Cycosports Nongsa Cat 1

– Don McDonald

The Cycosports Nongsa race has the distinction of being a race of Firsts.
It’s the 1st race of the 2014 calendar and the 1st race of the new Team Direct Asia ANZA. Sadly for us, the 1sts ended there on the day….

The trip over to Batam was the usual smooth sailing that we’ve come to expect from Cycosports. Pre flled immigration forms, fast track visa entry and a start line within 50m of the immigration point. Absolute class and the gold standard in logistics for local events.

As the TDA-ANZA tie-up was only a week old, there had been little joint training or planning for the event. A brief introduction and 5 min strategy chat before the race got us all introduced but the real introductions would have be done on the road.

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With an hour between arrival and the race start, we took the opportunity to go ride the final hill to the finish. Previous intel had suggested it akin to the softer side of Faber – however it also had a unmentioned big downhill prior to the final kicker. This would be critical if and when it came down to a sprint. That out of the way, I then spent the rest of the time getting acquainted with the local toiletries – I still get pre race dodgy belly for every event big and small. Our new TDA team mates blew me away with their preparation at this point by pulling out some baby wet ones for just this occasion!

Cat 1 had about 40 riders with the main teams represented including Mavs, TDA-ANZA, ISSI, Joyriders, Lapierre and Cannasia. With each team fielding 4-5 riders, it looked like a good balanced bunch on paper. Sadly when it came to contributing on the front, there was a bit less equitable distribution of work.

The course itself was 8 laps of 12km. Mostly rollers but with one larger nasty climb in the middle. The weather would also have some influence with reasonable winds and 35 degree temperatures from the off.

Nick Swallow did his usual and broke immediately from the gun – taking Brian Johnson along. We let it go for for a while but once the gap was listed as 1.45 and nobody was doing anything, we got on the front to bring it back in sight. Whilst we enjoyed the smooth rotating on the front to bring it back, it was a bad omen that we were already on the back foot.

I sat at the back for lap 3 to recover from the early exertions. We lost Hammer Benson at this point – “fresh” from an 850km ride with Sean Kelly, he was always going to have a hard day. Bad luck took Coxy out a few Km later with a broken spoke.

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I got back on the front on lap 4 to help pull back a break with Ben Arnott in it. Sadly this would be my undoing and an attack went on the big hill whilst I was on the front. Already stuffed from my time on the front, I simply couldn’t respond and drifted backwards through the pack and out the back. With 50km left, my race was over and I wouldn’t see another Cat 1 rider till the finish…

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With the race being on a circuit, a lot of guys simply pulled out and went for the early bath. After traveling so far and with good legs, I decided to stick it out and at least get a good training ride out of the terrain. I spent the next 50km picking off about 100 cat 2 and 3 riders which was great fun. Cat 2 had started 5 minutes behind and I made it my goal to avoid being caught by them.
I was psyched to manage this all the way to the end – with only 100m to spare!

I’m told the race played out with the breakaway largely staying away and no-one really willing to help chase in a concerted manner. PA found himself a marked man and never allowed any freedom. Mark Scoular and PA ended up in top 10 slots.

Post race relaxation was great with most of us jumping in the pool – whereupon I had intense double cramps and thought I’d drown! Copious amounts of beer and wine were consumed in the hotel and the ferry home. I’ll always remember the customs guys putting the beer through the X-ray scanner and then handing it back for the boat. If team spirit is measured through empty bottles then we were definitely leading that race!

Overall, a fine race on a great circuit. If we did it again, we’d do it differently and lessons were learned that we can take to the next race.
We’ll see you all in Bintan…

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