You’ve suffered on the Red Road of Hell at Tour de Bintan and you want more multi-stage races like it in the region? You’ve tested yourself and cramped up in the heat of the Batam 6 Bridges (aka Tour de Barelang) and loved the pain? Brace yourself for the promising Tour de Kepri! A challenging course and a very well thought programme.
I was not overly excited when Cycosport announced the Tour de Kepri in replacement of the Desaru race. Of course they had always organised their events wonderfully. But what was this one about? Not a race, why go then? And where is Kepri, could someone tell me?
Then came Megan, recruiting ANZA volunteers, to join the Tour as ride captains. All we had to do was to turn up on the Saturday at Harbourfront Ferry, follow the instructions to Batam island, and implement the group riding rules that we follow during our club rides. The primary objective was to ensure that particpants from all kinds of backgrounds would stay in a safe peloton and shout out the pot holes. Also these were going to be no-drop rides so we would have to look after the dehydrated and the weak, and to police the pace of the rides.
As a certified “cat herder” trained on several trips to Malaysia and Indonesia this year, I volunteered and joined Adrian (Muir), John (Versfeld) and Dave (Powell). Lizzie (Hodges) hadn’t recovered from a field trip with her class and missed it : (
As usual with Cycosport, they had chartered an entire ferry to Batam and took care of all our immigration formalities. Sweet and smooth trip. Bastian Dohling was the captain of the captains so he dispatched us on the various groups. I was going to look after the Cat 3s with Adrian.
Once we got to Batam we started to realise that this was going to be a big event. Same race village as for the 6 bridges, food, drinks, massive mobilisation from the local government, with hundreds of volunteers and police force ready to open the roads for us. There I was told that Kepri meant “Kepulauan Riau” = “Riau Archipelago”. So this was really going to be the “Tour de Batam and Bintan”! Like playing ball game on a double-sized pitch! C’est beau!
ANZA had a decent contingent including Bev and Colin, Lenka, Niels, Ned, Frank, Jonathan, Agnes, Eddy, Bruce, and maybe a few others that I am sorry to miss here.
The first stage was hard. About 100 km. Essentially the route of the B6B, with an endless succession of rolling hills. The temperature hit 40 degrees. So we quickly started dropping people and I had to go back and forth all the time. Until we “regrouped” after 60kms, drank about 5 liters of water and pocari each, and reorganized the pelotons by “real speed levels”. Adrian and myself were left helming a heterogeneous group riders of mixed abilities. But the spirit was good. We dropped the pace significantly, waited at the top of every hill, melted in the scorching sun, drank, repeat… Having received no complaint since then I assume that we did bring back everyone to the finish line at the Barelang bridge, where drinks (Beers!) and lunch were waiting for us. Well rested and rehydrated, we nearly forgot that we had another 25 km to ride to get us to the hotel.
After a well deserved beer and first dinner, we moved to the conference room for a presentation on nutrition and endurance racing. We were presented with various memorabilia including a nicely designed Tour de Kepri jersey and a rare Batam key chain. And then to a gala dinner with the local VIPs, where Gavin and Kent of Cycosport presented what the event is meant to become next year: a multi stage bike race that will form part of the “Wonderful Kepri” promotion campaign of the archipelago. We went to bed with “Batam loves bikes” in mind.
The next morning, after a nice short ride on good roads that could become an time trial stage one day, we took the RORO ferry that was going to carry us to Bintan. To the amazement of all, we were welcome by a huge crew of masseuses as well as a local pseudo-mexican band that played some classic tunes while our deep tissues were torn by strong hands. Everyone was smiling and cheering, and when the band managed to get everyone to sing along, this was definitely the climax of a great weekend.
Another celebration of Wonderful Kepri when we landed in Tanjong Uban, and we headed for another difficult stage, although a little less hot. With the experience of the previous three rides, the groups settled into homogeneous pelotons and it was much easier to keep our cats together. We followed the western shore road before turning left to Red Road of Hell, and then a loop to Tanjung Pinang. By the time we got there, welcomed once again by massive celebrations at the Governor’s residence, everyone was extremely satisfied with their achievement, and with the fantastic organization of the event. Impressive to hear people who had travelled to Europe in the summer say that this “training ride” had been their best weekend of the year!
So watch out for the announcement of the Tour de Kepri 2015. By then it won’t be just a ride anymore. It will be a race.
Post Bintan note. Many of us were disappointed with some aspects of the Tour de Bintan this year. In particular with the logistics of the Friday crit, ie the time lost during that day in run down, uncomfortable and unsafe buses. So please note, organisers, that when the cost of participating in these events is ridiculously high, we would like to at least fully enjoy the experience.