Tour De Bintan | Cat 1

Donald MacDonald

My sixth TdB and its consistently my racing nemesis – usually ending in horrendous cramps in the never ending rollers out in the middle of nowhere. Except 2010 which ended in a gallon of blood and a shredded shin…

The April timing is new – a result of last years suffocating haze. However if anything, it makes the race harder as temperatures will be even more extreme. I’ve been preloading endurolytes for a week in a desperate attempt to outfox the cramps.

The Allied World CCN team were initially coming to the race with a bucketload of confidence following dominating performances in the recent Tour of Phuket and Ocbc Cycling Series. However half the team – including leaders Will and Pierre – got sick the week before which threw the plans up in the air. I racked up my best ever Crazies ride the weekend before getting sick the next day so my form is a bit of an unknown.

We’ve come with a team of 8 – pretty much the entire SG squad. Cat 1 is packed with talent this year and the main threats appear to be from the Aussie teams (Wormall CCs, Eddy Hollands), Mavs and the SwiftCarbon boys. Japanese Takei is also here, looking whippet thin.

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I took the Thursday night ferry in an attempt to avoid the annual Friday morning Tanah Merah madness. This proved to be an inspired move with the ferry being deserted. A pleasant trip and it earned me a decent lie in on the Friday Am.

PROLOGUE | 12km

Friday’s TT was on a new course – 12km out and back with a few sharp hills and a hard headwind on the way out. Despite some dedicated training and a sweet, penis revealing skinsuit, I totally messed the ride up. I went out too hard and blew before halfway. The constant undulations and the corners threw me and I never hit any kind of rhythm. I ended up with a time of 19:00 – 30th in the positioning which was well down on expectation.

Pierre missed the podium by 1 second and came in apologising! Will had been sick all week and was disappointed with his ride. Adam proved to be our unexpected hero by pulling a Top 10 ride! The day’s bad news was compounded when Vic departed after the TT to deal with some family stuff. Bad day all round leading to a subdued dinner table.

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STAGE 1 | 153 kms

The queen stage kicked off with the usual fan fair, anthems and speeches in a dilapidated bus station.

The team strategy was hatched and broadly aligned with the Mavs plan also. Make the Wormall team work as much as possible for 1st hundred 100kms…The first 50km ended up being very tactical. Overall speed wasn’t high but was peppered with regular attacks off the front from various groups. I got in a couple before bedding down towards the back of the group.

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At 50km, Pierre got up the road with Ben, Yusoff, Will, Hoops and Andreas. This was good for us and we then tried managing the bunch to disrupt the chase – mostly led by Swift Carbon and Wormall. Takei took the front after hearing the Gap was at 2 minutes and quickly wound it up to 55.

The new double pass of the Red Road and April temperatures started its killing spree and the occasional bodies started popping off the back. I got my first cramps at 80km but was hopeful they’d be kept in check…

Bizarrely we passed a baby kitten sitting in the middle of the road. How 40 riders managed to avoid it was a mystery but I was grateful to see it walk away unscathed. A couple of roosters appeared later to add to the menagerie.

At 100km, we were on a fast downhill and some small gaps appeared. Takei gave Raoul a helpful small push to help close the gap. Somehow this sent Raoul shooting off the road at 60km and he ended up riding on the loose rock. Amazingly he kept the bike up although punctured and was now looking at a long solo ride home.

At 106km on a punchy rise, my legs succumbed to the long threatening cramps and I watched the peloton slowly easing out of sight. I did the remaining 45km solo and alone. Water support was non existent until the static station 20km from the end and I was cramping like crazy by then. </p><p> I eventually crawled in 20 minutes down on the leaders to discover that PA’s break had been caught and the big man had also cramped and dropped. Takei ended up taking the stage from a breakaway with Bastian. One consolation was that PA had grabbed the KoM jersey.

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Sunburned as hell and with bizarrely cramping hands, an afternoon of junk food, crisps and electrolytes was swiftly ordered.

STAGE 2 | 107kms

Breakfast didn’t give me much confidence. The legs were still shaky and appetite weak. A few salt tabs on the start line helped matters and I was feeling spritely by the time we rolled through the Nirwana roundabout.

My biggest concern of the day was getting dropped on the first rollers to Checkpoint Charlie. To counteract this, I took the front and set the pace up the old KOM climb – thereby ensuring it was a manageable speed for me. Next challenge was the proper KoM at 20km. PA had to score Top points in the KoM and we had to stop Wormall getting any to ensure that his jersey was safe. Unfortunately the Wormall boys did a 3 man lead out which we just missed. PA took 4th for our 1st bit of bad luck for the day.

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Bad luck struck again at 40km when Pierres chain snapped – a relatively common occupancy for the big dude.

I got off the front a few times – including a 10 minuter through the local township. The screaming kids more than made up for the screaming legs. Eventually Clarson and some SwiftCarbon boys came over to me but I was burnt and popped on the next decent climb to be reabsorbed into the peleton.

Bad luck #3 struck at 80km when a road full of glass suddenly appeared. Adam – still Top 10 – was taken out along with Kahu. He went on to lose 5 minutes. Will also picked up a slow front wheel puncture which put paid to the sprint.

I dropped just before the KoM and cruised home with Adam. A tough weekends racing with little to show for it – beyond the sunburn and a multitude of empty beer cans.

Overall, the TT and Sunday were good but Saturday remains too gruelling and reliant on avoiding cramps. The gouging costs – in particular the 1000% markup on water in the restaurant – left a bad taste in the mouth. Still, it’s a classic event in the local calendar and I’m sure we’ll all be back next April.

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