some in somewhat better shape than others and together we descended for well-deserved ice cream before riding back to the hotel escorted by our friendly support vehicle.

The ride ended without a single puncture or other mechanical problem which is pretty amazing for a group of 26 riders. That seemed like a good prospect for Sunday’s ride!

After refreshing, we gathered at the Parkroyal lounge where we were pampered again by the hotel staff. Given the rugby game Australia – New Zealand was live at that time, it was a good moment to remind ourselves again what ANZA stands for. Discussing the result of the game is totally unnecessary for the country without black colours!

Around half of the group still went into town, while the rest was off to bed given the next day had some challenges as well. At FLAM’s, we enjoyed French thin crust pizza with a few beer towers. With a Man United game on TV, discussions quickly evolved to where real football is played. Given only Glenn and yours truly were able to defend “real” football, against a majority of Aussies it was clear it was a lost battle. So we will be looking forward to the next World Cup of Aussie-rules football, I mean footie!

Most of us still wanted a good night of sleep, while other were busy “simulating long endurance race efforts” where sleep deprivation is a factor in the race, including sufficient intake of liquids of course. Luckily they made it safe and sound back to the hotel at 3.30am.

Special credits go to Mary Scot and Mark O. for pushing their boundaries with their longest rides ever without getting into the support van (or maybe for 1.5km). And yes, every time Mark asked the driver of the sag wagon how far still to the top, he answered “it’s just around the corner!”

Sunday – By Julianne

Rolling!

The lovely ride up to Genting Sempah was on the menu for today. Not many suffered from any hangovers of last night, so we started bright eyed and bushy tailed our climb sharp at 8’o clock from the hotel.

22 ambitious riders were on the start today. The climb was decent and steady with some new QOMs and no big surprises.

Glen Raoul and Mike took off from the front of the group at the overhead bridge which caused some splits to the pack.

Everyone made it up the climb which was a monumental effort considering the long ride on Saturday.

Other than the way back down where Steven decided to descent with one spoke less, just for the fun and to have some drama. The drama got luckily fixed thanks to Stephanie’s Ringgit donation and we were on our way (after an ice cream stop).

The only drawback was that our well deserved pool time got cut short by a few minutes.

Our KL trip ended with traditional beef burgers at the pool, followed by an almost sharp departure at 2 pm back home to Singapore.

The return drive was uneventful and with a super duper speedy crossing through Malaysia and Singapore boarders we even beat those who flew back into Singapore.

Many thanks to Mike who organised the trip, great job as usual!

Thanks for the ride guys!

Gillian’s cycling adventure| pt 2

Gillian and her friend Jonathan may or may not make it out of Iran

If you missed part 1 it’s here Gillian’s Cycling Adventure

From Tehran the (overly) ambitious nature of my planning became obvious as we cycled down to Shiraz (where we consequently found no Shiraz, or any other type of wine for that matter) and then onto Isfahan.  Whilst both cities were magnificent and beautiful, the 40 plus temperatures made appreciating their sights a challenge.

Cycling in Ramadan created another layer of difficulty, as many restaurants and shops were closed during the day. I also felt uncomfortable eating and drinking in public thinking that we were breaking the law.  We later discovered (much too late) that travellers were exempt from these restrictions!

From Isfahan we stopped at Persepolis where were allowed to camp next to the guard house for the night. The night of our arrival the guards quickly found an English speaking guide who arrived at our campsite with tea and stories of his work as an archaeologist during the original dig.

We then began the trek across the desert to Yadz.  While this part of the trip involved long stretches without towns or people, being able to watch the landscape constantly change proved fascinating.  All the podcasts that I had subscribed to in an attempt to stave off boredom went unlistened to as I focused on the road ahead.

I have heard cycling being described as being about the passing of time,
and with the wheels continuously turning, sometimes fast and other times painfully slow, it definitely felt this way. During these stretches of desert in 30-40 degree temperatures the focus became about getting to the next sign, the next hill, to the first 30km and then over the 100km mark.  There has obviously also much time spent watching my Garmin waiting for the kilometers to tick over! (Much to Jonathan’s disgust!)

When we finally did arrive, Yadz turned out to be just as enchanting as expected with its desert coloured buildings and blue tiled domes.

From Yadz we attempted to cycle across the last stretch of desert to Mashad, the city considered by Muslims to be the holiest city in Iran  (i.e. The Iranian equivalent of Mecca) and our border crossing point into Turkmenistan.
The highlight of this 900km dusty and hot bicycle journey turned out to be camping next to the site of the remnants of a helicopter and plane crash, an ill fated attempt to end the US hostage crisis.  There, we were hosted by the Red Crescent staff who made us dinner and breakfast before providing us water for the next part of our trip!

We then managed to cycle another 120km through the searing heat and wind before Jonathan realised the stupidity of the endeavor and took the bus.  I stubbornly cycled another 270km before I was waved down by a passing motorist, invited into her home for lunch and dinner and then I was bought a bus ticket for the next day!

Watching yet more desert roll by from the bus window I definitely realised that I wasn’t missing out!

While a great place to see the finish of Ramadan, Mashhad proved to be the least exciting of the Iranian cities that we visited. So after a very long tour of the mosque, involving me wearing an extra long borrowed chador that was not dissimilar to a bed sheet; we were glad to receive our Turkmenistan transit visas. This event was somewhat of a lottery win as many people are rejected with no explanation. The irony of wanting to visit a country that did not want us was not lost on me!

Arguably the strangest and least visited ‘stan, Turkmenistan gained nortoriety through the dictatorship of former President Saparmyrat Niyazov.  In this role, Niyazov covered the country in golden statues of himself and ruled as ‘Turkmenbashi,’ leader of the Turkmen until his death in 2016. So, it was with much anticipation and curiosity that we crossed over the border into what our Lonely Planet guide described as a “totalitarian theme park.”

While it didn’t feel right to be excited about visiting a totalitarian regime, having spent a month in Iran it was a relief to finally cross the border and enter another country, any country!  I would also have to admit that the opportunity to have a beer (or two) and not be obliged to wear a headscarf was playing heavily on my mind!

With only five days to cross the country, after successfully navigating the border crossing we loaded our bikes into a waiting taxi and headed towards the nation’s capital, Ashgabat.  Once there, we spent the afternoon cycling around admiring the marble buildings, gold domes and large areas of uninhabited lush parkland before checking into a hulking Soviet era hotel.  A fairly bleak option, we were provided with one towel to share, no toilet paper or toilet seat and told to open a window if the Arctic blast of the air conditioning became too much.  All for the princely sum of $50 USD!

The next day we took a series of taxis to get to the Darvaza gas crater in the Karkarum desert.  While the desert had been described to us as an opportunity to get a glimpse into traditional Turkmen life, with its collection of ramshackle huts and occasional camel the landscape proved rather bleak!  The crater itself, a result of Soviet-era gas exploration in the 1950s was definitely worth the trip.  Basically a pit of flames, the fire burns with incredible ferocity and can be seen from a great distance away (which is handy given that it felt like standing next to an open oven door!)

Alone at the crater, we managed to take innumerable photos before camping for the night and returning to Ashgabat the next day.  After a another night there we took the overnight train to Turkmenabat and cycled the remaining 30km across the border into Uzbekistan.  With its seemingly unending bureaucracy and paperwork, this crossing took up most of the morning.  This left us with little choice but to cycle through yet another desert in the midday sun as a ferocious headwind blew sand into our faces.  Delightful.

Thankfully, the next day proved to be a vast improvement.  We met up with a French cycle touring couple that we previously encountered in Iran.  The day was then spent singing and chatting while cycling through lush green fields criss crossed with irrigation channels and dotted with workers in colourful headscarves.  This was a definite change of pace for us!

As we cycled along we were greeted by villagers and many children and adults on bikes, who seemed to delight in whizzing past, chains squeaking and rattling.

As expected, Bukhara proved beautiful and was not full of the bus loads of tourists that we had expected.  After two days of exploration, we set off to Samarkand, arguably Uzbekistan’s most impressive city with its grand monuments, colourful bazaar and rich history.

Our time in Samarkand was spent wandering around the city and enjoying fresh food and copious amounts of ice cream before we set off to last destination in Uzbekistan. While having enjoyed much of the history that both the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand had to offer it was Tashkent with its plethora of Soviet-era architecture that I was most excited about. Obviously Jonathan was not as thrilled at this prospect.

As I had anticipated Tashkent proved impressive with its plethora of mostly well maintained monuments, Stalinist ministries and highly decorated apartment blocks.

Somewhat distracted by this haze of architectural induced happiness, at this point Jonathan and I decided to go our separate ways (so yes, Hooper, I owe you a beer).

While the trip had been Jonathan’s idea, he decided that he had seen enough of Central Asia whereas I wanted to head to Tajikistan, home of the Pamir Highway, with its promise of some of the best mountain scenery in Asia (and difficult climbs).

Amicably, we repacked our panniers, I learnt how to use our stove and Jonathan jumped on a flight to Korea as I headed in the direction of the Tajikistan border with the hope of finding a cycling friend.*

*Slight spoiler alert but I should probably note at this point that having spent two 150km days alone I managed to meet up with a French cyclist who had also lost his travelling companion just after the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border.  So no, I am not still trying to utilize my poor navigational skills in Uzbekistan although I did manage to get lost.  Twice.

OANDA Drinks and Trading Competition

Just a quick reminder that our club sponsor OANDA are hosting this month’s club drinks on Wednesday 28th June.  Yes folks, that is tomorrow!  If you didn’t spot it on Facebook, then here are all the details. The original Facebook Post is HERE.

SPONSORED CLUB DRINKS  – JUNE 28
OANDA’s ANZA Cycling Trading Competition
🍺🍻🍸📊💰💰🍷🍸🍻🍻🍺👏

Join us at the Lime House for cocktails on 28 June for an evening of friendly competition with a chance to win SGD 1,000. Drinks and nibbles will be served while you join in the contest.

You will need to do the following to join the competition:

  • Register now (via the link below)  to reserve your place, you can explore the trading platform from now until the start of the event at your leisure.
  • Bring your smart phone to the event to participate in the competition.

A global leader in online multi-asset trading services, OANDA combines award-winning technology and institutional-grade execution across a wide range of asset classes, enabling clients to trade global market indices, commodities, treasuries, precious metals and currencies on one of the world’s fastest platforms.

We look forward to welcoming you and finding the ultimate OANDA trading genius.

Date: Wednesday 28 June 2017
Time: 6:30-8:30pm
Place: Lime House, 2 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089260
Cost: Free for Club Members
Dress: Casual

We would really like you to Register Here -> https://oanda-toptrader.com/

But even if you have an aversion to planning more than a day in advance and therefore cannot bring yourself to register, you are welcome to come along on the day when you find at 6pm that you really need a drink and to bring some sanity to your life by talking about the upcoming TfF which starts this weekend.

 

Broken Ubers, Hot Roads and Mystery Sausages | Mersing 2017

Day 1 (Chas)
The day started badly from an anecdote point of view, with all 21 riders boringly turning up at the correct ferry terminal at the allotted time. Luckily Ed Yue’s Uber driver added a bit of excitement by driving into a wall straight after dropping him off, all in front of the assembled masses.
Two hours, two immigration checks and a bumboat ride later we were in the Malaysian town of Pengerang, ready to start the 180km ride to Mersing. Within another twenty minutes the group was off course and waiting for the first puncture of the day to be repaired; luckily this was only due to a brand new road smoothing our journey to the east coast, notwithstanding the odd piece of tyre-piercing grit. Amazingly it was the only puncture of the day. 
The first rest stop was at Desaru, 50km up the road. Whilst we discussed the risk of our food being stolen by nearby monkeys, we attacked the piles of bananas and banana bread in the back of the support van like a… troop of monkeys.
Suitably replenished, we broke up into a Fast Group and a Faster Group. The latter idea might not have been sensible during the middle of the day on a road with no shade and the mercury pushing into the late 30s, but it did mean the kilometres absolutely flew past. Duncan Begg did much of the pulling on this sector, before revealing that he would be heading out to an offshore island rather than returning with us, hence had no need to conserve his energy for the following day.
Many of us were spent in mind and body by the time we reached the next stop. At least I think that was why we had the worst ever game of Guess the Film; Pat’s clue of “That Australian film with the blond actor” being possibly the worst ever description of a specific Russell Crowe film.
With a few of the back-markers beginning to wobble across the road, the pace slowed as the rolling hills became rolling; eventually rain arrived to cool us down and take our mind off the remaining kilometres, and to put us in the mood for some even cooler beers upon arrival in Mersing.
After eating most of the food in an excellent Chinese restaurant, and discussing the virtues of putting Vaseline above one’s eyes to divert sweat beads to either side (!), some turned in to rest for the next day’s exertions; others retired to the hotel bar for a little more carboloading. The hotel TV was of course playing “The Nice Guys”, that same Russell Crowe film.
– Chas
Day 2 (Ned and Becky)
As the sun rose over Mersing on Sunday morning, 22 of ANZA’s elite stepped out of their chambers on quivering legs. Fuel was required for the day ahead (although not for Duncan who had bravely decided to spend the rest of the weekend on a nearby tropical island…) and no one knew what form this first, most civilized meal of the day would take. Down in the dining room a groups of lycra-clad, stripey tanned pedal-pushers tucked into what can only be described as culinary triumph! Picture the scene from Beauty and the Beast where Belle was entertained and thoroughly nourished by Lumiere’s house staff and you will not be too far from the Havanita hotel’s hospitality… Mystery meat sausage, performance pancakes and giant, previously warm baked beans offered all the victuals necessary for our valiant travelers. Needless to say, the optional hard-boiled egg was taken by few as digestion needed no further challenges this day.
Bottles were filled, tyres pumped, “Rolling” was called and once again the train pulled out of the station. Our bodies moved in seemingly the only way we knew how; calm and serene from the waist up but spinning like crazy down below! With the sun on our backs we headed out, the undulating terrain reminding us of the miles journeyed the day before. The peloton naturally split into a cruisey group and a less than leisurely octet. Ed sadly missed the divide and put in an extra hard shift which he hadn’t planned for. Needless to say he endured well but was gladly welcomed back into the chase group at the next ice-cream stop…
Some notable events throughout the bulk of the ride were being introduce to Malaysia Police Force’s newly established Anti Cycling 2-a- breast Division and the compositions of Liesbeth’s, soon to be smash hit, “Mercy, Mercy Mersing” song. (Now available on iTunes).
More cycling happened before hitting Struggle Street. Our previously smooth road had transformed into the surface of the moon. This alone didn’t deter the ANZAnians however the increased traffic and volume of log-bearing heavy ass vehicles was enough to reduce our twos-up soiree into a single file cong(a)lomerate.
This continued until Johor Bahru where we were greeted by one final manmade mountain. This flyover was like nothing we have in Singapore. If conquered, it’s sheer length and elevation alone would be enough to achieve a steady stream Strava Kudos well into your twilight years. This final obstacle was met with reluctant enthusiasm from most and a traffic-defying gel stop at its summit by Martyn!
I am very pleased to report that all who started, finished (except Duncan ;-p), we all had a super-awesome time and I would like to thank all who helped to organise for their efforts. We are sure we speak for all when we say that this trip has been an absolute highlight of our time in Singapore so far and we are looking forward to many more!
– Ned & Becky
Photos below

Rapha Prestige Chiang Mai | “The hardest century ride I have ever done”

A Photo Blog By: Peter Williamson

When Arran and Jorgen finished their Friday warm up ascent of Doi Suthep, strava told them a little story. Their yet to be met team-mate Natalie, climbed it in almost half of the time they had just taken. In fact, she had been QOM until a couple of days previous. Great substitution Donna!

 

We should have twigged then that when she said she had ridden the course in reverse and there were a few steep climbs and it was likely to be muddy and hot that she was a mistress of understatement…

Now it’s out there on YouTube for the world to see thanks to our friend the Durianrider and his camera.. ‘the hardest century ride I have ever done’… with cameos from your very own Anza teams.

The first 40 km were a delightful meander thru the beautiful Thai country lanes with optimistic trains of riders in their new very colourful new Rapha team clothes. This totally took your mind off what was to come. Teams of 4 at two minute intervals were bunching up as enthusiastic riders stretched their legs.

As summed up by the Durianrider… “this is f.. epic man” … “this is the hardest century ride I have ever done”  … but better still watch it.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB_4UVlLRhQ

We hit our first climbs on first class roads and settled in to our own rhythms…these seemed long and hard .. but its all relative. Quite a lot of people were starting to walk or help weakest team members. This is well before the turn on to a minor concrete road at 60km. Then it started.. into the national park we go…

Grooved concrete on the uphill, severely broken concrete rattling your teeth and stretching your brakes on the very steep downhills… Now if we are making all these descents does that mean anything?

You betcha! Sharp ascents steep enough that conventional cars would be struggling to get up them. My compact crank and 11/27 setup was not going to make it without continual zig zagging… which meant the fastest way to the top was direct via shanks’ pony… prompting the Durianrider in his you tube to comment that he” didn’t know Trek and Moots made prams”. He was on a 22/40 setup… and as he described it ‘Frooming’. From my memory Jorgen said he saw up to 28% on his strava.

Oh yes… plus mud, gravel, sand. Bike handing was a constant challenge for 40km.

And then the real climbing started! Blah!… in 40 plus degrees with over 100 very hard kilometres in the legs… “see how you go son” “come to Chiang Mai and I will show you some climbs’ claims the Durianrider.

The long ‘police box climb’ might not have quite averaged in the teens but the immediately following  7 steps (switchbacks) was well into the teens… which left Arran ready to have more than words with the organisers. Is that the sign of a successful Rapha ride?

The Durianrider points out that even with his light weight and extreme cadence he was having to pump out over 300 watts to get up these very long very steep climbs… but at least the roads were decent again.

If my Garmin says I was descending in the high 70’s you can be sure the Jorgen’s was registering well in to the 80’s.

Another 30km down the valley and into a hot and sticky Chiang Mai saw the two ANZA teams home hours before anybody else and knocking a good hole in the beer supply. Around 7 hours on the bike. and certainly, more than half an hour pushing the pram. Natalie didn’t bring a pram!

Well after dark teams were still straggling in. Yup there were a few prangs and some broken bones. This was road bike handling at the extreme.  Last words to the Durianrider… “i reckon that’s the hardest Rapha ride in the world… if anybody knows a harder one let me know”

I will be back … with a 22/40 and having learned ‘Frooming’ properly.