With Tour de Bintan only four weeks away, I was starting to become rather concerned that I might not get a chance to ride the course before race day. So I was very happy indeed when the Cat 2 guys opened up their training trip to the other groups. I struggle with bad cramps on long, hot, hilly rides and so this time I wanted to test a new strategy; My plan was to remain seated on the all hills and spin up in an easy gear, and to pop salt tablets like smarties.
After an uneventful ferry ride we all assembled with our bikes at the statue of the giant eagle outside of the Bintan Ferry Terminal. There was a sense of anticipation in the air as the boys primped, pimped, polished, fussed and generally fluffed about for an hour as they got their bikes ‘race ready’. Nico had booked two cars, and sensibly insisted the two groups be defined before we started. Finally after a couple of last minute toilet trips we were away! Our group consisted of myself, Lizzie, Mick, Robert, Mike and Jesus.
We set off at reasonable and steady pace, all of us no doubt acutely aware of the very long ride ahead of us. As we rolled past a school in the early stages the usual gaggle of kids ran up to the fence shouting and grinning at us. ‘How cute’ I thought as I turned to shout ‘hello’ and to return the wave. Belatedly I realised that this cheeky group of eight year old boys were not waving but were in fact flipping us the finger!
Before we knew it we were on the dreaded ‘Red Road of Hell’ and our nicely co-ordinated group soon split up and stretched out as we tackled the hills at different paces. It seemed much longer than I remembered and I was very relieved to get to the end of it and join the Cat 2 boys who had camped out under the shade of probably the only trees to be found along that section.
After the drinks break the groups merged into one and the Cat 2 guys did the heavy lifting and pulled us all along with them. The little stretch along the ocean is always lovely however the section that follows soon after where the road narrows and the surface becomes all rough and gravelly was something we all had to bear with gritted teeth.
The next big drinks stop was at the T-junction where the race route takes the guys left for a loop through the town and the girl’s route takes to the right. After much discussion and some voting we decided to split into our two groups again. The Cat 2 guys were feeling strong and were up for the extra miles whilst the more sensible amongst us were focused on finding legitimate ways to trim as many KMs as possibly off the distance remaining.
So off we set again and our group picked up the pace in the next section. And with the road winding through forests and shallow valleys it’s a rather nice section to ride faster on. We took it single file as a long-ish line of trucks and cars soon jammed up behind us. It was soon after this that weather suddenly turned from baking hot to heavy rain and it coincided with me beginning to wish it was all over. My legs were starting to cramp and so I was nervously awaiting the ‘big one’, that crippling wave of cramps that brings you to a complete standstill and means that your day is over. My stomach was also unhappy, protesting the combination of clif bars, gels and salt tablets. But it was a matter of head down, bum up and to keep on pedalling away. We continued to hold as a group although all pretence of two abreast was long gone as we tucked in behind each other single file. And so we continued, grinding away at the remaining kilometres in the pouring rain. There were some moments of confusion as we rode over several bridges that no one recognised or remembered, however after a quick conference with the driver of our support car we were assured that we were indeed on the right track. Much to my delight we hit the Check Point about ten kilometres before I was expecting it (and from a different direction that I expected), and then much like section at the end of a Kranji ride from the top of SBV to the CBTL, it was every man for himself to Nirwana.
I must confess I envied those checking into the hotel. They had hot showers, clean clothes and proper food awaiting them whereas myself, Lizzie and Mick had to soldier on a bit longer and return to Singapore that night.
Moments of misery and pain and self-pity aside it was a great day out. I was delighted that I managed to stave off serious cramps and I shall attempt to pursue the same strategy on race day. We were all very lucky with our bikes, with Mike getting a flat just a few kilometres from Nirwana and Lizzie’s chain snapping after the ride whilst we were still on the Nirwana grounds. Thanks so much to Nico Las for taking the initiative and organising the trip, and thanks to ANZA for supporting us with cars.