– Kev McGregor
With experience gained from the Desaru and the Tour de Bintan road races last year, and some big names noticeable by their absence from the rider list, confidence was running high in the ANZA Cat 2 team, as we lined up on the start line of the Nongsa Challenge, the first in the new Cycosports race series for 2014. Set to be a 97km road race, over 8 laps of a 12km undulating loop of the Batam countryside, in normal ANZA style a quick huddle with the 8 riders on the start line was the basis for discussion of any tactics and a race plan. Basically Mark would be race captain and him and Kevin be the protected riders, with Mike chasing down any serious breaks – ish. George and Hish were happy to be told what to do, and hoped to feature more during the race, having gained valuable race and peleton experience from the TdB.
The siren went to signal the start and 75 Cat 2 riders rolled out of the hotel complex to start the race, an easy pace was set with the group clipping along at around 35kph. It was very hot though with the temperature hitting 34.5 degrees although the first few laps were pretty much uneventful with a few riders drifting off the front to no avail, and George seemingly enjoying himself happy to pull the peleton along by taking unnecessarily long turns on the front. A hilly, winding course with a couple of sharp bends saw the group soon pass the back markers of those dropped from the womens category and Cat 3 (but mentioning no names!) and happy to watch Nico dig in and enjoy solo efforts off the front for a few 100 metres, every lap.
A hasty plan was formed on the move by Mark and communicated to the team that after the big right hander after the hills, with 2 laps to go the ANZA riders would all have a go at stringing out the group, Mark was in lead position out of the corner, closely followed by Mike and Kevin, but the idea soon fizzled out as some riders seemed happy to sit in the wheels rather than work and try and make a break for the team, and it took a good half a lap for Mark to calm down over the lost opportunity.
With around 15km to go and approaching the final lap, Raoul and a Mav started to drift away at the front of the peleton, with the group apparently not reacting. With a decent size gap developing, Kevin attacked on one of the hills and made it across the to lone twosome. The three started to work together and with Hish and George beginning to hold back the peleton resulting in the gap growing, it looked like the break was going to stick and things were looking good… until the Mav decided he didn’t want to play. So rather than pull when it was his turn on the front, he’d slow and practically sit up, a big shame but in his opinion there was apparently ‘too far’ left to go, even though it was worth a go for what would have been guaranteed podiums for the 3 escapees. So before long and with around 7km to go the break was caught and things started to hot up for the finish, which was a sharp left hander at the end of the lap, into a couple of rolling hills and into the finish.
With around 1.5km to go riders started to have a go off the front, but no one really managed to get away. Kevin was up with the leaders and things were looking good as the group turned into the finishing straight. A rookie mistake by Kevin in that he had decided not to recce the finish beforehand and the finish came earlier than expected, not that he had much left in the tank anyway, but he likes to think that another 100m or so would have seen him improve on his 7th position and first ANZA rider across the line, closely followed by Steven, then George, Hish, Mike, Raoul, Mark and Nico.
A quick dip and relax in the hotel pool followed by an excellent lunch and the partaking of plenty of beers from Tiger who had sponsored the event, and the group was back on the ferry and partaking of plenty more beers from Tiger who had sponsored the event. And then there was some rose wine, and some more beers, and that’s when things started to become a blur and the day began to draw to a close…
So at the end of a very hot and tiring day, it was another excellent, highly enjoyable Cycosports event, the logistics and organisation was, again, simply faultless. So heres looking forward to the next in the series, in Bintan on 13th April, although maybe as Cat 2 we should talk a bit more about team tactics, rider roles and have some sort of plan before the actual race… but hang on, I think I can recall us saying that after TdB, and before after the Desaru race, etc….!
– Kev McGregor