Masters Tour of Chiang Mai – 2017

With photo credits for various shots to SinghaDTK, [and apologies for any dodgy photo cropping. Ed.]

#gordonsgetaways this was not.  Though a much smaller contingent than last year, a good handful of us participated in the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai 2017.  14 of us regulars, including 5 AWKT guys made the trip to Chiang Mai this October.  The four day stage race included 2 road races, one circuit race and one ITT up the famed Doi Suthep.  We have three volunteers to share their unique perspectives on these days.

Day 1 by Reuben Bakker

All 9 riders in ANZA Kit.
Roli, Colin, James, Reuben, Lizzie, Rob, Steven, Peter, Frank

Day 1 was scheduled to be a 74.5 km road race.  We started bright and not that early for our club photo and then rolled over to the starting line.  Just like last year, we had a neutralized, nice and lazy rolling start to somewhere north of Chiang Mai.  This was a nice opportunity to chat around, say hi to other teams, people we knew from out of town and just generally enjoy effortless cycling.

The neutral roll out stopped some 16.5km from its origin.  A much nicer place than last year, but it was different from last year.  After a bushes break and drinking the last of my disposable water, Open A, Open B and 30s lined up awaiting our flag off.Reuben, Frank and Roli waiting the flag off for stage 1

Soon we were off!  My goal for day 1 was simple.  Finish with the leaders, don’t lose any time and if an opportunity presents itself, take it (KOM / Podium).  As we rolled out, there was no flying feeling like last year.  The euphoric feeling of one’s first road race was replaced with a bit of jitteriness of avoiding potholes, cars and crashes.  The peloton rolled on at 42 kph to the approach to the KOM hill.  Unknown to me, there was a break of 3 riders well up the road (none in my cat).  Happy with my ignorance of this and only seeing small groups a couple hundred meters up the road, I sat in the pack.

Green Fields and Blue Skies for Day 1;  calm cycling before we are strung out.

On the approach to the KOM hill, I decided to stretch my legs, so I went to the front and pulled a nice turn to bring catch up to a group a hundred meters or so up the road.  This decision to be near the front of the group for the hill was a good one, because as the peloton hit the hill, someone decided that IT WAS ON.  It was a 2:30 minute hill for me and a 2:10 minute hill for the leaders.  The peloton was strung out and going much faster than last year.  From the middle of the hill to the finish line (half of the race), the front of the peloton was fragmented / single file.  The scenery blurred by.  The only thing that mattered was holding a wheel in a group that was pushing the pace.  Push we did.  Down the hills, over the hills, through the little towns, the scenery blurred by.  The last 40 km was covered with a 49 kph average with the fast bits going by at well over 50 kph.  The euphoric flying feeling was there again.

Then came the onset of cramps again.  My legs didn’t cramp up, but all I could do was sit in.  A lead group (40+) eventually came together 20 km after the hill just after we hit the main road.  There were still 3 riders out front, so the pace was kept high.  Transport trucks were passed.  Whoosh.  I started the count down on the Garmin.  Time to test the legs to see if they could handle anything beyond being last wheel.  NO.  When the group is going 52, it’s quite an effort to push faster.  The legs weren’t having any of this.  I sit in.  With less than 5km to go, the break away is caught and the cat and mouse for winning the stage begins.  Attacks are launched off the front, but nothing gets away.  It looks like fun, but I cannot play.  As we roll to the line, I’m still near the back of the group.  The sprinters finish a second or two ahead, but we all get the same clock time.  Stage 1 is finished with a blistering average speed of 44.7 kph.

Day 2 – Circuit race by Frank Stevenaar

A complete new stage was introduced this year, a circuit race around the Chiang Mai Rajabhat University campus ground. The course was 4.8km long, undulating, closed off for traffic, had perfect tarmac and quite easy wide corners. In other words: perfect for a fast race.  Unlike day 1, the categories raced separately which meant more interesting and tactical racing.  Most categories raced 8 laps with a small KOM climb after the 4th lap.

The 30s team had one objective and that was to make sure that Reuben stayed out of trouble and didn’t lose time in the GC.  To save the legs, we opted for the easy option and took the team van instead of riding over 30km through busy Chiang Mai traffic.

After getting some valuable intel from the guys racing in 40s, we set-off and the pace picked up quickly.  Quite soon, attacks were being launched but they were all reeled in before a meaningful break could be established.  The Matadors tried to make the race hard in order to get their sprinter in a good position and Ben Judas tried his luck with a break but the climbs, wide roads and easy corners meant that it was difficult for him and any other riders to get away.  In the penultimate lap a more serious attack was established by multiple teams but Frank worked with a few Thai riders to close the gap.  Roli took over and by then Reuben was also at the front and the race was destined to end in a mass sprint.  Reuben and Roli moved to the front to get a good result for the stage but the small Thai  riders were better positioned for the uphill finish with Kumut (Roojai Interbike team) and Chatchai (Nich) coming in 1 and 2. Roli finished as the best 30s Anza rider in 9th position.

In ladies Open had one very strong UAE rider dominating the field and the best Anza rider was Lizzy, finishing 8th.

In Open, a break held together and Iron Mike was the best placed ANZA/AWK rider in 4th position.

In 40s, the race also finished in a bunch sprint and James finished in the top 15 with Rob and Colin finishing right behind the first bunch.

In 50s, the race was ripped apart by a couple of strong riders and Steven and Peter finished in the second bunch.

Day 3 by Reuben Bakker

Day three, the day where the hills started and time gaps in the GC would appear.  The route was supposed to be some 97 km including a long out and back along a main road and then into the hills for some climbing.  Thinking that it would be just like last year, where no break got away on the main road, I again, ignorantly and happily sat it.  I had my eye on several riders in the 30s and they were doing the same.  The peloton happily rode along.  Slowly.

On the way out before the u-turn, we were averaging 40 kph.  Somehow, the decision was made to do the u-turn about 7.5km early, lopping some 15km from the route (I heard that the decision was made because we were going too slow and the second peloton was going to catch us).  After the u-turn, the pace was even slower.  I wasn’t paying attention and a significant number of riders went off the front and made some huge time (the riders I had my eye on all stayed with the peloton).  On the way to the turn-off into the hills from the u-turn, the peloton averaged 38.5 kph while the break averaged some 48 kph.

Soon enough we entered the real hills.  From a simplicity point of view, there were three climbs, of 15-20 minutes in length and two descents.  I got over the first one quite well, though the true climbers in the 30s crested some 50+ seconds ahead of me.  The route brought us down some switchbacks into a valley, up the other side, turn around and then up the switchbacks to the finish line.  The only thing I wanted to do going down the switchbacks was not to crash.  I made it down in one piece, though I did come into one corner too fast but was able to stay upright.

Up the other side of the valley, I had the route at 4km of climbing which is what strava told me other people did last year.  I settle into a rhythm, careful not to allow my HR to get too high.  My HR is 170 and power is about 320 watts.  I start out by myself but am soon joined by Romain (from Matadors) and Ed (from Unfound.cc).  It’s my breakaway partners from day 3 of tour de bintan earlier this year.  We stay together for about a minute, casually chatting, but working hard.  Ed decides that our pace is a bit slow and pushes on.  I stay put and continue to push on with Romain.  This is my second mistake.  Though my HR was in the right zone, I should have been able to push 30-40 more watts.  I didn’t even try.  The climbing continues and soon the leaders are zooming down the hill past us.  Trying to be helpful, I shout out rough time gaps.

My garmin says 4km have passed by.  There is no u-turn in sight.  We keep climbing.  Up, up, up.  Soon I see someone I know in the 30s flying by the other way.  We keep climbing.  After another km at a 9.7% gradient, the u-turn appears.  Whoosh, down the hill.  Luckily, a local passes me and I’m able to follow his line down the hill.

Slogging up the first real climb of the day

The bottom of the valley appears and now there is only 2.4km left to the finish, at 11% (270 m elevation gain).  I settle in again.  This time with my HR at 170 and the power at 330 watts.  Soon I’m joined by Romain again.  With nobody else in sight, we spin up the hill.  I’m quite thankful for my 34-32 gearing which allows me to keep a cadence of 70 rpm.  The distance goes by in the garmin.  Less than 1 km to go.  I’m racing, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Just feels like a hard group ride.  There is no final push up the hill.  The tank is not emptied.  Romain and I roll up and over the finish line, finishing 10th and 9th (30’s cat) on the stage.  There is satisfaction of completing the stage, but at the same time feel like something is lacking as I didn’t push my boundaries.  After three stages, I am 6th in the 30’s cat GC, just one spot off the podium and my initial goal of a top 5.

(end note:  the uphill ITT didn’t quite go as planned either.  Overall, I ended up 7th in the 30’s, 1:14 down on 5th place and 2:06 out of 3rd)

Day 4 Doi Suthep ITT.. The Race of Truth. by Peter Williamson

This is it. The moment of truth. You are about to find out how you rank against the others who have flown here from many places and different environments, helped you, hindered you, become your friends or sit one or two places behind you or in front of you in GC… but… in the back of your mind… sits that little voice… you live in Singapore… all these people live in countries with hills… how many positions could you possibly slip today?

If you want a serious racers perspective, then please take a read of what Mike wrote… https://www.ironmikemusing.com/2017/10/masters-tour-chiang-mai-2017/

But from my novice / learners’ perspective this is what it felt like…. 9k’s at a pretty constant 5-6% (yes constant and nagging) … how long is Faber?  1 and a bit k’s with flat bits?

Mike sorry but I pinched your graphic to emphasise the steadiness. It belies the kick up at the end somewhat.

and then … as Mike described it to me … you go past the waterfall and there is the wall… but it does flatten out a bit in the last 400 metres… to maybe 10% or so. But save some legs for the wall … you can easily lose a minute or more there.

It flattens out just up there lads!

Before the wall

After the wall

 

So its game on from 7.30am with the Ladies 35+, Ladies Open, Mens 60+, Mens 50’s, Mens 40s, Mens 30’s, Mens Open B (Juniors) and Mens Open A.

Breakfast starts at 5. 30.. and I am off at 7.53… a 5am alarm with everything all laid out should work. A quick whip down to muesli and yoghurt with some of the Mav’s and yup the egg man is late for work again…

Hmm that’s precipitation! just a drizzle… but it’s going to be completely different from the first three days…wet but uphill so no worries. Ok best bang that on the group messenger chat… “lads and ladettes.. it’s starting to rain!”.

Lizzie and I rolled out of the Kantari Hills courtyard, being careful to stay upright on the slippery cobbles, for the less than 2km journey to the start line by the zoo in the semi light of a grey drizzly dawn.

When we arrive our friendly Thai starter is relaying every conversation he is having with every rider and van driver through his microphone… “ oh yes.. the toilets are over there on the right…”

I wonder how Rueben is going to handle descending afterwards on his carbon unicycle with no bottle cage, bar tape, brakes or paint that he dreamt up while we were having dinner last night?

The only place to warm up is to ride up the course… and it takes 2 or 3 k’s on this colder day to get the heart rate up without burning the legs… and the decent back to the start line must be taken with care … its slippery, there are cars up this road and the brakes don’t work so well.

“Go Lizzie.. hold that steady!” she’s up off the seat on the second corner where the road is too wide to stay out wide to keep momentum… you have to take the inside steeper line.

The ANZA 40 -49’s are arriving just as Steve and I get ready to mount the steps to the start. James is without strapping on the knee today… he reckons it is feeling pretty ok.

As the early riders in our 50-59 cat roll off the ramp Stephen Ames … starting one place in front of me modestly says… “let me know when you are coming past so I can try to follow…”   I pointed out that as it didn’t happen yesterday on the Sameong climb that would be even less likely to happen today. He had completely emptied the tank on day one off the front of the peloton to get Alan Grant up for the stage 1 win. Maybe next year guys you get me to 1km to go on stage 1 and I will try and go off the front and distract Pavol somehow … and you guys sneak on by? Then I have an excuse for stage 4.

All the good luck man fist pumps have been done, Stephen is away, and I am up the steps and hanging on to the ramp bar with the left hand, shoes clipped in … but it feels like my first time steer riding as a kid at our local rodeo.

“five zero two,  Peter Williamson   .. five, four, three, two, one , go!” … down that sharp little green carpet and here we go… up off the seat and pumping…gotta get this heart rate up… just like James would be doing a while later.

For me I had to take a detour just past the end of the TT coned area ahead of James. A tourist was photographing his girlfriend buying a durian at the fruit stall on the corner… he walked backwards into the middle of the road.  What the hell are you doing buying durian at quarter to eight on a wet Tuesday morning?… anyways … ‘mai pen rai khup’… I can see Stephen taking the next corner … there is my avatar… that black and red skin suited Maverick bum…. I think that was the last time I saw it….

However…I did manage to pass some morning riders on their mountain bikes .. and yup eventually a few of the 60+ plus guys… and then .. errrm.. Alan Grant eases past spinning away and occasionally off the seat … then a couple more and despite best efforts there aint no way I can ride that pace seven metres behind. But I did learn about cornering on an ascent like this. Avoid the steep inside corners… do more distance wide and keep the spinning momentum going.

Not far behind comes Andy Brierley.. he started last in our cat but with a time in the 31 minutes he showed his class.. such a smooth easy cadence. At about 8km in the gradient has eased a little and hello! Never noticed this on the reccy drive up in the Van … a downhill section… you have to use the big ring and get your bum off that bloody seat to give those aching glutes a break ..change the angle  even though in 300 metres you are back at 6% again.

For me, when I reached the waterfall what was on my mind was where is Mr Wong? .. He started two back. Number 506 from France had passed me a couple of minutes ago but for the first time I had a handle on how far away the finish line is. You have a computer but when it’s just constant and you have not ridden it before (my flight was late in so I could only ride halfway up on the Friday before it got dark and unsafe) it was dignity over valour for me… I am not blowing up. You really aren’t sure how far away that wall really is until you see it.

I see it… OK Mr 506.. stay right there.. I am coming to join you… now you can give it… but you are just coming up to the 1km marker so ‘giving it’ means spinning it up… not getting off the seat. I managed to spin it up and hold it and nearly dragged Mr 506 in by the time I got to the line. Lizzie grabbed the back of my seat so that I didn’t splat on the road in the middle of the finish line area. Much appreciated… so I reciprocated as our lads came in.. it does take you a minute or so to gather your senses.

I won’t go into times but here’s how we fayred on stage 4:

O&OE.. this is from eyeballing the GC results… sorry if I have you slightly wrong.

Lizzie       12th Equal Ladies Open
Steve       14th Mens 50-59
Peter       12th Mens 50-59
Colin        32nd Mens 40-49
Rob          24th Mens 40-49
James      21st Mens 40-49
Rolland    33rd Mens 30-39
Frank       22nd Mens 30-39
Reuben    11th Mens 30-39
Guillaume DNS
Sofiane    19th Mens Open A
Mike        17th Mens Open A
Will         14th Mens Open A
Adam      9th Mens Open A

Paraphrasing some of Mike’s blog… This was clearly a stage for pure climbers. It did shuffle the podium pack a little further in most Cats GC finishes but the outstanding climb was clearly from Peter Pouly of Infinite AIS.. pushing out an average of 400 watts for a time of 26:51.. almost a minute over the next best in the Open Mens; but not enough to haul in 2017 winner Peerephol Chawchiangkwang of Full Team Cycling. As I quite often hear around the ANZA peletons ‘you’ve gotta ride em to race em… . But that wasn’t the case in the Women’s open with two ladies from AL Asayl destroying the field on this climb and taking the top two GC spots also.

Of course we encountered the Durian Rider… “didn’t know Trek and Moots made prams”…  was his YouTube comment as he spun past Arran and I walking during this years Chiang Mai Rapha Prestige on an off-road pinch climb.  I had a bloody 39 on the front and 27 on the back. His bike here has a single MTB crank on the front and 40 on the back!… mind you his best time up Doi Suthep is in the 27’s .. he knows how to spin out watts

Thank you to Reuben for a fine performance as our guiding/ organising hand… You can tell the race is over when your domestique has a beer as well as a coke in his shirt. Thanks mate! Really appreciated your efforts… organising those support vans and supplies must have been like herding the proverbial cats!

4 Stages done… and plenty learned.

 

 

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