Category Archives: Race reports

They are what it’s all about

The Taupo Challenge

The Taupo Challenge
By Bruce Swales

In November each year the Taupo Challenge is run at Lake Taupo in New Zealand.  Located in the central North Island of New Zealand, Lake Taupo is in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago, and is the largest lake in Oceania.  To put the size of the lake in perspective, Singapore would fit within.

The Taupo challenge is a one day cycling event, which comprises several bike races – both road and mtb. The major event is a road race right around Lake Taupo, but there is also an 80km and 40km road race and also an ‘ultra’ road race that covers four laps of the lake.  For mountain bikers there are also several mountain bike races, including an 85km race.

25th November 2017 saw the 41st running of this event and ANZA’s Bruce Swales and Iain Clarke travelled down to compete.  There were also 7 other competitors from Singapore, and competitors from 22 other countries making up some of the 6,000 competitors across all races.  Ex ANZA Singapore rider Dean Cooper was there wearing ANZA kit, and Kent McCallum (Cycosports) was also there and was spied wearing ANZA bib shorts.  More than 2,300 riders competed in the main race around the lake.  This was Iain’s third time competing and Bruce’s first.

As can be seen in the map and elevation diagram, the course is 153km long, with 1,736 metres of climbing.  Most of the climbing is over rolling hills but there are a couple of very significant hills.  The first is Poihipi Hill, that riders hit only 600 metres from the start line, which averages 4% gradient over 2km’s.  While not that substantial, riders hit this cold, usually having been waiting for an hour or so at the start line.  The second hill, called Hatepe Hill, is a little more nasty and is at the 132km point, some 21km from the finish, with a gradient that averages around 8% over 3km. However, once you are over the top of Hatepe it’s basically downhill to the finish 20km away in the town of Taupo, with one last small bumps along the way.

November in New Zealand is Spring, which means the weather can be unpredictable – it could be windy, wet, cold or warm.  The days leading up to this race were warm (22 – 24 °C) with very little or no wind, so everyone was hoping for a dry, windless race.  Our wishes were granted with the day of the race being an overcast dry day, with morning temperatures below 18 °C and no wind at all – perfect racing conditions. Those hours of training put in by Iain and I in the Singapore heat would certainly pay off in these conditions.

Racing actually started the night before, with several crit races around the town, including a NZ armed forces race (Army, Navy and Air force teams), and elite Men’s and Women’s races.  I met up with Kent McCallum to watch these and compare to the Singapore CFS crits.  Good racing and great commentary by Robbie McEwan.

Come 6.45am on the 25th and the main race commenced, with the elite racers starting first, followed by the other riders starting in waves of a hundred or so riders, based on anticipate finish times.  Iain was in the third wave and was hoping to complete the race inside 4½ hours.  I started in the wave behind Iain’s with a goal of completing the race in under 5 hours.  As predicted, Poihipi Hill started the splitting of waves, with my wave splitting into two by the top (turn left at the giant bicycle), then came the one hundred kilometres of rolling hills.  While some of these ‘rolling’ hills are significant in their own right, there were several long descents to recover on so the race is not as arduous as it may sound.  This certainly worked to my advantage as while I am not a fast ascender I am a quick descender and was able to regain places I was losing on the ascents.  My downfall was, however, having never ridden the course before I took it a little too easy during the first half of the race, in order to conserve myself for the second half, and by the time Hatepe Hill arrived I was fresher than I expected to be but by then it was too late to pull back much of the time that I lost during the first part.  Nevertheless I finished well inside my goal, at 4:49:40.  Iain had a great race and despite puncturing at the bottom of Hatepe Hill still finished inside his goal, in 4:29:37.

Being in ANZA kit was a novelty for some riders, with several comments along the lines of ‘Oh you are from Singapore, aren’t you a long way from home?’ I was also asked by a woman rider ‘Do you know my friend Megan Kinder?’ (Megan, Kath sends her regards).

I met up with Iain at the finish, where we each consumed a free beer (a mark of a well organised race must be a free beer for every rider that finishes!).  Overall this was an excellent event and one that I would highly recommend – great course, beautiful scenery, well organised and a wonderful weekend atmosphere.  I will be back next year!  For those who may be interested next year’s race is on 24th November 2018.

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  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…

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.



What the Tour of Bintan taught me about trading

A few years ago I foolishly signed up to participate in the Tour of Bintan Gran Fondo with some colleagues, including OANDA’s regional CEO, a seasoned pro. I must confess to some trepidation, but I figured if Singapore is flat, then Bintan must be too. Clearly this was a terrible error on my part, further compounded by the fact that so many of my co-workers were keen cyclists, and several even competed in Ironman competitions for fun.

They had no problem getting out of bed at silly o’clock in the morning to train, but as a Kiwi used to long open roads and a variety of routes to choose from, doing lap after lap of the Red Dot was anathema to me. I have a low boredom threshold and I also like to sleep in on weekends, so this was far from my cup of tea.

I managed a grand total of one training ride in Singapore before traipsing over to Bintan with the group to train on the actual course a couple of weeks before the tour itself. My emotions ran higher than my pulse when I discovered that the earth was not flat on Bintan. Quite the opposite actually.

To cut a long story short, I was left behind by my colleagues halfway through, weakest lion cub peloton style, and as a result I completed the remaining 60km of the course perched on the back of scooter, clutching my precious bike as we sped along.

Photo courtesy of Fatih Muftih / Batam Pos.

With this fantastic preparation, I took my place on the morning of the tour, ready for my 150km “day out” in the tropics. I felt good about the rolling start right up until I reached the first hill. After that, the only cyclists who seemed to be going slower than me were those who had already crashed and lay sprawled on the side of the road. And I do mean literally on the side of the road – I never knew cycling was a blood sport.

I pedalled away, mostly on my own, throughout the day, making the time cut-offs, losing so many fluids that I actually stopped sweating. Going through terrain that resembled a volcanic scoria field in the blazing heat, I was almost delirious and hallucinating about a three-litre party bottle of coca cola. Full fat coca cola. (I never drink coke) Then it started to rain, and I mean really rain, at which point I yelled, “For #%$^@#% sake, could this day get any worse?” At this point a boat full of animals and a bearded man in robes floated past me.

A strange thing happened though. Eventually, I began to find my stride. Maybe my body was so dehydrated, I was osmosing the water through my skin. I started speeding up and by the second checkpoint I was flying, in my mind anyway. I got into a rhythm going up the long hills and coasted down the back, and I even started using the little robot thing on my handlebars to track my pace and speed.

Sure enough, some six hours after I started, I arrived at the finish line on my little Fuji. I say little because I am usually a front row prop in rugby and it sort of looked small on me. The feeling of achievement was really quite indescribable, as was the fear I would never be able to father children. Ever. I also went straight to a local shop and bought an unfeasibly large bottle of coke.

I will admit my training regime was perhaps lacking and maybe I should have put my ego and boredom quotient aside and done those laps of the island, but I did actually learn I had a lot more willpower and drive than I ever realised. I stopped being afraid of those long hills and started looking forward to them as I knew how I would tackle them before, and they stopped hurting quite so much, unlike my behind.

Trading is much the same. If you lose a lot of money, your bum will hurt as much as your ego and your wallet. If you go into it ill prepared and you don’t do the training, you won’t enjoy a good experience either. How you manage your risk and your losses comes down to mental attitude, and I promise you, that as a self-directed trader, you will lose money at some point. The trick lies in your attitude when that happens, managing your risk properly and losing a lot less than those times you make money.

At OANDA we won’t promise you unrealistic riches for little to no effort. We won’t tell you that you can make risk-free returns. Dedication, preparation and attitude can do that for you. Much like preparing for cycle tours. A recurring theme I see amongst you in these blog posts.

What we can promise you is a fantastic platform with some great products to trade. We will teach you to manage your risk and the correct mindset to be a self-directed trader. We WILL NOT allow you to use excessive leverage, and we’ll treat you the same whether you have SGD1k or SGD1mn. (OANDA was founded by two professors on this democratic principle)

At OANDA you will find down to earth, friendly people whose mission is to help you on your trading journey and to treat you with integrity and respect. Always. We look forward to meeting you soon.

Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst
OANDA Asia Pacific

Tour de Bintan

The Measuring Stick by
Reuben Bakker

“Any fit 40 something can be fast on a bike” – Random quote I picked up while digesting too much information online about trying to ride a bike fast.

I last wrote a post for this blog about adventures of my first multi-day road race, the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai in October 2016.  It was quite an experience that left me wanting more.

In the four months since, I had a couple of transition weeks, two weeks off for surgery, an “early festive 500”, a two week vacation and then 8 weeks of moderately intense training for the next stage race on the local calendar, the Tour de Bintan.

As it is easier to write, let me divide this post up into several shorter parts to tell the story of my Tour de Bintan experience.

The Prep Work:

Returning to training from my 2 week Christmas vacation left me in a world of hurt as I don’t have years of base like some folks do; I jealously marveled at others who were able to take a couple of weeks off and then bang out a fast Saturday ride with what looked to be a regular effort.  After reading a bit of The Cyclists Training Bible (Joel Friel) and The Time Crunched Cyclist (Chris Carmichael) along with a free 2 week trial account from Today’s Plan, I hacked together an 8 week plan to get me ready.

I want to go fast.  And everything that I read about wanting to make significant gains revolved around intervals.  So I traded in my weekday group rides for 5am loops around Lornie and Queensway multiple times a week, first starting with 3×8 minute intervals and eventually ending up with 4×20 minutes.  Intervals are a grind and by week 7, I was quite happy to see these disappear from the program as I tapered into the race week.

Let me interlude this post;

The week before Bintan, I had the opportunity to ride in the 35-44 year age group of the Car Free Sunday Criterium race. With 3 laps to go, I was in the thick of things, well, the group chasing the solo breakaway, spending time as the front wheel for a straight away or two (a rookie racing mistake I knew I was committing at the time).  Then, with half a lap left and tired of being on the front, I let off in effort for a bit.  WHOOSH, the group went by.  I got onto the back of the group, but thinking I didn’t have a massive effort left in me for a podium or even top 10 finish, I just maintained the pace while the pack hammered to the finish and dropped some 10+ seconds behind the front of this group.  This lack of finishing prowess would become a theme in Bintan.

Tour de Bintan Day 1:

Friday started early with a 25km zone 1 ride to the Tanah Marah ferry terminal.  I even got to sleep in compared with a usual training ride.  I was so proud of being number one in line, I announced it to my ANZA sub-chat group.  Note to self:  you can show up at 7:30am and still avoid the long lines.   The check-in and bike transfer were seamless.  Hats off to the Tour de Bintan folks and their partners for logistics.  The ferry was choppy.  I saw the vomit bags come out and the ferry staff collecting full bags.  I tried to rest with my eyes shut, but then it came.  First just a bit more than spit, but then with 10 minutes to go, all the breakfast came out.  I was later told that I won the award for loudest vomiting.

Early check-in was done, my bike picked up, race briefing attended and race kit put together, it was time to head over to the 16.7km Individual Time Trial (ITT) course.  It was 12:30 and with an hour until the ladies started rolling down the ramp, I’d have to hurry to complete a course recce.  As soon as I left the tree-lined street of Nirwana Gardens, I felt the wind.  It was STRONG.  With dreams of smashing a 43kph ITT effort, I quietly wept inside.  I finished the recce just as the first lady rolled down the ramp, happy with knowledge of the final (and largest) hill as well as knowing about some speed humps and other smaller hills etc.

At 14:48, I rolled down the ramp.  You can see my first race mistake in this photo (thanks James!).  I’m fiddling with my Garmin less than 20 meters from the start (maybe that’s my second mistake as I’m also wearing mismatched kit).  Head down but still in the hoods, it is hard to find any rhythm with the buffeting winds.  I hit my target heart rate quickly and just keep going.  Soon I pass the guy who started in front of me and I just keep on going.  Saving energy going down hills and using a bit more energy going up.  Around the golf course I ‘flew’.  On the way back to the start, the wind is at my back.  I’m flying, but know there isn’t enough course to get my average speed to the dream of well above 40kph.  Then comes the hill.  I know I’m supposed to power up this with every ounce of strength in my body as ‘more watts going up hills’ saves you time compared to ‘more watts on the flats.’  For some reason I don’t do it.  I didn’t slack going up, but I didn’t empty my effort either.  A bit disappointed with myself, I push on.  I cross the line and shut off the Garmin.  Generally I’m happy and even let out an energetic grunt or three.

My time, officially 25:06, left me in 5th place of the cat (20 seconds off the podium) and is 19th fastest on the day.  As a measuring stick, I was well over a minute off the day’s leaders.

I stick around with the ANZA folk cheering on people we know, consume some calories and then roll back to Nirwana Gardens with dark clouds in the sky.

Tour de Bintan Day 2:

Day two starts with me waking up on the floor, listening to rain.  The mattress in my “budget accommodation” was too soft for the liking of my back, so I did what I needed to do to ensure I woke up as healthy as possible.  Walking over to breakfast, I thought nothing of the very light sprinkles at the time.  Then the sky opened up.  The rain radar was checked and it was purple!

As I ate breakfast with James and Sofiane, I lamented about my second rookie mistake, not sending the bike over to the start line and taking the bus over.  James and I had planned to ride over.  Luckily the purple radar rain moved on and at 6:30 I rolled up under an almost clear sky to meet James.  Having been at the hotel lobby for a couple of minutes already, James had seen a couple of people put their bikes in the trunk of a bus.  In the name of safety, we smiled at the driver of the next bus, motioned to our bikes and he happily obliged by opening his trunk.

Upon rolling off for the 140km stage, the roads were wet, there was a light drizzle but I imagine the 100+ person peloton and many hundreds more in other waves were happy it wasn’t pouring.  After a 2+ km neutral roll-out, the group kept going forward, slowly.  We were ‘allowed’ to go faster, but it seems like nobody wanted to.  I ‘figured’ on the ‘famed red road’ (some 20km from the race start) the race would ‘start’.  It didn’t.  I don’t even think anybody even tried to go off the front.  Maybe there was a surge, but to say the pace was relaxed would be an understatement.  It felt like a coffee ride.  In sandals.

At some point, I don’t know when, the pace did pick up, we did finish with a 37.2kph average, but we just kept rolling along.  The sun came out, the group separated and eventually there were ~ 20-30 of us with 3 riders off the front in ‘an allowed breakaway’.  I wasn’t paying attention so I didn’t know who was in it (my third mistake).  Though it felt slow, I was putting out some effort as the cramps came sometime before the 3 hour mark.  Nothing major, but just a soreness here and a twinge there to let me know my legs were somewhat hurting.  I tried to consume more calories, but not enough as the cramps never really went away over the final 50+ km (my fourth mistake).

At the 100km mark, we were going up a hill.  Not fast, just a nice steady pace.  I down shifted the rear derailleur with the intent to easily power over the hill and then heard a snap and then chunk-chunk-chunk sound as my RD shifted to the 11t.  UH-OH;  I’m in the toughest gear on my bike and half way up the hill.  My cadence slows down.  I stand up.  I grind and grind and grind; each rotation is an effort to get my foot around.  The lead group goes past me.  After probably 20 seconds that felt like 200, I crest the hill and am only 50 meters off the back.   I get up to speed and onto the back of the group, thankful that nobody is pushing the pace.

I spend the next 5 minutes figuring things out.  I check my front derailleur.  It works, but only when there isn’t a lot of pressure on the chain.  OK, I have a 39-11t and a 50-11t gear.  One for hills (and just drafting in the group) and one for the flats and any surges.  At this point in time, I become very thankful for the 20 minute intervals with significant time spent spinning at low RPM.

The group moves on.  I sit in.  Between my gearing and the minor cramping, I am forced to ride ‘smart’ and just sit-in, well, most of the time.  The kilometers pass by.  With ~ 10km to go, we absorb two riders from the breakaway.  Now there is a bit more life as everyone knows there are two podium spots in the group.  Still, there is no impetus to push the pace (except for Ben).  The small hills roll on and the rain picks up to more than a steady drizzle.  With only a few km to go, the pace picks up, but nothing stupid fast.  The one km sign appears and people start jockeying.  Given my gearing and not knowing if there were any more ‘up-hill sections’ I just sit in.  We round the corner and see the finish line.  I see an open line and hammer it, but there are many riders ahead of me.  I finish in 10th place, about a second or so behind the 2nd place and nearly 2 minutes behind the stage winner.  There were 15 of us left in the chase group at the finish.

A quick visit to the on-site mechanic stand says that they can fix my bike back at the race HQ, so I send the bike for the bike transfer station, consume some calories, share and listen to race stories (like how Frank Reynaerts had a 80km breakaway, got caught and then finished 2nd in his 45-49 age group).  We cheer on fellow ANZA members as they go up on the podium and then board the bus back to Nirwana Gardens.

Tour de Bintan Day 3:

I wake up on the floor again but this time with a mosquito buzzing around my ear.  Oh well.  My bike is fixed, I have enough sleep and am ready to go for another day of racing.

Breakfast is consumed, a brief warm-up is done, everything is packed into the jersey pockets and I’m off to the start-line, this time at Nirwana Gardens.  It is time to probe on who is going to do what.  I received a tip the night before to watch what number 2 is going to do (from Adam).  That was my plan.  On the start however, I was given a second option in being told that an unexpected rider would try to make a break.  I told them I was in for trying, as long as it wasn’t in the first 20km or so.

The race starts.  I thought it would be more lively than day two, but it wasn’t.  there were a couple of half hearted surges off the front, but the first 20km went by at a recovery ride pace.  The next 20km was also uneventful but for some cursing from one team to another about attacking through a feedzone (I was on the front so got to witness this up close).  40km down and some 70km to go.  I’m feeling good, not really wanting to push the pace, but am rotating around in the first 10 wheels of the group.

Somebody goes off the front and then a second.  I’m thinking, is this it?  They aren’t fully pushing it.  Perhaps they’re just probing, but I know one of the guys up there is they guy I was told about.  OK.  I’m in.  I surge off the front, bringing a 4th guy with me (I think this is how it went down).  We crest a hill and tuck into a 4 man paceline.  After a minute or 2, we are still clear of the group and ED (of 852, Hong Kong) gives the orders: 30 seconds in the front, flip your right elbow and rotate back.

There are 60+km to go.  There are four of us, representing four teams, ANZA (your author), Matadors (Romain Barbier), Mavericks (Ruairi Brown) and 852 (Ed Chadwick).  As the Mavericks are currently holding yellow, the Maverick rider with us has no interest in helping the break going fast.  He is there to mind us.  We slow down from 42 to 38 kph whenever he is in the front.  Either he isn’t as strong or just wants to slow us down.  It doesn’t matter.  He has to go.  Luckily a bridge comes into sight.  After the bridge, he is no longer with us.  Did we drop him?  Did he sit up?  Doesn’t matter.  There are now three of us.  Camaraderie is formed.  Encouragement is given.  Each of us wants to win, but for any of us to succeed, we NEED each other to be equals for the next 50+km.  We remind each other to eat and drink.  The wind is beating down on us.  The sun is hot.  We go on as my Garmin counts down the distance.  It seems like after an hour, we get our first time gap information.  I hear 4.5 minutes or so.  WOW!  My head cannot comprehend it.  I’m elated and prematurely start dreaming of yellow (my fifth mistake).  We go on.  20 minutes later, or so it seems, we hear that the time gap has closed to under 2 minutes.  Time to press on.

Finally, we reach check-point Charlie and know that there is only 15km to the finish, but there are still a few large rolling hills.  Going over the speed humps, Ed’s lone bottle falls out.  He is spent and shouts to Romain and I to go on.  We do.  I’m feeling it.  There haven’t been any cramps yet, but mindful of how my legs felt the previous day, I don’t go into overdrive and keep things nice and steady.  Going up one of the bigger hills, I slow down and stand up.  In a momentary lapse, Romain’s front wheel grazes my rear.  He stays upright but goes off the road onto the gravel.  I peek back, see him still upright and wonder if I should stop and wait or keep pressing.  I keep pressing.

I’m last man standing with under 10km to the finish.  If the race ended now, I’d have won and maybe even stolen Yellow.  But this wasn’t the end.  I pressed on.  Saving energy on the down hills and tapping out the inclines, always telling myself: don’t cramp, don’t cramp, don’t cramp.  I make the right hand turn with 5km to go.  Then the left hand turn with 3km to go.  I begin to think about the finish.  How to handle the cobblestone round-about and the small but non-negligible incline at the last km (tips from Raoul the night before).  I get a little confused just before the round-about with the direction of the road, but get to my preferred side and I’m still last man standing.

THEN I SEE YELLOW beside me.  I look at the Garmin and see 1.7km left.  How long was he stalking me? I see the 2nd place in the GC standing and then a second later 3rd place.  I’m deflated.  My legs are spent.  I try to crack a joke or two as they sit with me over the next 30 seconds.  They don’t respond (verbally).  Then, Bastian responds with his legs and attacks.  The other two follow.  I follow too, but not with any vigor (my seventh mistake – later I’d realize my sixth mistake).  I’m spent and seeing the three podium spots ride away from me like I’m standing still I just press on at my moderate pace.  Just before the finish line, I’m passed by three more riders and finish in 7th, some 15 seconds behind the stage winner Bastian.  We stop some 500m past the finish line.  Congrats are given, backs are patted, fists are bumped and hands are shaken.  That’s racing.  Feeling both happy and dejected, the bike gets put against a tree and I go searching for fluids.

Thus ends the racing portion of the weekend.  I end up 5th in the GC.  I decide that I met my goal of the weekend of ‘racing strong and making some noise’, but unfortunately no podiums.

Calories are consumed.  Award ceremonies are watched, my bike is sent to the bike depot for transfer back to Singapore and my room is hastily packed.  The ferry ride over is uneventful and no vomiting.

I load my 20kg bag onto my back (my 8th mistake – next year, leave the floor pump, bike lock and half my tools at home) and slowly pedal 25km home for recovery ride 1, thinking about what I learned over the weekend.  This is where I realized m 6th mistake:  When you’re in a 90+ minute break and know you either commit for [potential] glory or fail early, EAT YOUR CALORIES;  ALL OF THEM.  I finished stage 3 with over 2 gels left in my gel bottles and a handful of apricots.

Back to the measuring stick.  I’m improving, but there is still work to do.  There are areas to work on.  Back to the quote from the beginning:  “Any fit 40 something can be fast on a bike.”  This is true (well, I’m not 40 yet…).  But now comes the hard part of trying to be a contender: finishing strong.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Tour of Phuket | Open


On a deceptively fast course of 5.9kms, the focus was to keep the putting down the power even in the descents. A race of seconds, any advantage possible was to be the difference between 1-10 or 30-40th.

With an average speed of just over 49 km/hr Will Pratt (AW – CCN) coming of a terrific win last weekend in Singapore finished in 1st. 6.52mins. Pierre-Alain Scherwey (AW-CCN) less than 0.8secs behind in second and Ben Arnott (Mavericks) in 3rd, sub 7mins


Raoul did a great ride for 9th, Brad 11th and Matt 16th – all within 24 seconds of Wills leading time. Hish, Pete Bennett, Adam Nelson were slightly further back – within 35secs.

With the team taking the top 2 places on the podium – this was an awesome start to the AW- CCN Phuket campaign.




STAGE 2 – 113km

Departing “Thanyapura” at 8am temperatures had already soared to 34C. Allied world – CCN race tactic; considering 1st & 2nd on GC, was to put 4 guys on the front for the first 65km. Limit the attacks from the bunch and get both Will and Pierre to the first real climb of the day in the best position with the freshest legs.

Adam, Peter, Matt and Raoul worked well together riding tempo over the rolling terrain at 43kms/h.

As the bunch swung around to the right we hit the first real climb of the day, 400m at 8-12%. This is where the selections would start. Almost immediately, 42 cat 1 racers down to 30. Quarter of the group was shelled out the back.


Fast decent and 10kms to the second climb. Gas on! Climb 2, shorter and more gradual – another 5 rider out the back. Hammer down!

78km in the legs now and basically rolling terrain to the finish. Bunch was positioning itself for a sprint finish.

As the peloton crossed the security checkpoint and turned onto the main 2.5 lane road, the wider roads lead to a flurry of attacks.
Will made some progress in one of these attacks, but the peloton wasn’t going to let the GC just ride away. Closing it down.

With 20kms to go a rider from Cycling training asia attacked and built a decent gap. The peloton leaving him out to dry kept him just in sight as he charged away solo. At 15km to go, Pierre noticing a bunched peloton and attacked on the far right hand side of the road from mid way in the group. By the time the peloton had realised, he put 30m in the bunch and people were looking at one another for a response. No one took ownership. 100m, no response, 200m, no response – he was away!


Bridging to the cycling training asia rider he extended his lead. Takai (Veleska USA) saw the danger and attacked solo. Pushing hard he bridged the group of 2. The efforts of the original escapè had taken its toll and the cycling training asia rider dropped back the peloton. Pierre and Takai continued to push ahead. Takai pushing a massive gear, the pair extended their lead.

5kms to go the road swept hard left, from the main freeway of 2.5 lanes to only a single track. They timed it perfectly, peloton would be forced to bunch up and slow on the turn.

With 100m to go, Pierre saw his move and kicked out of the saddle. Taking the win on stage 2 and extended his lead. Credit to Takai today for a super strong finish.

Overall GC results end of stage 2:

  • Pierre 1st
  • Will 3rd
  • Brad 11th


STAGE 3 -89 kms

Entering the third and final stage, the team were in an excellent position; Pierre-Alain held the jersey after his late attack and stage with the day before, while Will was still in 3rd place on GC with just Takei (Team Veselka USA & current Japanese MTB champion) separating the two. PA’s lead was a slender 6 seconds and with Takei the stronger climber. There was still plenty of work to do to secure the overall.

Sunday’s stage was relatively short at 89km, but that insubstantial distance belied the brutality of the parcours. The route took in two laps of a coastal loop which included, in quick succession, two 400m long, very steep climbs averaging 16-20% gradient. The first ascent came at 26km and the second at 65km. A flurry of attacks over the climbs was anticipated, so rather than burning out the strong men early on in trying to control the race, the team took a call to keep everyone fresh for the first run into the climbs, allowing them to get over with the lead group.

The compact bunch came into the first climb with everything still together. The pace plummeted and heart rates rocketed as the riders ground over the steep rise, rear wheels occasionally losing traction on the leafy roads. With everyone in the team safely down the tricky descent – Brad included, despite making a Tommy Voeckler-esque visit to a roadside layby on one of the downhill corners – we had kept good numbers in the front group. It was at this point that Will, after marking Mavs danger man, Ben Arnott, over the climb, drifted off the front.

Swift Carbon-Virgin Active rider Craig Bachelor rode across, but the rest of the bunch showed no signs of reacting. Looking back over his shoulder and seeing that PA was safely with the front group, Will got his head down and pushed on. Combining well with Craig, the pair opened up a significant gap over the subsequent 40km, taking a lead of just over 2 minutes into the second time over the climbs. Will opened up a small gap over the first climb and took it easy on the descent, allowing Craig to catch on. The SCVA man was clearly struggling with the gradient, however, as over the second climb Will opened a 15 second gap.

Seeing the gap as they returned to the flat roads, Will took the call to push on solo; in part to guarantee the stage win, but also to limit the time gains that Craig would make on PA. A hot 15km time trial to the finish ensued, with Will extending his lead on his breakaway companion and holding off a late charge to the line from Takei, who had chipped off the front of the bunch in a 3-man chase group late on. The AW-CCN rider had time to savour the win at the end of three days hard riding, raising his arms as he crossed the line.


Behind, PA crossed the line with the bunch, relinquishing 30 seconds and second place to Takei, but sufficiently limiting his losses to hold onto 3rd overall and ensure two spots on the final podium for the team. Hish and Brad were there with him, having worked hard to keep things together in the group, and in so doing secured the overall Team prize for AW-CCN.

A fantastic result for the team in this inaugural Tour de Phuket. A huge thanks to Cycosports and Thanyapura for running and hosting this excellent event. Thanks, too, to Allied World, CCN Sportwear, Neil Pryde Bikes, High 5 Nutrition, 720 Armour, MET helmets and our other sponsors for their continued support.

The team are next in action in Indonesia for the 3-day Tour de Bintan from April 1-3. With wins in the last 2 races, we go in with confidence!



OCBC Race Series | Open

Donald MacDonald

The inaugural OCBC series opener is the first real race in Singapore for about 2 years. Despite the course being little more than a super sized crit, it was great to see such a huge turnout for the event. Open Cat had at least 65 and was packed with a lot of new local faces.

The course was on the exposed coastal road down at Seleter that the ANZA Changi ride every week. A 3km out, followed by a uturn and. 3km back to the start. The start had a kick in the tail as it involved a climb up a bridge followed by a dead stop uturn and then another climb up the bridge in the other direction. We’d do this 7 times for a total of 42km. I should add that we kicked off at 10.45am and it was hot as hell.


With Pierre suffering all week from bronchitis, the team hatched a cunning plan around the talents of Will Pratt and for once, all seemed aware of the plan and our roles.

Allied World CCN had a strong team lined up – with the majority primed for the following weekend’s Tour Of Phuket. In Open Will, Pierre, Hish, Raoul, Alex and myself lined up. Competition was strong with a lot of the old OCBC team, Geylang Racing, a depleted Mavs team and a lot of local teams that I barely recognized.

The first lap was quick – maybe a 47 km average – but the race soon settled into a standard pattern. Each lap was solid rolling pace around 43km but the real action was the two uturn points. Both were relatively narrow, 180 degree turnarounds and caused the peleton to stretch out over 100m. At each repetition, the field would string out, people would chase madly and a few would drop off the back.
The uturn also caused the only crash of the race – on lap 3 when a couple of riders had a slo-mo embrace with the Tarmac.


Despite being poorly, Pierre did a massive attack on lap 1 – taking former OCBC rider Calvin Sim with him. The two of them held the field off for the first 6 laps. Having PA off the front enabled us to largely sit in and follow any moves. A blessing for me as I was capable of hanging on but little more.


PA was reeled in with about 2 laps remaining – which Will counter attacked immediately as the catch was made. Around 5 riders went with Will and a couple of Mavs bridged up at the uturn. However he was strong enough to drive the break and then take the sprint up from the front. He held off a charging Craig Cameron for a well deserved win by a couple of lengths.


I rolled in with the main pack about 10 seconds behind the winner. We finished with maybe half of the initial starters and it had been a hard hour with a 41km average speed.


The course itself proved to be excellent and the event perfectly organized. The huge crowds on the bridge being especially awesome. A very promising start to this new race series!

In total, I saw 1 Anza jersey across all race categories. Be nice to see more of the Green and Gold on display in future editions.


Cycosports Nongsa Classic | Cat 1

First race in 5 months after the Haze slit the jugular of the 2015 racing season – resulting in the cancellation of the original September edition of this race and many others.

The Cycosports organization was the expected smooth sailing (pun intended). The ferry terminal was quieter than usual and turnout was disappointingly lower than previous races. However Cat 1 had bucked the trend and increased in size with a sizable contingent from Integrated Racing for the 1st time. Good to see some new faces.

The start itself took place in a public park which resulted in a surreal trek through a vast array of Batam youth. Weird to see so many kids out at 7.30am playing badminton and doing military drills in the park. Even at 7.30, temperatures were high and the needle was rapidly heading into Scorchio territory.

Cat 1 rolled out for the 12km neutral zone with about 40 riders. The neutral zone was a swift reminder of how hilly Batam can be with a constant set of ups and downs.

Eventually we made it to the Course – a hilly 12km loop that we’d tackle 7 times – and swiftly commenced kicking the shit out of each other.

A pattern quickly established itself with a steady pace being set all the way to the climb then an increased pace over the 3 hills followed by a frantic chase on the downhill for those dropped on the climb. On each pass a few would fail to latch back on – resulting a slowly depleting peleton.


I’d been practising my hills at NTU and was confident at putting out 400 watts for about 90 seconds. This was fine for the first climb – but didn’t go so good for the 2nd and 3rd rollers which I’d completely forgot about. Of the 3, it always seemed to be the 3rd where I’d be gasping the most.

Lap 1 and 2 went well and I even took the KOM on lap 2 – leading to some short term hubris that I could just go for the KOM every lap. Lap 4 was tougher and needed a decent chase from a group of 6 of us to get back on. Lap 5 was when I finally popped in a big way. About 20 guys remained at that point but my legs were like jelly and I could do nothing but pant like a madman as they dropped me on the last hill.

I dragged a few Cat 3 guys round for their final lap before tackling my last lap solo. I took small solace that half the field had popped before me but it was still vaguely shameful to finish 5 mins behind the rest of my team.


Upfront, Nick Swallow had been on a stealthy break that most were unaware off since lap 4. Hish went for a break with Clarson on lap 6 but man of the day went to Ben Arnott who took the win after an attack “like a rocket” on the final circuit. The Allied World boys had come in 5th (Will) and then in various places in the rest of the Top 10. A well deserved clean sweep by the Mavs today – they came with strength-in-depth & a solid plan.

Post race entertainment included some dodgy Taylor Swift karaoke, beers and donuts to round off a fine days racing. The result wasn’t what we wanted but it was still great to be pinning numbers again. Thankfully there’s a slew of new races coming up so a shot at redemption should be imminent.

As always, many thanks to the good people of Cycosports for putting on another fantastic event.

Pulau Indah | View From The Front

Michael Koreneff

An early start on Saturday morning meant for the usual 6am alarm to get to the bus for a 7:00am (hard!) departure. 20 passengers ready on time and an easy boarder crossing on the way out and off we went. Toilet break was called around half way and our first stop was at a luxury (comparatively) petrol station with food, decent coffee and doughnuts for the brave, or hungry and lunch for those who didn’t pack one. The stop was not overly long and then onwards to Klang we went!

Arriving at the “dreamy” Dream Garden Hotel a wee bit early. Highly recommend you check out the view from the window if you ever get to stay.

We no longer needed to collect race packs as Mr Wong took the honours (Thank you!). Some non-ANZA jersey stowaways still needed to collect race packs so a small group of 5 set out to the start line, for a recce, while everyone else took in the sights and relaxed. An easy pace was kept for the afternoon riders, packs collected and everyone returned in just before a downpour erupted.


With a nice looking local eatery next door, the decision was easy, as they served cold beer. Seating 20 without a booking was a risky move but 2 tables secured and the food was ordered en mass! Soon after 8 everyone was in bed, or getting close. 5am start and 180km’s to look forward to.

Don’t know how everyone else slept but I was out like a light, and up early! (ed: I think Rick had a different POV, as the locals – had one helluva story to tell outside his window till 3am!!)

Breakfast and cutlery was BYO for those who read Laura’s Email 4, or 5, maybe it was 3? The bus was leaving at 6:00am and everyone looked perky and eager to get racing. We did not have the bus for the way back from the finish so that meant another 25km in everyone’s legs after the 180km. Everyone put that out of mind! Onward to the start line.

We alighted the bus and waved goodbye to that white, eerr grey and red haven with air conditioning and comfy seats, which apparently looks like a diet coke can.
Glen Kenny and myself rolled up to the start line early, but already we were 10 deep. Soon to be joined by the Mavs and Matadors! The other ANZA riders weren’t able to spot us so they were another 20 back.

Opening speech, Dignitaries, Anthem and a prayer done it was race time! Very soon after the announced 7:30am start time the horn was blown (for about 5 minutes) and everyone rolled off. Immediately there was a hustle and bustle for position behind the pace car and I found myself in good position. Sitting right by the front but not too close.


The pace car pulls away around km 25 and it’s all systems go, attacks start immediately. The pace is kept high and the attacks continue until a small group is given a free ride around km 30. The pace settles a little but is still unbelievable. I look over and Glen Kenny is right there asking if I saw the crash?! Nope, which crash? The one where a moped came sliding through the peloton sideways and took out around 10 people. Almost everyone gets back onto the peloton.

Reports of more crashes come but sitting at the pointy end I’m happy to be working and not avoiding crashes. Uncle Pete was behind a crash and so were some other comrades, Pete worked hard to get back on and the others were unable to hold his wheel so were left off the back.

Another group break around km60 and make it to the break. 30 odd riders 1 minute 10 seconds up the road is the news.

Nothing much happens in the peloton until km100 where the temperature starts to creep into the 30’s and another small group of 7 attempt to bridge over to the break. 4 make it and the pace lifts at the front. The peleton is riffle with arguing and sand baggers who wanted a free ride to the group sprint finish. Considerable efforts were put in by ANZA and Allied World colours for the later 60km’s of racing. Phil Routley puts in an attack at 5km to go, which raises the pace towards, at 3km to go the pace kicks again with fresh legs emerging at the front.

There was a safe but highly contested group finish and the peleton were glad to be done! Riders to finish in the peloton were Mr Kenny, Uncle Pete, Phil R, Sofianne and myself.


News later on comes that someone fell in front of Peter Tasevski and he walked away with a buckled front wheel. Good sport Rick stayed for safety in numbers and as Pete was out they ordered a cab, which turned out to be a local who had a van and was able to drive them back. Just as it was arriving Iain MacLeod, who made the mistake of stopping at km50 to take on water, was there to grab a lift as well. Lonely work way off the back meant a tactful retirement was made.

Ned and Phil Morris crossed the line together, thankful for the 180km’s to be done. [Ed: Still smiling]

From 20 starters we had 1 mechanical and 4 more tactical retirements.
Everyone raced well and put in solid efforts.

With everyone suitable wrecked from a long day in the saddle we all regrouped back at the Dream Garden and our departure time was set at 16:00. Tales of glory, misfortune and hurt were passed around, the bus was loaded, beers acquired and off we set. Sleep was the agenda on the way home until the first stop where KFC was devoured en mass. Heads up was then brought out and laughs were a plenty. The timing worked well and we crossed the border around 10:45pm.

Taxi’s for some, riding for others and the weekend was done! Another adventure with #Gordon’sGetaways a great success.

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