By Dave Cox [DC] and Pete Bennett [PB]
[DC] A simple plan for a difficult ride: day one climb to the Genting Highlands to watch the passing of the Tour de Langkawi; day two ride Fraser’s. However, nothing is ever quite that simple and with only a few days to the Genting Stage the TdL organizers pulled Genting (or perhaps more accurately Genting pulled Genting). No panic though the many cooks managed to reshape the trip into an equally palatable menu. The 200km, 2,500m ascent, round trip to Fraser’s with a more sedate 100km loop of the Genting low lands (all relative) for the following day.
When I had committed to doing this trip I had fond memories of doing it in 2013, and although I realized that my current fitness was more akin Jan Ullrich in the off season than that of Chris Froome in yellow it seemed like a good opportunity for riding and banter.
True to form I also managed to have some quality preparation. 2013: torn rotator cuff following a ‘snow –ju’ incident in Korea. 2015: a raging hangover and destroyed quads following an evening of rowing and Jagermiester. Still I, along with 17 other ANZA members, made it to the start at the Park Royal hotel in KL under the watchful eye of feral cat herder general Mark Losi.
After 40 minutes of riding though the relatively peaceful streets of KL it was discovered that we had somehow managed to leave four riders back in the hotel lobby quietly pumping tyres and fettling gears. This incident, handled with aplomb by cat herder general did give two of the favourites for the race to the Clock Tower and early opportunity to stretch their legs and test each other mettle.
When Peter Bennett (aka and hereafter known as “your hero”), and a closely following Steven Wong, passed my lumbering procession on the second ‘small’ climb of the day PB casts a look in my direction to see if I was going to follow. [PB: I was attempting the Lance Armstrong “look” here, as in, why the feck did you leave the hotel with four riders missing-type “look”. Pfffff]
Yea, admittedly I was still very much playing the Jan Ullrich character in this story. We regrouped as briefed at the top of the climb before continuing to the base of Fraser’s. The selections on the early reaches of Fraser’s were broad. Either you were with the leading group or you were on your own. I was on my own and so most of what follows is based on either extensive interviews, which have been carefully corroborated, or (as is much more likely) gossip and partisan statements.
For those that haven’t ridden it, Fraser’s is a humane 40 km climb much of which is on a shady road which winds up the peaks at around 3%. It’s a bit like South Buena Vista for 40kms. The last 8km is harder but is still interesting, challenging and perhaps most importantly manageable. The final 1.5km to the clock tower is flat with a little rise in the last few hundred metres. It is an idyllic setting (although less so when the TdL roadshow is there) that is unaccustomed to the acts of cut-throat brutality that followed. By all (1) account(s) it was the scene of the biggest act of sporting douchebaggery since forever [PB: actually Dave, see list below}. In the interest of fairness I made brief enquiries of both actors in this fray. One gave an expansive and expletive ridden testimony, whereas the other just said “well, it was more like 25 meters”. An answer which will be conveniently be taken out of context.
The short, and PG, version of the tale is that Peter Bennett had been making the running on the climb, keeping the pace high and for the last 25km an ANZA rider whose name we will keep anonymous for his own safety [PB: No we won’t, it was SW] had been holding on so tightly to his wheel that Rizla were exploring thinner papers to measure such a gap. Heart rates and adrenaline were high but not high enough to prevent the leading group hurling abuse at a living legend whose name was all over his jersey.
[PB. Yea this so called “living legend”: Half way up the last leg to Frasers, we came across “some bloke” in blue freewheeling down the opposite way. Being a one-way street, I obviously decided it was a good idea to question whether he was “dining alone” that night and yelled at him as such. I got some garbled replied which turned out to be something like “I know what I’m “fecking” doing”. Yea, right son.
The Bluebloke later crossed Dione Wong in the same reckless manner, turned around and rode with her side by side back up to the top of Frasers, chatting with her the whole way and presumably apologising for his act of cycling crapiness. Mystery surrounds whether he got her phone number or not.]
[DC] Still, back to the action. “Anonymous Rider” held closely to our hero’s wheel but then in the closing 25m (a “misunderstanding” according to one version, a “despicable act of sporting douchebaggery” according to the other) the Anonymous Rider made the decisive move and beat Bennett to the clock tower by the slimmest of margins.
[PB] A short lesson on drafting while cycling, if I may at this point David and you can all assume I’m giving the lesson with my arms folded and a scowl on my face:
One can save up to 40% in energy output by drafting on a bike behind another. This is used to great effect by World Tour teams in the lead out on a flat stage of a Grand Tour, for example, in which a designated sprinter is kept in the drafting position until the very last 200 metres. Or in our world when a rider is past his or her peak and hanging on a bit.
On a hill, depending on the gradient, the energy saving is of course much less and drops to zero at a steep gradient however on a 3-5% grad, sitting on a wheel can be massively advantageous, particularly if the hill is very long. Say 40 km long. Again, this is used to great effect in the professional world; witness Team Sky’s performance only this past Saturday when they effectively lead out Riche Porte to victory in stage 4 of Paris-Nice. And good luck to them. Indeed, at our amateur level, we do the same in a local race when we can.
And at this point I return to Bukit Fraser…
Now I’m not about to name names here (although I did earlier if you weren’t paying attention) so to “Dick Turpin” who overtook me at the top of Frasers…not in the final 500 metres, not in the final 200 metres, not even the final 100 metres but in the final 25 metres…I have one word and one number for you:
By coincidence, this month’s edition of My Unsporting Life came through the letter box this morning featuring a short history of such sporting douchebaggery. Oddly enough, your hero features twice and as it happens, we reached #1!:
- Dick Turpin, ANZA Cycling rider, Fraser’s Hill – 2015; overtakes your dashing hero in last 25 metres of Frasers Hill after sucking wheels for 40km. 40 kilometres!!!!
- Lance Armstrong – (something about EPO)
- Ben Johnson – Seoul Olympics, 1988 (Wired in the 100m final)
- Fred Lorz – St Louis Olympics, 1904 (Completed 11 miles of the marathon in a car)
- Diageo Maradona – Argentina vs England, 1986 (The Hand of God incident)
- Neil “Splat” McBryan – Deliberately fouling me when clean through with an open net gapping in the last minute of the Madigan Primary School Year Six House Football final with the scores locked at one goal each (I was eight years old. I told him I’d never speak to him again and didn’t, even though we were at the same school together for another ten years. We called him “Splat” because he was so fat Ha! Ha! Ha!). And no I’m not scarred at all by the experience. He didn’t even get sent off because at primary school, nobody was allowed to be sent off. Tsch. What lesson does that give to kids I ask you? I wonder what school Stephen Wo…never mind.
Enough said. Back to you David.
[DC] Yes okay Peter, time to settle down and take a walk round the block. Confusion still surrounds the actual circumstance and so in a moment of self-importance I declared the true victor as Peter Bennett (he was closest to me at the time and look like he was going to hit someone so I thought I’d better) and to the podium he swiftly went.
I had missed all this by virtue of being off the back and then breaking a wheel because of my heft [PB: ie beer gut]. By this point I had been enjoying the ride from the cat herder general’s car. My only other participation in the weekend was to wind people up and to do a very angry descent on a borrowed wheel (Thanks Dione!).
Getting the team of riders back to KL took the cat herder general’s skill to the next level and he deserves a medal for all his work and the hospitality we received over the weekend. I fully enjoyed the hospitality knowing I could have a lie-in on Sunday whilst other flogged themselves around the foothills of Genting. All that was left to do to round off the weekend was to watch the circuit section of the final stage of the TdL and get on the bus. The first part was very successful, but a few souls still managed to be late for the bus. PB, maybe you could tell everyone of your awesome performance the next day?
[PB] Who, moi? Awesome? Ah shucks thanks David. It’s the Sempah climb is awesome, not the rider. It’s about 15km long and around the same grad as SBV/Frasers so far from difficult. But this was my effort at trying to be Chris Froome, except at 80kg, I’m probably about 75kg heavier than he is and whereas I was trying to keep a steady 280W and a cadence of 85, he is probably churning out 450W and a cadence of 300 million.
Anyhoo, that’s what I did and was delighted that apart from a few dozen metres, I stuck at the front and burned everyone else off. Yea! Including Dick Turpin. Double Yea! Trying doing that with Pierre and Vinny on your wheel. Boo. The ride after that is a delight of rolling countryside surrounded by mountains and small villages. One last hefty climb back up to Sempah and we were done bar the 15km decent which was as cool as. The only thing left to look forward to after that was beers by the pool, listen to the Cat Herder in Chief yelling “Ah Jésus, here comes Jesus” for the last time and taking an official measurement of Alex’s socks to see if they were Rule complainant.
And that was that. 300km in the leg bank, something like 3,000 metres climbed and excellent prep for the Haute Route in August. Bring it on!