The Murderously Hot Slackbladder Tour to Mersing

nik_0607By Adam Scott, Scott Adam, Scott Leadbetter, Scott Free, or any damn Scott you want.
Changi Point to Mersing: One ferry and 185km
Mersing to Singapore (Woodlands Causeway): 135km (plus rides home and beer)

Author’s note:  Any resemblance to actual events, or people is purely coincidental.  Names have been changed to incriminate the innocent.

At 6.20 AM the 19 members of the Mersing Massive assembled at Changi Point Ferry Terminal.  Travel documents dealt with and manifests made some of the crew fuelled up on Kopi-C whilst the rest admired Scott Leadbetter’s spanking new Pinarello Dogma.  Dave Powell kindly offered me some Clif bars before it was released they had been requested by the other Scott.  As dawn broke, Andrew Cherriman sent the first boat of full bladdered riders on its way and the rest of waited for the second faster boat.

nik_060340 minutes later we all arrived at Pengerang in Malaysia having taken the long route round Singapore’s rapidly expanding Tekong Island.  Whilst the early bird catches the worm, clearly Malaysian Immigration officials don’t like getting up early to catch illegal immigrants.  We arrived to find the immigration booths deserted and the border wide open.  Fearing the mess that just walking through would cause when we came to leave Malaysia we waited for the cleaner to go and raise an official to stamp our passports.

With passports stamped we ventured outside to meet Hafiz, our driver and fantastic supporter for the weekend.  We loaded our bags into his truck and a few comments were made about how little room was left for tired riders.  Once we were ready to go photographs were taken of all the riders were taken (it might help with identification later).  After some last minute trips to the bathroom we headed on our way, agreeing to take it easy for the first 50km and split the group at that point.  A mere 10 km later we had our first incident with Iain McLeod picking up a puncture.  No problem we all thought, a good time for a quick natural break whilst Iain sorts himself out.  Iain set about his repair with some gusto, taking both beads of the tire off rim and replacing the tube.  As Iain’s repair progressed there was much swearing and it became clear that Iain was used to a different level of service.  Perhaps a team car following behind with a spare bikes and wheels is a little bit more like it. Come-on Hafiz, where is the neutral service vehicle?  After several minutes, lots of “useful” advice and several more bouts of swearing Iain handed his wheel to Mark “January” Huber and declared he couldn’t fix it because he might get his shoes muddy standing on the verge out of the traffic (there was some muttering about SpeedPlay cleats being sensitive to mud, and other such things).  After Mark had fixed Princess Iain’s puncture we were back on the road.

nik_0619
No neutral wheels? Not happy!

For the next 40km our group rode well together on the flats, progressing with an average speed around 32km/h.  However, something was becoming noticeable – it was after 9am and it was starting to get really hot.  Just shy of 50km we approached Desaru and the inclines started to break the group up as the stronger riders pulled too hard on the hills.  We regrouped just past Desaru and stopped for water on the side of the road.  Roger and Scott lined up in a prominent position on  the side road to expose themselves to passing motorists and take another natural break.  nik_0613While we refilled our water bottles, we enjoyed some of Chris Keihne’s delicious homemade whey protein enriched power bars and Andrew Cherriman tucked into a curry that he happened to have in his bag (as you do).  At this point it became clear that some of the team had a different agenda as they eyed up the two seats in Hafiz’s truck.  For once it looked like a seat in the truck was going to be a coveted position rather than one of shame.  With some team members openly talking about when they might make use of them Mr Cherriman declared he was feeling tired from his week away and better just take first dibs on one of them.  At this point the group declared they were not happy with the pace on the hills.  It was suggested the group split in two with the faster riders going off first.

nik_0622
Would the faster group breaking riders please stand up.

Everybody looked at each other and declared they were not the faster one who was breaking the group on the hills.  Once the faster riders had been told who they were, and a few had promised to take it easy so they could stay with the “slower” group, the faster group of Kari, Scott, Rick Pratt, Pete Bennet, Andrew Purcell and Glen Kenny were sent off first with the rest of the riders following a few minutes behind.

As we rode on to 100km the pace in the “slower” group settled down to an average pace a little over 31km/h with the faster group heading off into the distance.  By this time the sun was well and truly out; it had its hat on and it was determined to play a game of raising the temperature to over 40 degrees, such that everybody started to question their own sanity.  There was more discussion of how many seats might be available in the truck if we repositioned the bags.  At the 100km mark we stopped again for water, cake, a few more Chris’ bars and more members of the group formed a line for yet another natural break, again in inappropriate locations at the side of the road.  At the same time Scott and Andrew Purcell declared they wanted to join the “slower” group.  Scott stated loudly (in something that sounded like a line from a Bradley Wiggins retirement speech) that he just wanted to enjoy riding and wasn’t interested in “wacking it” anymore.

With the “slower” group bolstered by two extra riders a determined, but now smaller group, of Rick, Kari, Glen and Pete set off ahead agreeing to break again at 150km.  As we approached the 120km mark the team started to grumble about the heat.  Andrew Cherriman decided this was the time to take up his “first dibs” on a seat in the truck.  Apparently, his earlier curry was repeating on him and he needed to fortify himself for the evening’s adventures [Hey the curry was great, no side effects there!]. He climbed in with Chris, who had clearly eaten too many of his delicious bars and needed to rest up for later.  At the same time Roger’s rear wheel bearing declared it had enough of the heat and seized solid. Sometime was spent trying to free it up, with Roger trying to figure out if 3 people could get in the truck without Hafiz having to get out and ride a bike.  However, he was forced to stay on the road after it was pointed out he could just take Chris’ rear wheel.  While his repair was underway some decided it was a good time for another natural break and a few of us continued on to avoid sitting in the sun any longer than necessary.

At around 130km Princess Iain started to slow up, stopping on the hills and hunching over his handle bars.  There was more swearing about the heat and some discussion about just stopping at this point, but Princess Iain was adamant he would continue.  The heat was clearly starting to get to everybody, including me and my bike.  As we got to the top of a hill my bike decided it would no longer change into the big ring and I was dropped from our now small gruppetto on the downhill.  Whilst I was standing on the side of the road, with my tools out swearing profusely, Scott rode past calling loudly that I would be the next to fall to the heat.  I actually think he was imagining my white bleached bones on the side of the road.  He also kindly told me the truck was just behind us and that I too could jump in.  Thanks Scott, I don’t think I’ll wait for it, I just saw it pass us!   I quickly made my repair and carried on. The road was straight and it was possible to see the group strung out in the distance.  As I passed Dave Powell, it was clear the heat was getting to Dave too, as he declared he was at the front of the group.  2km later he was surprised when we stopped at the side of the road to find the rest of the group minus only the four fast riders who were “wacking it”, and Murli and Princess Iain who weren’t.  Shortly after Princess Iain and Murli arrived Iain declared that he was ok and would continue on despite the fact that he was occasionally blacking out and he felt a bit faint.   “Whoa there Princess, what did you say!”.  Hafiz was called to return, but claimed he was going up the road to get Kari who needed to get in the truck too.  When he returned, strangely minus Kari, Iain was deposited into the truck, forcing Andrew back out onto the road and we continued on to 150km.

nik_0657
Emergency cooling measures!

A brief stop was made at 150km where the team sheltered in the shade, and Laura managed to procure 9 ice creams from a shop at the side of the road.  Whilst we stopped a few of us stuffed ice down the back of jerseys.  I figured it might be worth pushing some into the vents of my helmet, working on the principle that I could lose a lot of heat through my head.  This turned out to work, but meant that for the next 10km I was living in my own personal rain storm with water pouring down my face.  At 162km Hafiz pulled over at the side of the road and a recovered Iain got out of the truck telling us all that he had no idea how he got in the truck in the first place and that he had no memory of the last 50km.  Sighting an opportunity that could not be missed, Rachel Dubois, who must have been a champion player of musical chairs in her childhood, pulled over and jumped straight into his seat.

The remaining kilometres to Mersing flew past.  The afternoon sun tempered by some cloud and falling temperatures helped the team feel better.  The team was so refreshed that, as we approached the outskirts of the town there were some calls for a sprint to the city limits.  Andrew Purcell, Dave and Scott took off.  Never missing an opportunity to show my total lack of sprinting prowess I attempted to chase them down.  Whilst Andrew and Dave had got away to take the two top spots in the “Mersing Saturday Olympics”, I managed to pass Scott with 20m to go.  Like any good man Scott blamed his new bike, claiming that he shifted to his small chainring by mistake because he wasn’t used to his fancy new Campi Record shifters.

We pulled into the hotel parking to be met by the faster group who were complaining that we had left them in the lurch without the truck or water.  It appeared that Glen had been suffering in the heat and spent sometime vomiting on the side of the road at 150km and that Kari had needed to get in the truck, but only for her sun cream.  Overall, it was a good ride up to Mersing, with the whole group getting in with an average speed for the 185km of slightly over 30km/h.

nik_0667A quick shower later and it was beer and food o’clock.  The local seafood restaurant was booked and off we went for a slap up meal.  Laura did an amazing job managing a great selection of food and beer.  There was plenty of rice and noodles, some supposedly vegetarian plates for the vegetarians (all of which seemed to have fish in) and lots of beef (or was it horse…. or deer…. or road kill).  As the meal went on Scott declared he was hungry and needed more rice.  Another plate was ordered, followed by another and another.  Once he had eaten the restaurant’s supply of rice we called it a night.  That was probably good because they appeared to have run out of cold beer.

The next morning we rose to thunder, wind and rain.  After a modest breakfast we ventured on to the road.  Scott Leadbetter was so pleased with being confused with me all day on Saturday that he came down to breakfast in exactly the same Rapha GB jersey as me.  We agreed we wouldn’t mention it again and that we were sure nobody would notice.  Really, I am sure nobody noticed.  They probably thought we were the same person anyway.

The rain was coming down hard. Suggestions about waiting for it to clear fell of deaf ears with Andrew Cherriman stating that might involve waiting until the next day.  To a few of us, that sounded like a good idea.  It seemed such a good idea to Chris that he decided he was getting a taxi back to JB.  A few minutes later, as we rode out of town in a torrential downpour and pitch black (despite it being well after 8am), the taxi idea seemed like a good one as Chris passed us waving from the back of the car.

Anybody Seen Laura?
Anybody Seen Laura?

We continued with our stops every 50km, for what appeared to be our now very regular natural breaks.   There even seemed to be some adhoc stopping going on, with Glen and Roger sprinting off to get ahead of the group to take a natural break only to be caught by the group in the act of admiring the view.  At one point the entire group stopped to allow a natural break for Roger (again), Murli and Laura.  Roger and Murli decided it was best to take some time to hide their modesty and not offend the locals.  Meanwhile, Miss Modesty herself hid from the group between two piles of builder’s sand, in full view of the road much to the surprise of several passing motorists.

After 60km or so, the rain eased and sun came out.  Several Police cars screamed past, apparently they were not looking for a group of cyclists that had been exposing themselves at regular intervals to passing motorists. The oil had washed off our chains such that a few of us developed load squeaks.  The worst appeared to be mine, but it was never completely clear to me as there was a general chorus from a few bikes.  However, as everybody rode past me they kept offering me some chain lube when we next stopped to point where I really started to develop a complex about it and a bit of a headache.  At the next petrol station we stopped and lube was applied and the ride generally quietened down.  People continued to call me Scott, clearly now confused by the fact that Scott and I were dressed identically and not by the fact that we share a name.   The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful, broken only by several more natural breaks for Captain “Roger” Slackbladder.  The group rode well together all the way back to JB.  After battling through the traffic we crossed the causeway back into Singapore, the land of the smooth road surface and calm motorists.

A small group of us headed for Holland Village to allow Mark “January” Huber to pose for photos, which rather than make him look like he was posing for a next year’s ANZA Cycling calendar, looked like he was presiding over the last supper.  The rest of the group headed for their homes and left Glen Kenny to get in a quick Kranji loop, as if 300++km wasn’t already enough for him. As the beer flowed Strava was analysed and it was noted that the group’s time from Mersing to the outskirts of JB is a record only beaten by fellow ANZA member Liam Winston.  If Strava said “same time” it would state that, with all the riders in the group separated by less than 10 seconds in the leaderboard.   The group’s speed was a credit to how well we all worked together and to the fact we all appeared to have the same weak bladders or desire to stop at the side of the road and give passing Malaysian motorists more of a show than they had expected or deserved.

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