Category Archives: Random

All the stuff we forget to categorise or that defies categorisation!

Masters Tour of Chiang Mai – Random Reuben Ramblings Pt2.

By: Reuben Bakker
November 2016
A collection of scenes and memories from a fun weekend in Chiang Mai.
[some post-race ramblings from a personal point of view…]

Scene 7:  Stage 3
It is [potentially] moving day!
There were dreams of a TTT style break catching the peloton by surprise and slipping away into the morning.  That did not happen.

The peloton rolled out for a short 8.5km neutral zone and then the racing started.  Well, for the first bit, the only thing that happened is that the pace went from ~ 33kph to 42kph.  After the neutral zone, we had 54km out back on a flat highway before turning off into the hills.  There were some small break-aways, but nothing that the leaders in the peloton felt threatened enough to hunt down.  The ride out was uneventful, except for the multiple construction zones including some stripped down concrete.  The road was open to traffic, but we had multiple motorcycles escorting us.  Just before the U-turn, the front of the peloton started screaming: STOPPING, SLOWING, WATCH-OUT, CAUTION (and probably the same in Thai).  The U-turn was at a rather large intersection.  There was a RED light in the direction we were approaching and it was not clear;  between the peloton and a clean U-turn were approximately 10 cars and just as many motorbikes, sitting there.  The peloton slowed, split between the cars and made a very slow U-turn.  With 130+ riders, it was not a clean moment.  At the back, riders were fully stopped waiting their turn to get through.  Likely seething as they saw the front of the peloton speed off on the other side of the road.  Several even dismounted and hopped the barrier, cutting the U-turn short by several 10s of meters.

The front of the peloton saw the chaos of the U-turn as a chance to drop people and the speed quickly spun up well over 50kph.  Caught up in the moment, I was near the front, just behind Raoul in just in front of Victor and Adam of the AWCS team and when I heard Adam (or thought I heard Adam) yell: GO, GO, GO!!!!  Raoul wound it up, I wound it up and Victor wound it up in an attempt to bridge a gap to a small group of riders up the road.  Raoul peeled off, I was on the front, I probably lasted less than a minute before peeling off myself, but we were successful in getting Victor on a wheel that got him to the small break away.  Out in no-mans land, I sat up and then 30 seconds later, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, I was swallowed up again.

Interlude:
At some point, I look over, see an ANZA jersey and wonder to myself: Who is that?  After a second, I realize it is Jason Dubois.  Jason is a strong rider in his own right, but over the first two days, finished well off the pace.  After the stage, I see him and ask how his ride went.  He said that it was no fun getting dropped by the peloton and riding solo or in a small group for the majority of the stage, so decided to go all in and stick with the peloton as long as possible.  This put a smile on my face.  Jason finished only 10 minutes off the pace, much better than his first two days, especially considering the climb at the end of the stage.

The peloton rolled along.  Soon, there was SURPRISE and CHAOS again.  We entered another construction zone, spread across the lanes of the road.  This time, the ‘feature’ was multiple lane wide, 10 meter long, 30cm deep cut-outs.  With loose gravel on the concrete between them.  “Luckily there was at least 2 meters of space to maneuver between the cut-outs”  The peloton split.  Some left, Some right and made it through.  Nothing like big holes in the road to keep you paying attention…

[note: These construction hazards should have been communicated at the beginning of the stage and fully neutralized.  There was a rather bad crash for the second peloton of the day on these cut-outs]

75 minutes and 54km after the neutralized roll-out finished, we were back where we started; it was time for the hills – first 11.5km of very moderate rolling hills then 9.5km of real hills.  Conscious of my ‘mistake’ from the previous day, I ensure I’m near the front of the peloton.  Zoom, Zoom, we twist through some small villages, even seeing two elephants walking the opposite direction.

p1
Elephants on the roadside! Photocredit: screengrab from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8

Finally, we are 4km from the finish.  ONLY 4km away, but with significant elevation gains to be made.  First up is a 1km KOM hill.  With the leaders a minute or two up the road, everybody around just settles in to their granny gears and try to spin up the hill as fast as possible.  The KOM hill is followed by 1km of relative calm and then 2km of 9+% grade to the finish.  After 9+ minutes, the finish is in sight!  I stop the clock at 2h01m21s, 3m01s behind the [age group] stage winner and 15th in the 30’s category.

It is time to find the water truck.  Down a little laneway, it is easy to spot.  Soon, I’m joined by Frank, Sofiane and Ståle.  The bike is set aside, water is consumed and fist-bumps, congrats and back-slaps are doled out to any and all who have finished.  It was the toughest climb I’d ever completed (though that’s not saying much – I’m new to this).

After hydrating and consuming my recovery drink, somebody mentions about going back to the finish line to cheer on finishing riders, both of peloton 2 (finishing the same route as the 30s) and the open A and open B categories who had some extra hills to do.  We lined the road, clapped and cheered people to the finish.  Surprisingly, watching people slowly pedal uphill to a finish line, one by one, can be quite exhilarating.

For those keeping score, I’m now 5 minutes off the pace with a single stage to go.

Scene 8:  Stage 4
Stage 4 is an ITT.  Uphill at a relatively steady 6% grade.  Prior to coming to Chiang Mai, I figured it to be a 35+ minute climb.

The night before stage 4, I’m scenario planning inside my head.  What should be goal for the final stage?  I look at the standings.  I’m somewhere in the mid-teens.  I decide that a realistic, but tough goal would be an overall top 10 finish in the GC and predict that I would need a 33 minute stage to get there.  To the bikecalculator.com website I go.  If I put out 400 watts average, I should be able to get 33 minutes.  Is that a realistic wattage output for me?  I don’t know.  How am I going to pace myself?  I don’t have a power meter.  After 5 minutes of thinking, I remember this thing called ‘average speed’ and a speedometer on my garmin.  If I have an average speed of 20kph before the final 600m where the road pitches up, I should be able to hit 33minutes.

The morning of the stage, I have a slow, rolling warm-up and the make my way over to the start-line.  I wish those around me good luck and tell the guy behind me (30 seconds start time difference) not to pass me.  Soon it is my turn.

After the count down and rolling down a ramp off a platform (just like the PROs), the hill starts immediately.  After the first km,  I look down and see my average speed is 22 kph.  I’m in good shape.  My heart rate is a steady 170 or so and now it’s just 30 minutes of putting in the work; something I’ve done before (on the viaduct, but never 30 minutes of straight climbing).  By the 3km mark, reality sets in.  My average speed drops below 20kph.  So much for my 33 minute time.  Perhaps I can do 34 minutes…

The minutes count up and the km left on my garmin count down; slowly.  I can see the rider in front of me, but never get close.  I seem to alternate between putting down some good power and then having interludes where I’m just spinning.  This pattern repeats again and again.  I start looking forward to the dip in the road.  The strava segment shows a “relief section” including a significant down hill.  The 7km mark goes by, it doesn’t come.  The 8km mark goes by, it doesn’t come.  My average speed keeps dropping.  I have the energy to keep going, but not any faster.  At some point, I get passed.  I try to keep up without getting into the ‘drafting box’ but cannot.  Soon, another rider passes also.  Lucky for me, the rider immediately behind me doesn’t pass.

The 9km mark comes and I’ve given up hope for any downhill section.  My average is 18.7kph, not too bad, but not my goal either.  I settle in for what I know is coming in the final stretch where the road pitches up.  The final 400meters are a 10% grade.  I should drop the hammer, but I only slow down and grind through; there is no power in my legs.  Sign-boards are on the side of the road telling me how far it is to the finish.  I see a 100m sign and am dejected.  In a moment of unclear thought, I think that there is 100m of elevation to go.  That seems like a lot, but on the other hand, it’s only a bit more than one Faber.  After a second, I snap out of it and realize I’m 100m to the finish line.  There is no energy to speed up.  I grind on, cross the finish line and stop the clock in 35m25s.  I’ve missed my goal time.  After getting a push to a place to safely dismount, I lean over the bike trying to catch my breath and take a long swig from my too full water bottle.

p2
Crossing the finish Line Photocredit: Amanda Bakker

Catching my breath; the most sweat I’ve ever dripped on my bike… Photocredit: Amanda Bakker

Catching my breath; the most sweat I’ve ever dripped on my bike…
Photocredit: Amanda Bakker

 

p4
At the end: Reuben, Ståle, Frank, Peter and Sofiane Photocredit: Amanda Bakker

We wait around the finish line, cheering others through the finish and then go down the hill several km to a look-out for the final award ceremony.  After watching the awards ceremony and consuming some packet lunches, it’s time to go back down the hill to the hotel.  I take it easy while many others zip past.

At the hotel, we see the final GC results.  I end up in 16th place, 8m56.92s behind the 30s winner (If I had hit my 33m goal time for stage 4, I would have ended up 12th overall).

In one way, the end is a bit anti-climatic.  I didn’t win anything.  ANZA got several minor stage podiums but nothing in the GC; despite this, I have a rather strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I rode well; many of us from ANZA rode well.  It wasn’t perfect, but the extended weekend went about as good as I could have expected coming into Chiang Mai.

[note:  A special thanks to #gordonsgetaways for keeping everybody on the up and up; pre-trip; during the trip and post-trip].

[for a video of scenes from the first three stages, please check out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8 ]

 

Advertisements

Masters Tour of Chiang Mai – Random Reuben Ramblings Pt1.

By: Reuben Bakker
October 2016
A collection of scenes and memories from a fun weekend in Chiang Mai.
[some post-race ramblings from a personal point of view…]

Scene 1: I’ll add you to the [message] group, but you have to race…

Many moons ago (mid 2016), after several months of riding with ANZA, my fitness finally allowed me to start riding with the fast Kranji bunch.  With this going on for a month or two (I cannot actually remember), I got my first invite into a ‘sub-ANZA [chat] group’.

It went like this:

Frank: “Reuben, there’s a Facebook group of some of the people who ride the fast Kranji.  I’ll add you to the group, but you have to race…”

Reuben: “OK” [completely unsure about racing, but completely sure about wanting to ride  fast]…

Scene 2: The Sign Up

Months [or weeks] passed and the sign-up for the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai goes live.  Laura posts something to the ANZA FB page.

The “FB group” comes alive – more than usual.  There are a lot of maybes, some course analysis and then finally people start saying yes and actually signing up.  Due to peer pressure, and the aforementioned desire to go fast on my bike, I contemplate signing up too.  The calendar is checked, [family] agreements are made, SQ miles are readied and I too book.  By my count, there are 8 from the “FB group” who say yes.  Quite impressive from the viewpoint of this newb.

[side note: Overall, there were ~30 riders from ANZA including the AW race team.  There were 6 of us from the ‘fast kranji’ group: Steven Wong, Peter McQuade, Frank Stevenaar, Ståle Nore, Sofia Behraoui and myself; joining Frank, Sofiane, Ståle and myself in the 30s were Jason Dubois and Adam Scott, both solid riders in their own right.

for event results, see:  http://my4.raceresult.com/63209/?lang=en#0_941B57 ]

Scene 3:  The Prep Work

Strava courses were read, again, and again and again.  The 2016 race report from the ANZA blog was read, again and again and again.  Through the chat group, Steven Wong doled out some great advice about the course, where time could be made (or more specifically, lost) etc…

Even more important was having the proper fitness to be able to ride strong on days 3 and 4.  Weekly mileage went from 300 to 350 to 400+ in the weeks leading up to the event.  Intervals were added and a 2 week intensive was also planned for the beginning of September.  Luckily, the Haze never materialized for more than a couple of days.  In the weeks leading into the event, I easily achieved my highest cardiovascular fitness ever.

Scene 4: Stage 1

All ready to go for day 1; Ståle, Frank, Peter, Sofiane and Reuben photo credit: Frank’s phone
All ready to go for day 1; Ståle, Frank, Peter, Sofiane and Reuben
photo credit: Frank’s phone

Thursday night, I didn’t get much sleep compared to my usual 6-7 hours.  I wasn’t really nervous about my first road race, the bed was fine, my room was quiet.  Regardless, I woke up Friday morning, ready to go.  A 5:30am breakfast followed by an emptying of the bowels and it was time to convene on the race hotel.

We had a 23+ km roll out of town at a nice steady 32kph and ended up on a small, narrow 2 lane country road.  Immediately, there were 50 guys all facing the bushes emptying their bladders.  I figured I might as well try too, but nothing came out.  Probably too many nerves.

After 5-10 minutes, the first peloton containing open A, open B and the 30’s were off.  This was my first time riding so fast in such a large peloton (there were 136 people listed over these three categories).  I had once read that riding in a large peloton was a thrill close to flying.  The first 15km, before the first [small] hill, we averaged 45 kph, often hitting over 50kph.  This newb stayed in the middle / back of the main pack.  It was thrilling.

There were some minor hills, but the main peloton stayed together.  We hit the [small] KOM hill at the 32km mark and the group started to fragment.  I felt good and kept going up, passing people left, right and center (note – I started the hill near the back of the main peloton).  I crested the hill with only a couple of riders in front of me (plus a small breakaway) and was able to fly down the slope reaching over 70kph (see again the flying reference).

It was at this point I made my first mistake of the race.  For some reason, I thought the riders I was with had put some distance on the peloton. After all, there were maybe 15 riders or so who I saw rotating around myself, throwing small, non-sustained attacks off the front.  It was awesome!  My error is that I didn’t know what was behind me.  It was the full peloton.  Full Stop.  I was having lots of fun, but spending too much energy with 30+km left in the race.  We hit the final hill of the day and I was fully absorbed back into the peloton.

I was still feeling great, so was riding near the front with about 20km to go.  Then cramp.  My right quad got stiff and ‘almost seized’.  I was able to keep rotating it and due to the flying nature of the peloton I was able to sit up and just spin without being dropped.  I assessed my fluid situation.  I had ~ 2.3 bottles left (yes, I carried 3 bottles).  I have this minor fear of running out of hydration (a story for another day), but had been feeling so good and running on adrenaline that I hadn’t properly fueled / hydrated myself over the previous hour.  Luckily, I was able to prevent full cramps.  I downed a bottle of liquid, finished off my gels and started feeling great again.  Time to go to the front again.  Both of my quads had something else to say about that.  Cramps again.  Time to shut it down.  I sat in the back of the peloton and coasted into the finish.

I met all my pre-race goals of stage one.  Have fun, not getting dropped by the main group.  In fact, it was even better than that.  The race winners ended up ~ 15 seconds on the peloton and all of the 30s in the peloton got the same time, 1:41:46 with an average speed of 43.9 kph.  An awesome morning.  Frank and Sofiane were also with the peloton and got the same time, with Sofiane even getting a podium spot (5th)!  Ståle had gotten dropped and rolled in some 7+ minutes later.

Rick on the podium accepting 5th for Sofiane; Sofiane had left with Frank to visit the bike shop for Frank’s mechanical. Photocredit: screengrab from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8
Rick on the podium accepting 5th for Sofiane; Sofiane had left with Frank to visit the bike shop for Frank’s mechanical.
Photocredit: screengrab from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8

 

Scene 5: Stage 2

Reuben Rolling into check-in for stage two with five bottles of liquid; can you guess where they are? Photocredit: screengrab from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8
Reuben Rolling into check-in for stage two with five bottles of liquid; can you guess where they are?
Photocredit: screengrab from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRg9Ql5jum8

 

 

I have this fear of running out of water and dehydrating.  I don’t really know why this fear exists during a road race where there are motos all over the place with bottles of water available within 30 seconds or less.  With that said, I left the hotel Saturday morning with 5 bottles full of liquid.  My three bike bottles and two extra hotel water bottles filled with some carbo drink.  We had a longer day ahead of ourselves today, a 25k roll-out and then 99km or racing with a 10+ minute KOM hill about 2/3 of the way through.  I consciously drank a full bike bottle during the roll-out and then filled up the bottle with the two disposable bottles at the 10 minute rest stop before the racing began.

I rolled out with the 120+ strong peloton determined not to cramp and determined not to ride on the front before the KOM hill.  Everything was going great; the first 69km was like a zone 2 ride for me (139 BPM average).  I stayed protected in the peloton and expended very little energy.

The peloton rolled along at 40+ kph, down the highway and then onto a winding country road (without potholes today).  We had a moto escort, but the roads were open and we still had to watch out for cars (and dogs); after all, the peloton was moving fast and took up both lanes when they were clear.  I had a couple of close calls, including a left hand turn with wet pavement, but was able to stay upright.  Overall, the peloton did a good job of calling out cars and taking care of itself.

Then, 57.5km in, there was a car parked on the right hand side of the road.  The first half of the peloton made it through ok.  I was on the right hand side of the road and when I saw what was happening decided that it was best to come to a complete stop.  I safely stopped, upright, and saw a Cycosports bottle roll underneath my bike.  I looked back and saw both Frank and Sofiane on the ground along with several others behind them.  I picked up the bottle to hand back to Sofiane and started to say a word of encouragement; then I see his rear derailleur just hanging there on the chain.  The derailleur hanger had snapped.  There is nothing I can do to help.  I shout to him that the hanger is snapped, hop on my bike and hammer it to get back onto the peloton.  I wind it up and with a couple of minutes, I’m back onto the peloton.  Frank joins me seconds later.

The KOM hill comes some 10km later.  This is my second mistake of the race.  Steven Wong gave specific instructions about the closing seconds of this stage.  The peloton will string out over the hill and after the decent, there will be clusters of riders.  What cluster you get into will determine your finishing time.  In short, get over the hill ASAP, don’t crash on the decent and essentially your finishing place will be determined by the cluster you end up in.  I start the hill at the back of the peloton.  In the first half of the hill, I pass many people.  TOO MANY PEOPLE.  11 minutes and 24 seconds after starting the ascent (according to strava), I crest the hill (side note: If I was further up in the peloton, would I have gotten into a different cluster to finish the race?  maybe yes, maybe no).

It is time for the decent.  We were warned by the race organizers, multiple times, to descend cautiously. I’m in a group of ~ 10 guys and I yell out, at nobody in particular, “BE SAFE”, “RIDE SMART”, “LET’S GET DOWN TOGETHER”.  The hairpin turn filled decent begins.  I think things are going well.  Then, about half way down, I see a guy in front of me have his rear wheel lose contact with the ground.  He stays upright.  A couple of turns later, he loses control and goes over the handlebars and into the ditch.  Two guys (I assume watching him and not their own lines on the road) follow him in.  The decent continues.  One of the Thai guys I’m with yells at a support truck at the bottom of the hill and they spring into action going up to check on the riders.

[side note:  see this video; it is a rear-seat camera of the second guy in the crash – all three who crashed are able to get up – just before the crash, you can see me make an appearance].

After the twisties, the downhill straightens out and it is time to hammer to try to catch any riders in front of us before it is too late.  I find myself in a group of ~ 10+ guys including some locals.  We finish out the decent with 2km at a -5% grade and a speed of 60kph.  Again, AWESOME!

We even have our own support scooter.  I’ll suggest that it was a bit more than a water bottle and wheel scooter as there appears to be a bit of drafting going on.  Not exactly moto pacing, but there was a brief stretch where there were probably less than 5 meters between the scooter and the front of our cluster.  This didn’t last too long.

We see a small cluster in front of us.  I’m feeling really good at this moment.  Nobody else in the group seems like wanting to do a big pull.  Screw it.  I’m at the front, ramp it up and we soon catch the small group in front of us.  I get a pat on the back from a fellow rider.  It’s a smaller group and we likely would have caught them anyways, but it feels great to have been the one pulling our group into the next one.

We have ~ 15km to go.  Overall, there are 20+ riders in our group.  We cannot see the group in front.  So, we settle into a pace.  I’m not cramping, and did I mention that I was feeling great, so I’m happy to repeat my mistake from yesterday and rotate around the front with a handful of other guys while the rest hang on.

At this point, nobody has any idea on how many people are in front of us.  So, the tactics begin, with some hope that podium spots are still available.  The group slows down, the group speeds up.  People are left on the front too long, people next in line don’t rotate through, there are a couple of half hearted attacks but nothing sticks.  With 5k to go, it ramps up then settles down.  Same thing with 3k.  With 1k to go, I find myself on the front again.  MISTAKE.  We are just kind of coasting (as much as you can use that word when you’re going over 45kph).  At 500m, I’m still on the front.  I won’t be able to follow any wheel in for sprint finish glory.  OK then, with no other options in my head, I decide to sprint from the front and hope I’m stronger than the rest.  I stick it in the 11t and ramp it up to 56kph and try to hold on.  For the most part, I do hold on, but believe I’m edged by 1/4 of a wheel or so going over the finish.

We finished strong, but are 2 minutes and 1 second behind our age group stage winners (12 people in the 30s finished with a faster time).  We are the 4th cluster to the finish line.

Overall, the 99km stage is completed in 2h31m05s with an average speed of 39.4kph.  Of the two minutes lost on the age group leaders, approximately one minute is on the climb and one minute is on the decent.

Frank and Ståle come in with the next cluster, less then 2 minutes later.   Sofiane joins soon after in the broom wagon.

Scene 6: Scenario Planning for Stage 3

There are two stages left, but with the last stage being an uphill, stage 3 was going to be moving day (if there was any moving to be done).  Overall, there were 9 ANZA riders in our peloton including the Allied World guys in Open A and Scott Leadbetter, racing Open B (sub 30 year olds).  Stage 3 was profiled as: 62km of FLAT, out and back on a highway followed by 11.5km of a very moderate incline and then 9+km of hills, including 3km of straight up to the finish (the open A and B got a special set of hills after that as well).

To put things succinctly, the goal of any planning would be to get riders with any sort of hope in the GC to the hills with fresh legs, possibly several minutes up on the peloton.  I’ll leave things there.  We decided to sleep on it.  I spend way too much time scenario planning in my head while slowing getting my kit ready for the next morning and go to bed way too late.

stay tuned next week for part two…

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.

Summer Stories

Generated by IJG JPEG LibraryIt seems it has crept up on us again.  The colonies’ schools have broken up and the great Singapore exodus has begun.

So without much ado about nothing, I will wish you all a great summer holidays and leave you with tales of bad luck and perseverance from Colin Robinson.

If any tales of cycling summer holidays should spring to mind over the next couple of months, as always please feel free to mail them to anzacycling.rti.ed@gmail.com

And while you’re away…
Let’s be careful out there.
Andrew

P.S. #Garminfixyourqualityproblemsyourcyclingproductssuck

It never rains but it pours!

umbrella-bicycle-rainLast night saw the 2016 ANZA Cycling AGM take place with what we believe was the largest turnout for an AGM.  We thought it was the controvercial committee membership election then remembered that all positions were uncontested, so we were worried there would be passionate heated debate about adding red and blue as official club colours into the constitution, but nobody objected (although we can only hope we never see red, white, blue, green, black, gold all on one jersey, I mean NEVER!)  And so, the only logical conclusion was that you all came for the free pizza, beer and friendly banter.

Changes from last year’s committee are:
Chris Rawlings – MTB Director
Phil Routley – Road Director

Carmen Fay – Membership Director (a position she took up prior to the AGM taking over from Neridah who has been exiled back to the colonies due to excessive potty mouth)

So, many thanks to outgoing Road and MTB Directors Stafford and Arran for a job well done.

With that said, after the drought of racing and riding news, we have the write up of Don’s personal nemesis, that being the Tour de Bintan.  We also have 3 reports of the 3 days of riding in Taiwan organized by the lovely Ms Gordon #GordonsGetaways.

Read on, and in case you have forgotten,

Let’s be careful out there; and
#dontbeadick

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 1

Introduction By Laura #GordonsGetaways Gordon

Now in it’s second year, Anza Cycling’s annual jaunt to Sun Moon Lake took 18 riders over to Taiwan for the Vesak long weekend. A 5 day, 4 night excursion promising to take in some of the most stunning scenery and epic climbs in the region.

Roping in a few newbies from the passenger manifesto, we managed to persuade scribes Ben ‘I’m not competitive’ Farnsworth, Alex ‘I’m the most sensible’ Theime, and Scott ‘I roll, how I roll’ Leadbetter to put down a few words to describe the North Asia outing.

DAY 1 | Wuling
147km | 3,275m elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/583197761
By Ben Farnsworth

Following a long day of travelling we woke up bright and early and raring to go. After a speedy breakfast (which wasn’t half as bad as the pictures made it out to be – and far better than the Mos Burgers vouchers given out at the grown ups hotel) we met at the support van at 7:30am, ready to embrace what was to be the hardest of all three days of climbing. After gathering up the stragglers and getting the days’ brief out of the way, we grouped together for the obligatory first day ANZA kit photo. We had around 15 ANZA jerseys on show in total, with a couple of outliers from The Mavericks, West Coast Riders and Athlete Lab. [Editor: who are now all fully paid up members!]

There was some grumbling amongst the group and some debate over why the first day should be the toughest day. Personally, I was looking forward to getting stuck in. And once we stopped the debating that is exactly what we did.

We finally rolled out at 7:51am – 21 minutes later than advertised! We set off at an easy pace and then had a nice 15km’s of downhill where even I (with my infamous downhill and cornering skills) managed to hit speeds of in excess of 60km’s per hour.

Next we reached the lower slopes of Mount Wuling, luring you into a false sense of security with easy gradients that then increased over the course of the 50km incline. We had experienced some traffic on the roads but the weather had held out and at this point it looked like it was going to for the rest of the day. The peloton split into two groups and both groups powered on to the first pre-determined check point at Starbucks (47km into the ride). I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Taiwanese roads but I was pleasantly surprised. Their conditions were relatively good; very few potholes, smooth surfaces and generally pleasant to ride on. However, the drivers on the roads, much like in Singapore, didn’t have the best awareness of cyclists – and there were certainly a few near misses on day one.

After a quick rest, coffee/ cake refuel and gathering of warm layers from the supply plan, we all left Starbucks one by one to climb to the summit. An additional 25km of climbing to reach the summit at 3200m

I have never experienced problems exercising at high altitudes before, but I guess I have never exerted myself to that level. At around 2800m I began to feel light headed and found myself having to stop to take breathers and even though my pace slowed significantly it felt I was pushing myself to the max.

I now understand why the Colombians climb the hills so well in the Tour de France

It was also around this point the rain came in – so as opposed to being a nice clear day the views were non-existent and the rain torrential.

Five long hours after setting off that morning, it was with relief that I finally reached the top (This was not a race… but I won!)! Unfortunately the first few to the top also beat the support van! So, despite the freezing conditions (and because of them) we made the call to descend without our dry, warm layers. This made braking very tricky as our fingers were numb and moving them was challenging.

Upon arrival at Starbucks hot coffee was the main order of the day. It took me at least 30 minutes to stop shivering and get my body temperature back to normal.

That was day one over … other than the 10km climb back to the hotel! Although conditions weren’t great we all came away with a massive sense of achievement. I think Scott summed it up nicely for all of us: “THE toughest, most uncomfortable, highest ride I will ever face!”

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 2

DAY 2 | The RECOVERY RIDE
Road to Nowhere | 68km | 1,459m Elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/583808496
By Alex Theime

After Saturday’s brutal climb to Wuling, everyone was looking forward to an easier day in the saddle on Sunday. At just 68km there was reason to be happy to have made it through the previous day and get ready to set off on what is known as the trip’s “Recovery Ride”. Whilst there was plenty of talk of sore legs around the breakfast table at the Tanhui [not so] Modern Hotel, the mood was upbeat at the promise of an easier, scenic ride.

Also known as the trip’s Official Unofficial Rapha Ride, the resident Rapha Ambassador Phil Morris was ready to go bright and early. Suitably happy with riders’ sleeve length, sock length and general Rapha-esque appearance, Captain Morris gave his nod of approval and the group rolled out from the usual meeting point in front of the Hotel del Lago. The ride started out at a steady pace along the shores of Sun Moon Lake, which was great fun as the group pretty much stayed and worked together for the initial km’s, and the rain showers did nothing to dampen the mood.

Once through one of the small lakeside towns, it was a left turn on to a small country road that immediately kicked up to be solid little climb. It became clear very quickly that some (2) in the group may have done some pre-ride Strava analysis (no, Macca was not on the trip), as they shot off the front and were steaming up the hill. Whilst there will be no public shaming here, you’ll be able to find these 2 are now joint Strava KOMs for the segment up Route 63…  [Erm.. Phil Morris???]

After reaching the top of the climb we re-grouped and took a series of obligatory selfies, with Andrew Purcell being dubbed the human selfie stick, before starting off on the descent to Dili township. The narrow and twisting country road plus continued rain fall, required everyone’s full attention on the technical descent. However, this is where Taiwan really started to show off the stunning scenery of this place. Small farming villages dotted the descent mixed with thick jungle and openings to take in views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Once down in the valley and a quick re-group, we headed through the small township of Dili and on to the Road to Nowhere. The stunning scenery continued as the road snaked along a river with mountains on both sides. Given that the road is rarely traveled and in poor condition, it kept everyone very focused on staying upright. In Liam’s case, he was so focused on the road that he introduced himself to the front of a van coming in the other direction. You can hardly blame him though as it was likely the first car to travel along the road in days. After a brief stop to make everything is ok we were all relieved that he was ok and managed to continue on.

The final part of the day brought us to a 15km climb back to Sun Moon Lake. However gradual it may be, it inflicted plenty of pain on some weary legs after the huge ride the previous day. Everyone was more than happy to get through it and back to the hotel for a well deserved beer!

The culinary segment of the trip saw us go to Sun Moon Lake’s finest Italian restaurant later in the evening. With many of the team ordering 2 mains of pasta there was plenty of carb loading in preparation for day 3.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 3

DAY 3 | Mt Yushan | Jade Mountain
165km | 3,070m elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/585177017
By Scott Leadbetter

The weekend so far had been much tougher than expected and absolutely stunning all the same. Day one (Wuling) was a crippler and then day two (err… rest day) was highly brutal at times so going into day three we really had no rest day at all.

The evening before we all enjoyed a carbo loading Italian feast which proved critical and felt like a scene from the last supper. The pros who had done the trip previously were basically hitting us with the low down i.e. it’s as tough as Wuling, it’s a longer day in the saddle and has a total climb of 3,200m. Brilliant.

Before the trip it was always going to be like yeh – come at me!!! I can eat any of this up, however, after 2 days in Taiwan the negatives soon get in to your head and you start thinking, core blimey! Early night it is then post beers, of course, with Ben, Alex, Phil, Laura, Andrew, Liam etc..

Rise and shine it’s butt whipping time. Following breakfast and washing my bike I arrived at the roll off point and was greeted by Ben and Alex…wait… where are the others??!? “You’re late Scott, what’s going on?” Ahh yeh, my bad, sorry. So that was it the two fastest lads were not happy, awkward!

Anyway off we went in our professional three piece rotating ‘chase group’, sun was blazing jersey unzipped, I felt like Geraint Thomas whizzing through the south of France! The weather was fantastic, sun beating down, clear blue sky with the odd fluffy cloud – this is awesome, surely the weather has no chance of changing and this will be with us all day, right? Right?

The route for day three takes the final section of day two out and back again. This segment is a killer, the elevation alone is about 700m of climbing and just seems to never end, absolute torture at the end of a long day in the saddle. At the end of this segment are a pair of tunnels which unofficially marks ‘home’. So off we are chasing the peloton and whizzing through the tunnels to then be greeted with the most enjoyable descent I’ve ever ridden. We soon caught up to a couple of stragglers and then the main group. The descent was bliss, jersey was still undone, long hairpin after hairpin dicing with death and testing each corner to get that extra km/h, such a buzz.

Alex and I soon went for it and met everybody else back at the bottom of the climb, as we were coming towards the end a random dog is just chilled out not a care in the world lying in the middle of the road, close call. There were many obstacles to be aware of on this trip, numerous grids, grates, pot holes, dogs(!) snakes etc all justifiable obstacles that could cause your life to pass before you. Worth it though.

The next section was a long rolling 30km section on one road which formed a pack of us ‘mountain muncher’ Phill Morris, Liam, Alex, Pete and myself. Although this wasn’t a dramatic 3000m ascent or descent the scenery was stunning, up and over we went through a raised road hugging the side of the mountains. Not many words were being exchanged as the pace picked up again.

Benjamin caught up after his suspected cautious descent 😉 and the pace clearly picked up again with him leading the charge. Ben and I broke away slightly with me holding on for dear life. Alas! 7 Eleven appeared, thank you sweet Jesus.

The support vehicle was supposed to meet us here for supplies, EPO, top ups etc, I forgot my salt tablets and could feel cramp rearing its ugly head so the support vehicle couldn’t have arrived sooner. Especially after making it to the top of Wuling only to find it not being there – I was praying that wouldn’t happen again.

“The support car has taken Collin back to the hotel, issue with his rear D so he’s now meeting us at 65km” said an exhausted fellow cyclist. Brilliant. Liam Winston just cycled straight past us deciding not to stop, not the first time this weekend he did this, does this guy eat? Does he drink?

We topped up at 7-Eleven and on we went to commence the main descent up Yushan. Benjamin, Alex and I pedaled away at a nice steady pace, gradually grinding the gears. No words were being exchanged at this point, just sweat, head down and grimace. We could see Liam in the distance as we crossed over a well-engineered swooping bridge. Head down hanging onto both Ben and Alex, I grab a drink, look up and Ben’s just absolutely dropped us.

Alex and I just gave each other that look as in to say, we’re not even bothering to catch him. As I’m sucking Alex’s wheel head over the bars sweating my gonads off, Alex quickly points and shouts – “SNAKE!!” What? Yep, a nice green poisonous snake located right in our line – that certainly woke me up!!

We continued along the ascent and at these points your start asking yourself questions and thinking how high you’re actually going to be climbing. All that was going through my head was salt tablets and water / coke at 65km rendez-vous with the support vehicle.

The climb was stunning and again felt like a grand tour stage so you clearly get into superman mode and believe you’re Alberto Contador taking a stage win. I think this is caused from exhaustion, altitude and a load of sugar. Basically you’re tripping balls and thinking about anything other than your legs, lungs or heart.

We got to the 65km mark and luckily the support vehicle was there, Dennis or Danny or Dave? I can’t remember but he was a big Philippino fella who always put a smile on my face. He always had gifts (when he actually turned up!). Ben was already there waiting, probably had a picnic by the time Alex and I arrived.

Then off Alex shot off to get an early dart, Ben wasn’t having that, equally he followed. Me? I just stayed there and chilled out with big Dennis eating Snickers, chatting dreams. From this point you could look up the mountainside and see the winding roads and Taiwan tunnels still to come, man they were high.

Then Phil, Pete and Liam arrived, we laughed, eat, took selfies then off I went. This was the best section of the weekend for me. I don’t mind cycling on my own and this was just perfect, the gradient wasn’t too challenging and from the 2 previous days I found my legs just felt stiff, like weak pistons. The sun was still shining the scenery was breathtaking, the road conditions were perfect and the traffic was 0. I was just thinking are their bears here?

As I climbed higher it got cooler but still totally fine. Then all of a sudden I see a tunnel pop up out of nowhere, with a pitch black entrance. Surely it’s not pitch black all the way through? I was telling myself, if it was dangerous Ben and Alex would be waiting on the other side or shouting something. Would they though? Really? Probably not.

I had no lights or reflective gear so this made me have a little wobble but bugger it, you go through. This was like a black hole and if there were any bears in this land I was certainly about to find out. The tunnel cornered round and lasted roughly 300m , it was the loneliest most vulnerable 3 minutes of my life. You couldn’t go fast as the floor was mossy and slippery, clearly the last thing you wanted to do was end up bear bait. Anyway I made it.

The climb continued and continued and continued, the climb got colder and colder and colder. I’ve never experienced cycling so high you’re above the clouds and looking down into the atmosphere, incredible. Then eventually at about 70km the heavens started to open. Holy crap, I had no wet weather gear and I knew what was in store on the descent – freezing my gonads off.

Not long after Ben and Alex flew past me on their descent “HOW MUCH FURTHER??” I shouted in a pleading manner. “It’s bloody wet up there mate” was their response. What? But what does that mean? How did they fly past me with 10km still to go?? Clearly they skipped a few km and turned around early 😉

I powered through and eventually got to these 2 trees named brothers and sisters, or mums and dads, one or the other. I was certain this was the peak as we discussed the evening before what to expect. I carried on a bit further and then turned round, it turned out I was short 1 or 2km, wasn’t happy!

Anyway, imagine the feeling when you get to the top of Faber, well I’m not even going to compare the feeling to anything remotely as insulting. This felt like euphoria.

Ohhh shit, I’m feeling cold, very cold – start descending Scott.

As I’m going the rain became harder and harder, you start to worry when you realise you have no spare puncture kit. The descent was a mix of emotions, I was in pain, I was cold, I was seizing up but then as I passed my fellow cyclists climbing up(!) in worse rain conditions – this really put a smile on my face, respecting how strong everyone truly is and how determined we all are. Fantastic and brilliant for comradery.

I was praying Dennis was at the meet point (and hadn’t buggered off), at this point I’d expected to no longer have a phone as it was sure to be saturated from the rain so if he wasn’t there I was going to die. Oh shit here’s that tunnel again, bears and snakes, wet surface – yep I’m going to die.

I got through the tunnel and like a ray of light my main man Dennis is there in his van – legend! After jumping in warming and eating up, he tells me Laura, Ben and Alex are eating 5km away. Where? How can it be? There’s nowhere to eat? It’s just one long painful lonely road? Is he fooling me to stop eating his Snickers? Here we go again altitude making me question life.

Right well if that’s the case Dennis, I trust you brother. Rain jacket on and off I go praying someone is there at 5km time. He wasn’t lying. There was a roadside Chinese style café which was awesome and just what the doctor ordered. I walked in there like a frozen solider and the three of them were there with the smiles I needed. Great to see you!

Following the fried rice and green tea and watching Ben walk through the middle of the owner’s home for a toilet break, we got back on the saddle and continued the descent back to 7-Eleven. Laura and Alex got a head start whilst me and Ben just took our time chatting rubbish, as we caught up we could see Laura at the side of the road looking suspect. As we approached there’s a dog chained up, ahh that explains it. I then just continued my descent and let the animal lover carry on her business.

The four of us regrouped at 7-Eleven had a nice warm coffee and painfully got back on the saddle for a gloomy ride back to the base of the descent we came down earlier this morning. Knowing that was still in store for us was a tough pill to swallow. As it always seemed to be during this trip, no one really waits. By the time I got on my bike Ben, Alex and Laura were long gone, nice one guys. To be fair they’d argue it was a slow pace so luckily I caught them up and we rode back together until…

The heavens did actually crack open BIG time as we approached the long ascent back, it was absolutely lashing it down. I couldn’t actually see without blinking 100mph. and the rain was took form of painful golf balls, brutal it was. Anyway this was my opportunity, Benjamin pulled away and I followed, I knew he wasn’t keen on the descents (especially in the rain) but I also knew he would drop the living daylights out of me on the climb.

I found the moment and off I went, the competitive pair we are it only seemed right. So I genuinely risked my life flying down a few descents and sharp corners in these horrific conditions to finally find myself at the base of the ascent back to Sun Moon Lake. At this point I really am feeling like Wiggins pulling in the final climb and kms to take it home. Off the saddle I got and grit my teeth for 15 minutes or whatever it was, the rain wasn’t stopping it was just getting harder, the water was flooding down the road so it felt like cycling against white water rapids (slight exaggeration).

Every corner I kept looking back thinking where is he, any minute now he’s going to pop up. Luckily I managed to turn the final swoop and there were the glorious tunnels. Welcome back Scott, welcome back. I made it and dropped Ben! Only to find out he had stopped at the bottom of the climb for 10 minutes to wait with Claire – such a gent.

It’s only on the descent where you realise how high you actually pedaled. Looking back I think it’s much easier to conquer these challenges not knowing what lies ahead, next time, if there is a next time knowing the actually route and what I have in store might actually brake me early on! This could probably reflect in other lessons in life. In essence, go for it, even if you don’t know what the outcome will be, take the risk and I’m sure it will be worth it.

The Great KL Getaway (or not!)

Or 6 numpties goes to KL and the rest try to herd them

Or I love Janda Baik so much I want to do it again

//Glen//

Once again the call rang out for expressions of interest in attending a club trip to KL, this time on new roads with new hills but still staying at the unofficial ANZA-clubhouse-on-the-road, the Park Royal Kuala Lumpur. The primary challenge of the weekend was to determine just how much of the club lounge bar can 20 people clean out in 2 hours on a Saturday evening after riding all day. A task taken to with gusto!

Before that, there was the small matter of getting everyone onto the bus on time on the eve of a long weekend during a tropical downpour and Gordon’s Getaways lived up to its reputation for smooth organisation and timing. McDonald’s West Coast Park did a mini rush on lattes and muffins and we were all aboard a mere 10 minutes after the scheduled departure time. Little did we know of the drama about to unfold when we reached Tuas checkpoint for our trip organizer herself.

//Over to Laura//

Super happy to ‘get the show on the road’, we pulled into Tuas checkpoint to clear immigration. I can’t tell you how excited I have been about this trip, given that we had so many newbies to Kuala Lumpur, Don Losi’s marvellous hospitality and #gordonsgetaways.

Like a good-captain on a sinking ship (there’s forewarning there!), I was the last to disembark the coach, and the last in the queue at the e-gates. I was slightly perturbed by the fact that e-gates were not letting me pass and on my third attempt I was told to join the foreigner line, which at this point was 60 people long.

I thought customs were feeling sorry for me when they pulled me into a private room, and told me that if I exited Singapore I would no longer be able to return as a PR.  In fact I would relinquish my PR status altogether if I left as my re-entry permit had expired 7 days earlier. #Numpty1

LAuraSo, rather suddenly and only 47 minutes into the weekend that I had been planning for over 4 months, my trip was cut short. I had to disembark the coach with my bike and my rucksack, saying a rather miserable goodbye to the #gg crew as the officers sent me riding back home solo to Orchard via Jalan Ahmed Ibrahim, which quite frankly puts West Coast Highway to shame.

Sadly on this trip #GordonDoesNotGetaway

I then spent a weekend at the ICA sorting out my Visa status, so I can go on the next #GordonsGetaways my Taiwan Trip!!

//Back to Glen//

After clearing customs and already one rider down before a pedal had been turned, we were fortunate to get a clear road all the way to the Park Royal.

NIK_6820Saturday morning and pre-6am alarms were sounding in time for breakfast and a planned 7am roll-out for destinations unknown to most of us. We gathered in the lobby for some last minute instructions from our in-house guide and host, Mark “Don” Losi before setting out on a smooth and incident free 20km of easy group riding towards Genting Sempah where the trip’s first climb loomed. For the uninitiated, Genting Sempah is around 600m of climbing over a distance of 15.5km – not particularly steep, but very long for those that only have Mount Faber or NTU as a training ground for mountains.  The best part is it is only 35km from the hotel lobby to the summit, so those of you planning mountainous adventures, this is one of your best options [I did laps of Sempah in training for L’Etape du Tour a few years ago 😉 Ed.].

NIK_6842The wise group members settled in for a tempo ride to the top, each at their own comfort level, while a few (including yours truly) decided to have a bit of a crack and test the legs. Genting Sempah is very pretty with lots of shade, a great road surface, jungle everywhere and occasional stunning views out over the Southern Titiwangsa mountain range that are definitely worthy of a quick photo stop. Such a stark difference to the constant urban/industrial/concrete jungle of Singapore. After 15-20 minutes of climbing, our initial group of 4-5 was down to 2 and then with about 5km to go, it came to pass that my daily commutes to Tuas were no match for the climbing legs of Phil who was riding very strongly, fresh from his recent exploits in South Africa. Mr Routley took first blood in the unofficial climber’s cup for the trip.

NIK_6956After a regroup at the summit, we descended towards Janda Baik, a picturesque 15km loop through a kampong area of rolling hills, small villages, simple small scale farming and rural living. The vehicular obstacles of Singaporean roads had given way to the occasional dog, small groups of wandering chickens and a free roaming cow that had left the odd deposit on the bitumen for us to navigate; all a welcome confirmation of having escaped the rat race for the weekend. We paused for a quick Kopi at a roadside stall with handy bike racks for everyone’s choice of kopi peng, ice milo or calamansi juice.

NIK_6959Not long after, the group split with the less adventurous [we had plenty of adventures and a scenic trip back to the hotel. Ed.] heading back towards KL on a 9km climb, while those intent on more miles headed for a famed ayam bakar eatery just beyond the township of Bentong on a long, mild descent through the jungle. Of course confusion reigned as to the specific location of the restaurant for lunch, but we did find a signposted ikan bakar place with a load of motorcycles outside and thankfully it turned out to be the right one when our faithful guide who had been following the back of the group showed up with the last arrivals. Quite simply the food was wonderful, it may have helped that we had around 100km in the legs by this point, however the lemang (glutinous coconut milk rice cooked inside bamboo over charcoal for 4-5 hours) and ayam bakar (bbq chicken) was worth the trip alone.

By now the heat was beginning to take its toll and we still had a choice to make. Do we ride the 20km detour to visit the Chamang waterfall, or do we make a beeline for the 30km climb we still had in front of us to get back to the summit of Genting Sempah? A bit of friendly banter and the decision was made with Hilke and Liesbeth basically telling the guys to #HTFU and get on with it. It turned out that Macca had done some pre-trip strava research and he was targeting the segment out to the waterfall anyway, so he took off using the live segment feature of his Garmin to pace his effort and secure the KOM! While it was definitely hot, and would be certain to exact some toll on the legs for later, it was an inspired decision to do the side trip to Chamang as we all enjoyed a very pleasant 15 minutes of cooling down the legs in the stream, a very welcome respite from the 38 degree heat of the day.

WaterfallRefuelled once again from the boot of Mr Losi’s trusty Mercedes, I noted a few of the riders lightening themselves of unnecessary spares and phone pouches (the support car is following us, so it’s always right there if needed right?) in advance of the long climb ahead. Thinking this was a sign of a pending smashfest up the climb, I too handed over my excess pocket contents in preparation for what was to come.

We pointed the bikes in the direction of Genting Sempah and set off on the 30+km climb that gradually gets steeper until it hits around 15% in the last km. Well at least that was what everyone else did, I however had a point to prove after the morning’s climb, so I’d struck out ahead of the bunch alone and for some reason took an ill-advised left turn only 20 something kilometers into the climb resulting in me riding back to Janda Baik. By the time I stopped to confirm I was on the wrong route at an intersection, I’d ridden 7.5km from the turn, only to have my fears realized when a store keeper told me that the way I’d come from was the fastest way to Genting Sempah #Numpty2.

This was going to be fun!  I was now way off course, with no money, no spares, no phone and no idea how to get back to the hotel once I was off the main road.  The chase was on! I figured I was probably 15km behind the last rider by now, but I also knew the group would stop for an ice-cream after descending Genting Sempah, so I had a chance to catch them there. Mountain ITT here we go! In short, it hurt a lot trying to chase down a bunch of riders that thought I was somewhere ahead of them. Up a mountain and down the other side; I didn’t get to enjoy any of the scenery this time, it was pure fear of being lost in KL that drove me on.  The ice-cream stop came and went, no sign of the group.  Signs read 17km to KL, then 14, then 12, still no group and the roads were starting to feel unfamiliar.

Finally I caught a glimpse of some helmets and flashing tail lights in the distance between cars and I’d made it back to the bunch with 1cm of water left in my second bidon.  A planned 181km had become 196, of which 55 were completely solo by the time we reached the hotel. I was smashed [What!  You didn’t do a couple of laps of the hotel to make the 200km? Ed.]

Perhaps the best part of attending an ANZA club trip is the chance to get to know your fellow club members a bit better off the bike, something very easily done when the club lounge is running an open bar and a smorgasbord of pre-dinner nibbles for 2 hours. ANZA has always had a mix of accents, a wide range of cycling experience and both fresh arrivals and long term island state residents in the club, but for some reason this trip seemed to be even more eclectic than usual, it was an evening to enjoy getting to know some new faces. The beer fridge was completely emptied out, reinforcements were delivered and they too were consumed along with plenty of tall stories as we relived the day’s ride in ever increasing colour as the evening progressed. Some chose to continue the banter over pizza at a nearby eatery, while others found sleep a far too attractive proposition – including me.

//John//

Lost:

What of the short group I hear you ask, well that all went a bit pear shaped as on departing the coffee shop the sugar rush of the (well) sugar with a dash of milo must have short circuited my brain.

I thought I was in the front group so after 10 minutes I pulled over to take some photos and wait for Liesbeth and Hilka as us MTB crew stick together. So when I saw the sweeper van it dawned on me I may have slightly misjudged the situation.  Feeling fresh and ready for the full 180km that day I chased the group and quickly got to a T-junction where I caught up with Ruth.  Where we should have taken a right turn to take us back to Genting Sempah, we decided to go left #Numpty3and4.  Perhaps it was the enjoyment of the Kopi and Milo Peng that sub-consciously made us want to repeat the entire Janda Baik loop.  So, after a nice long decent and recognising the coffee shop we had left 25 minutes earlier we realised it had all gone a bit Pete Tong [For those of you lacking in education of the finer aspects of East London language, you may want to consult this link. http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/slang/pete-tong  Ed.]

Climbing back up took a bit longer and being the gentleman I am I thought I better stick with Ruth in case of any mechanicals.  We were saved by Jules who had been instructing the sweeper van in its search of the Malaysian countryside in search of the two lost souls.

By then all my hopes of joining the 180km group had evaporated and I had to call an early bath and head back with the 110km group.  I proceeded to pull the group back [ignoring] to many cries of “steady up” due to a little bit of pent up frustration.  Still it was a great day andand the sweet potato stop at the bottom of McDonald’s Hill powered me home.

//Rachel//

After finding the 2 lost souls sitting under a tree refuelling on roasted sweet potato, we made the final ascent of McDonalds hill (no McFlurry’s in sight).  For those who have been in Singapore too long or are relatively new to climbing, despite being short this was definitely the most challenging part of the day and for some, it was a lesson in what ‘having the right cassette’ really means!  This was also the point where the dreams of riding Taiwan, or Mt Ventoux quickly faded for some of us novices [Don’t put that dream away, just file it for later, Ed.]

Some of the group enjoyed the long fast descent among the trees to regroup before our final 20km back through the streets of KL. After such a great day of climbing, touring and enjoying the villages it is hard to imagine the drama still to come.  Tour leader, Andrew felt we hadn’t been on the bike long enough and that we should all get to experience the joys of riding through the traffic and back streets of KL. The extra stress, pain and heartache was worth every penny for the obligatory photo of the petronas towers!

While doing the obligatory u-turn (which all privately guided tours of KL require), the group stumbled across a poor man who had been struck by a mysterious scooter/car/fallen out of car.  No one watching the poor man had any idea how he came to be lying in the middle of a packed street with injuries we suspect to be from being hit by a car/scooter.  Being dutiful citizens we showed the nurses, who were standing by watching, what real nursing is all about! Malaysia Truly Asia! No one knew anything about nursing and there was no urgency in making sure he was ok.  Thankfully by the time we left, the ambulance had arrived and he was moving and starting to come round.

We were not sure the support vehicle appreciated the numerous detours but to his credit, despite every effort made to lose the driver, he managed to appear from nowhere to finally guide us in the direction of the hotel.

DuraAceWith sounds of relief we roll up the side walk.  A simple U-turn into the driveway of the hotel was all that remained to be negotiated, with calls to navigate carefully over the hazardous grate at the entrance to the hotel.  It must have been the smell of beer or relief at getting off the bike, that a momentary lapse in judgement, led to an expensive and spectacular fall from grace for one of the group.  Much to the delight of the taxi drivers and concern from fellow cyclists (some would say more for the written off wheel set, than for the cyclist himself).  Having parked the front wheel in the grate as if to use it as a cycle rack, our poor fellow cyclist teetered and fell sideways #Numpty5.  The sound of cracking carbon still fuels my nightmares to this day and the taxi drivers are still talking about it!

For any of you teetering on the edge of thinking you aren’t fast enough/strong enough to come away for a cycling weekend with some badass riders,  I have to say, do it!  This weekend was a great mix of ability and speed. The rides allowed the fast ones to win the strava segments, but also allowed us slower cyclists to enjoy the scenery, go at our own pace and push ourselves to our own limits.  Mark and the Mercedes were the icing on the cake.  Spoilt by a car boot of water, coke, bananas 100plus, cyclists couldn’t ask for more!

//Back to Glen for day 2//

Gathering in the lobby before 7am on Sunday morning with tired legs from the previous day’s exploits, the group was looking a bit apprehensive. Another 90+ km of new routes lay ahead and there would be another 4 decent climbs to negotiate. Talk of 7% for 3km suddenly took on a new meaning for those who hadn’t previously understood quite what that meant the day before.

The day’s route took in quiet, scenic and very low traffic roads to Ampang lookout (3.2km in length, 4.2% average), Bukit Hantu (3.4km and 6% average with parts over 10%), Genting Perez (9km at 3%) and back over Ampang lookout from the Eastern side (4km at 4%). The warmups of Ampang and Hantu had everyone working up a sweat, but the undeniable highlight of the day had to be the climb and decent of Genting Perez where the majority of the road was on brand new tarmac that had been laid so smoothly that it could have been a formula 1 track. Coming down I couldn’t help but simply let gravity do the work and enjoy the seemingly endless flowing curves.

NIK_7335We re-grouped at the bottom and headed for a great little family run kopi tiam with bike racks out the front (Singapore cafe’s could really learn something here!) for a quick refuel. The traffic was picking up in the late morning, so the return journey towards Ampang NIK_7354-2lookout was definitely busier than on the way out. We were all lined out single file on a narrow section of road when mid group, Matt hit a hole and swerved to the right due to his front brake jamming on.  If not for his assured bike handling I’m sure a number of us would have hit the deck, but thankfully nobody did. Onward to the last climb of the trip and the sun was beating down mercilessly. My garmin read 38.9 degrees as we worked our way up the quite exposed climb back to the lookout. It was hot, and there was little shade to shelter in once at the summit regrouping point – but in what seems to be a reliable occurrence on any ride no matter where you are in Malaysia, an ice-cream vendor on his trusty motorbike appeared out of nowhere to provide us all with unexpected extra sustenance.NIK_7351

A few obligatory photos and we were on our way when Carmen managed to get the only flat among the group for the trip just 500m into the final decent – thankfully it wasn’t further down the hill in a steeper section where it would have been a lot more interesting to handle! Mr Losi was on call with a track pump and after locating an errant piece of glass in the tyre, we were rolling again to catch the rest of the group for the uneventful roll into KL and the poolside lunch awaiting us in the hotel.

An hour of eating, drinking and chilling and it was time to board the bus for the return to Singapore after a great weekend of roughly 300km of riding and new friendships made. Once again, thanks to the pre-trip organization of Laura and extra-mile support of our host, Mark for ensuring everything ran like clockwork.

//Mystery Writer//

After clearing passport control at Tuas my bags were in the scanner when out of the corner of my eye I saw the customs officer leap out of her chair like she had just won the jackpot at MBS. She excitedly pointed at my bag as it exited the equipment. Mmmm… Anyway apparently there’s an issue in bringing Tiger back to Singapore #Numpty6 and I was promptly led away for interrogation. After every single document I had was photocopied in triplicate I was taken to the senior customs officer who proceeded to give me an extremely interesting talk about the nuances of the duty free allowance for different ports of entry. This spellbinding lecture was interrupted when Jas phoned to find out if I needed bail. After the call was over I explained to the official that the ANZA riders were waiting outside in the bus and he said “oh in that case you’re free to go if you pay the $4.45 duty”. I did so and was hastily escorted to the bus. I am not certain why he had such a sudden change of heart and released me, but I suspect that he knows Glen and was feeling some sympathy for me and the rest of our group after spending 48 hours with him.