There were visions of a literary masterpiece blending the humour of Tim Moore’s French Revolutions, the excitement of Graeme Fife’s Tour de France coverage and the insight of David Walsh’s LA Confidential. Instead, after a destructive work week and a 2 year old who won’t sleep because of a thunderstorm, here are a few cobbled together words about the Tour de Barelang.
It was a big cat 2 team of about 15 riders that lined up on Saturday, after a largely uneventful journey from Harbourfront, for the 135km Tour de Barelang (Batam 6 Bridges). Next time remind me not to sit near the toilets, especially when Kevin McGregor forgets to lock the toilet door whilst changing into his kit….. Unusually we had had some discussions, race simulations and plans before the race rather than simply rocking up on the day. Would this actually help us on race day?
Pre-race preparation also consisted of studying the entry list- any other team that had an age difference of 36 years between team mates? And who was later accused of being whose father- see any familial resemblances in the photo?
After a last pre-race briefing from our two nominated riders of Steven Wong and Kevin McGregor, the race started uneventfully and socially with the 17km neutralized zone…. Finally arriving at about 24km at the main bridge, cunningly named in the race pack as Bridge 1.
I would love to say that then the action unfolded, but as it seemed hot and a long way to go, I was in the middle of the peloton, trying to stay out of the wind and having a chat, including admiring a very fine Garmin camera on someone’s handlebars, which was put to good use later. My easy cruise vaguely peering towards the front of the peloton (is that Craig off the front??) was put on ice when I was bollocked for sitting around doing nothing. My protests of ‘nothing’s happening, there’s a long way to go still’ were dismissed (‘we’ve been busy showing the Mavs we mean business’), so off I went to the front. As expected the Mavs were trying the break-away in pairs tactics, which on a hot day and lumpy course at only 50km gone seemed overly ambitious in the style of Jens Voigt. Still, my orders at this point were to chase down and/or go with them so… I ended up at about 50km in a very long break at high speed that was only brought back with great effort by the peloton. Or so it seemed, honest.
At this point, having a rest seemed like a good idea and with a 90 strong field, there were both a lot of places to hide as well as a danger of being isolated a long way back. Figuring that it was better to get good water access, admire the views and avoid the bollocking by being somewhere in the front third, that’s what I settled down to do. I was riding alongside Max at one point who looked like he’d had 10 Peronis the night before and eaten a dodgy prawn pizza. Still, he was cruising along just fine after 60km and I’ve never seen him do a bad Tuesday Changi blast yet. I figured he’d be ok. A quick check and Steve nearby seemed fine; I don’t remember seeing Kev.
As we approached the turn, excitement levels went up a little as the cat 1s came back the other way. After the turn, as expected, those levels went up again. Guillaume Rondy I think was the first to go, riding hard in a break with the Mavs, a JoyRider and a Saxo Markets guy (with the Garmin camera.Great footage at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzFDC4MGPWI&feature=youtu.be).
Clearly some rest the night before in Batam had done Guillaume some good. He stayed away with the break at a high pace for some time. This was more like it- sitting back and letting other teams do the work. The scenery was quite nice and we had a nice enough view of the cat 3s approaching the turn around to enable me to make a mental note to remind Aiyana Currie not to be at the front so early! Eventually Guillaume’s break came back as the workload started to increase, a super effort and apparently with no water as the temperatures seemed to rise.
The Mavs strategy seemed to have been to hold their usual 2 man attacks back until the last third of the race. Richard Paine of the Mavs seemed to feature more prominently, and this seemed like a cue for Stale Grindflek, who had protested of not feeling great earlier, to come up and do some great work to keep things together. When Paine then made a break, John Versfeld was on his wheel like a shot and off they went, together I think with a JoyRider. This was pretty annoying at first, because I had had the prime position of drafting behind John! On the plus side, again we could let other teams do the work at the front.
Unfortunately, at some point we could make out that John got dropped. Damn. Steve was still around, wasn’t sure about Kev, but there seemed to be enough strength in the legs from Russell Jackson, Stale, Guillaume (how??), Nico Las,myself and others to do some chasing and keep the pace up. That seemed to characterise the next 30km, with a sharp rain shower thrown in for good measure, until we got down to the last 3km or so. Somewhere in all this, Vaibhav went down resulting in this body art and a broken frame (check out the You Tube clip at about 20 minutes).
Anyway, you can see the results and the photos- who did well and who had some finishing style for the photos. Overall, I think we felt pretty pleased. We had 3 places in the top 10, felt like we worked together as a racing team and were active in the race. Our remaining protected rider was positioned ok for the finish, our sprinter had a pretty good tilt at the line. It was a better team result than Nongsa, even if the highest individual placing wasn’t so good. Clearly having a big team is beneficial, but also did work against us (‘come on ANZA, you go and chase’).
I was frankly buggered and looking forwards to talking rubbish about the race, eating some food, cleaning up and resting. Lucky I stayed around chatting for a while though, or else I wouldn’t have heard someone ask Kev if he was Nathaniel’s father- wtf? You look at the team photo and decide!
A torrential downpour resulted in a cosy tent arrangement as everyone huddled underneath to avoid the rain. Prize giving was cancelled and bike loading was delayed. As luck would have it, we were near the wine in the ice box and the enterprising locals flogging beer at $3 a can. (Kev- ‘Nate you’re too young to drink!’). A few cans later, the rain relented and off we went to the coaches back to the ferry.Swiss army back packs, semi-pro cycle racing and rowing were some topics of conversation, but they took second place to Pharrell Williams on the iPhone and a rugby tour like regime of drinking on the back seat – Kev had had sufficient foresight to liberate some plastic cups and Aiyanna seemed determinedly thirsty!
Once we got to the ferry terminal, the impact of the heavy rain was keenly felt- passport distribution had not happened and we found out who the natural auctioneers (or school teachers) were as the passports slowly made their way out to their correct owners.
Off to the ferry terminal for a chance of more drinking, gossiping and greasy food before departure. And for John to discover that he was a boarding pass short of a return trip to Singapore- not that he wouldn’t rather have stayed on in Batam than holiday in the Maldives this week.Finally a lovely sunset over the scenic sights of Jurong before a hassle free disembarkation at Harbourfront. All in all, not too much sunburn, a long day, fun, pretty successful and tiring. Thanks to all the ANZA Cat 2s and those who have helped make us a little better as a racing team. Of course a bigthanks also to all the Cycosports team, including volunteers, who put on another great show and had to work hard in the pouring rain at the end to get us back safe and sound.