By: Pierre-Alain Scherwey
Melaka race is a good chance at redemption for the riders unable to attend Matabunkay or the Masters Tour of Chang Mai.
Ideally located just 3 hours driving time from Singapore. This requires only one night out in the Bayou Lagoon Resort for Singapore residents. Among the massive 2,600 participants, 170 raced in the top category. TDA fielded a strong team of 7 – including Matt, John, Tony, Brad, Simon, Raoul and Pierre. Raoul being a guest rider from Anza Singapore.
We hit the road at 700am and I felt right away that the team was in fantastic spirits. Our agreed tactic was to put guys in the breakaway and to control the front of the race which is our usual tactic when our sprinters are not present.
Everybody has been applied to the task. After half a dozen attempts and 40km into the race. I found an opening but was alone. The twisting terrain was perfect breakaway territory and helped the bunch to forget me for a while. From that point my plan was to ride at full gas as far as I could could and then hope that a group would eventually bridge over to give me some respite.
The Plan worked well & after 10km i saw 2 guys coming across to me, following by 4-5 others. The main bunch was out of sight.
I was pleased to see team mate John Tonk was one of the new escapees. It was really no surprise though as John is an obsessional attacker. I jumped on the back of the group when it reached me and looked forward to finally getting some recovery.
Right at this point, I had the misfortune to hit a big hole in the road which messed up my brake levers. My right lever dropped dropped 5cm from the force of impact which immediately compacted the rear brake caliper and disconnected the Di2 plug. I managed to punch the lever back in place whilst riding to get the wheel turning again but the rear derail was still not moving. So I had to stop again for a quick fix.
I looked on disappointed as the break and then main bunch came past – thinking my race was over already.
I had the bunch at sight after 5 minutes of hard chasing at the end of a long straight. This gave me the motivation to push hard for the 5 more minutes that I needed to catch it. Thanks to my team mates who slowed down the bunch fury. This also had the dual benefit of allowing Johns breakaway to get more time on the main pack whilst I get back to the bunch.
The team controlled the bunch and rode behind to prevent anyone else from getting off the front. John being a descent sprinter we put all our hopes on him bringing home a result.
Somehow I found myself with 1 other local 100m ahead of the bunch. He decided to push on a bit more without my help. Few rolling hills after that we saw a group of 6 coming back on us. This put me in a very comfortable situation as I simply sat on to police the break in order to protect John.
At 60km to go, we heard that the break had a 2:30 gap. My goal then was simply to sit in this middle break and to target a top 10 result. This lasted some 50km in this way. The group was organized enough. I took some turns but it was quite neutral.
In the grind to the finish, our group lost some more members and we were down to 8 escapees. At 15km from finish, bad luck came visiting again when I got a slow puncture in the front wheel. I flagged for support but without success – again I saw my race stopped for a mechanical.
After waiting 2 minutes on the side of the road, I remembered I had the Pitstop foam repair with me. It took 10 second to squirt then I started chasing again.
This time, I knew that I I could not come back to the break as there wasn’t enough distance remaining. However, I still had some good legs and motivation to push on. Therefore, my new ambition was to avoid the catch from the bunch before the finish.
My front wheel lost air again and at 5km to go, I was fully flat again. No choice this time I finished on the bare rim as fast and as safe it could be.
I ended up 30 seconds front of the bunch. Probably in 15th position
Team mate Johns escape eventually got caught by the remainder of my group. John went a second too late on the sprint and managed to grab second place.
Back in the bunch, Brad had a bad crash. He touched a wheel in front of him, lost balance and landed in a canal on the side of the road, losing a substantial amount of skin in the fall. No broken bone, but his bike was beyond saving. Raoul went down the bunch to collect water for the team but die to misfortune wasn’t able to make it back to the team – spending 60km lonely km on his own. Matt, Tony and Simon finishing safe in the bunch.
It was a long day under the heat and humidity of Malaysia. The team worked perfectly together all day long. Despite our misfortune we got some descent results. I’m now looking forward to race the Tour of Bintan in 2 weeks. I have high hopes of a big result for the team!