Category Archives: Ride Reports

Broken Ubers, Hot Roads and Mystery Sausages | Mersing 2017

Day 1 (Chas)
The day started badly from an anecdote point of view, with all 21 riders boringly turning up at the correct ferry terminal at the allotted time. Luckily Ed Yue’s Uber driver added a bit of excitement by driving into a wall straight after dropping him off, all in front of the assembled masses.
Two hours, two immigration checks and a bumboat ride later we were in the Malaysian town of Pengerang, ready to start the 180km ride to Mersing. Within another twenty minutes the group was off course and waiting for the first puncture of the day to be repaired; luckily this was only due to a brand new road smoothing our journey to the east coast, notwithstanding the odd piece of tyre-piercing grit. Amazingly it was the only puncture of the day. 
The first rest stop was at Desaru, 50km up the road. Whilst we discussed the risk of our food being stolen by nearby monkeys, we attacked the piles of bananas and banana bread in the back of the support van like a… troop of monkeys.
Suitably replenished, we broke up into a Fast Group and a Faster Group. The latter idea might not have been sensible during the middle of the day on a road with no shade and the mercury pushing into the late 30s, but it did mean the kilometres absolutely flew past. Duncan Begg did much of the pulling on this sector, before revealing that he would be heading out to an offshore island rather than returning with us, hence had no need to conserve his energy for the following day.
Many of us were spent in mind and body by the time we reached the next stop. At least I think that was why we had the worst ever game of Guess the Film; Pat’s clue of “That Australian film with the blond actor” being possibly the worst ever description of a specific Russell Crowe film.
With a few of the back-markers beginning to wobble across the road, the pace slowed as the rolling hills became rolling; eventually rain arrived to cool us down and take our mind off the remaining kilometres, and to put us in the mood for some even cooler beers upon arrival in Mersing.
After eating most of the food in an excellent Chinese restaurant, and discussing the virtues of putting Vaseline above one’s eyes to divert sweat beads to either side (!), some turned in to rest for the next day’s exertions; others retired to the hotel bar for a little more carboloading. The hotel TV was of course playing “The Nice Guys”, that same Russell Crowe film.
– Chas
Day 2 (Ned and Becky)
As the sun rose over Mersing on Sunday morning, 22 of ANZA’s elite stepped out of their chambers on quivering legs. Fuel was required for the day ahead (although not for Duncan who had bravely decided to spend the rest of the weekend on a nearby tropical island…) and no one knew what form this first, most civilized meal of the day would take. Down in the dining room a groups of lycra-clad, stripey tanned pedal-pushers tucked into what can only be described as culinary triumph! Picture the scene from Beauty and the Beast where Belle was entertained and thoroughly nourished by Lumiere’s house staff and you will not be too far from the Havanita hotel’s hospitality… Mystery meat sausage, performance pancakes and giant, previously warm baked beans offered all the victuals necessary for our valiant travelers. Needless to say, the optional hard-boiled egg was taken by few as digestion needed no further challenges this day.
Bottles were filled, tyres pumped, “Rolling” was called and once again the train pulled out of the station. Our bodies moved in seemingly the only way we knew how; calm and serene from the waist up but spinning like crazy down below! With the sun on our backs we headed out, the undulating terrain reminding us of the miles journeyed the day before. The peloton naturally split into a cruisey group and a less than leisurely octet. Ed sadly missed the divide and put in an extra hard shift which he hadn’t planned for. Needless to say he endured well but was gladly welcomed back into the chase group at the next ice-cream stop…
Some notable events throughout the bulk of the ride were being introduce to Malaysia Police Force’s newly established Anti Cycling 2-a- breast Division and the compositions of Liesbeth’s, soon to be smash hit, “Mercy, Mercy Mersing” song. (Now available on iTunes).
More cycling happened before hitting Struggle Street. Our previously smooth road had transformed into the surface of the moon. This alone didn’t deter the ANZAnians however the increased traffic and volume of log-bearing heavy ass vehicles was enough to reduce our twos-up soiree into a single file cong(a)lomerate.
This continued until Johor Bahru where we were greeted by one final manmade mountain. This flyover was like nothing we have in Singapore. If conquered, it’s sheer length and elevation alone would be enough to achieve a steady stream Strava Kudos well into your twilight years. This final obstacle was met with reluctant enthusiasm from most and a traffic-defying gel stop at its summit by Martyn!
I am very pleased to report that all who started, finished (except Duncan ;-p), we all had a super-awesome time and I would like to thank all who helped to organise for their efforts. We are sure we speak for all when we say that this trip has been an absolute highlight of our time in Singapore so far and we are looking forward to many more!
– Ned & Becky
Photos below

Rapha Prestige Chiang Mai | “The hardest century ride I have ever done”

A Photo Blog By: Peter Williamson

When Arran and Jorgen finished their Friday warm up ascent of Doi Suthep, strava told them a little story. Their yet to be met team-mate Natalie, climbed it in almost half of the time they had just taken. In fact, she had been QOM until a couple of days previous. Great substitution Donna!

 

We should have twigged then that when she said she had ridden the course in reverse and there were a few steep climbs and it was likely to be muddy and hot that she was a mistress of understatement…

Now it’s out there on YouTube for the world to see thanks to our friend the Durianrider and his camera.. ‘the hardest century ride I have ever done’… with cameos from your very own Anza teams.

The first 40 km were a delightful meander thru the beautiful Thai country lanes with optimistic trains of riders in their new very colourful new Rapha team clothes. This totally took your mind off what was to come. Teams of 4 at two minute intervals were bunching up as enthusiastic riders stretched their legs.

As summed up by the Durianrider… “this is f.. epic man” … “this is the hardest century ride I have ever done”  … but better still watch it.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB_4UVlLRhQ

We hit our first climbs on first class roads and settled in to our own rhythms…these seemed long and hard .. but its all relative. Quite a lot of people were starting to walk or help weakest team members. This is well before the turn on to a minor concrete road at 60km. Then it started.. into the national park we go…

Grooved concrete on the uphill, severely broken concrete rattling your teeth and stretching your brakes on the very steep downhills… Now if we are making all these descents does that mean anything?

You betcha! Sharp ascents steep enough that conventional cars would be struggling to get up them. My compact crank and 11/27 setup was not going to make it without continual zig zagging… which meant the fastest way to the top was direct via shanks’ pony… prompting the Durianrider in his you tube to comment that he” didn’t know Trek and Moots made prams”. He was on a 22/40 setup… and as he described it ‘Frooming’. From my memory Jorgen said he saw up to 28% on his strava.

Oh yes… plus mud, gravel, sand. Bike handing was a constant challenge for 40km.

And then the real climbing started! Blah!… in 40 plus degrees with over 100 very hard kilometres in the legs… “see how you go son” “come to Chiang Mai and I will show you some climbs’ claims the Durianrider.

The long ‘police box climb’ might not have quite averaged in the teens but the immediately following  7 steps (switchbacks) was well into the teens… which left Arran ready to have more than words with the organisers. Is that the sign of a successful Rapha ride?

The Durianrider points out that even with his light weight and extreme cadence he was having to pump out over 300 watts to get up these very long very steep climbs… but at least the roads were decent again.

If my Garmin says I was descending in the high 70’s you can be sure the Jorgen’s was registering well in to the 80’s.

Another 30km down the valley and into a hot and sticky Chiang Mai saw the two ANZA teams home hours before anybody else and knocking a good hole in the beer supply. Around 7 hours on the bike. and certainly, more than half an hour pushing the pram. Natalie didn’t bring a pram!

Well after dark teams were still straggling in. Yup there were a few prangs and some broken bones. This was road bike handling at the extreme.  Last words to the Durianrider… “i reckon that’s the hardest Rapha ride in the world… if anybody knows a harder one let me know”

I will be back … with a 22/40 and having learned ‘Frooming’ properly.

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

Last minute Spring Classics Holiday! A tale of 2 cyclo-sportives

By: Stephanie Lim

Background: 

I found out in January that I would have a 4 day work trip to Pau, France (located just north of the Pyrenees’). I managed to stretch the work trip out to a 3 weeks (the cycling is really good around there) and then realized it also timed perfectly with my 2 favourite bike races, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlanderen) and the Paris-Roubaix. I took an additional week’s leave and signed up to the sportives, without really thinking about it or knowing what to expect (sometimes I make impulsive decisions). After 2 weeks of “training”/riding around the mountains and hills of Pau and one week of conferencenetworking/heavy drinking, I was ready. 

The Tour of Flanders Sportif

I travelled to Ghent the day before the cyclo-sportif. I met up with Adam, a cyclist from my SPR, my previous Perth cycle club (who I’d never met before) and we talked strategies over dinner. He planned to do the 200km ride, whereas I had signed up for the 140km mid-distance Flanders cyclo-sportif. We both planned to ride to the start in Oodernarde, a town about 25km south of Ghent. The next morning I set off by myself with ominous grey skies looming overhead (Belgium = rain). I got 2km down the road where I passed a group of cyclists loading bikes into a van and decided to stop and ask if they had space for one more. They didn’t really, but were happy to squeeze me in, letting me hitch a ride and save me a ride in the rain. Winning.

After helping them park, I set off on the biggest cyclo-sportif I had ever done. The Tour of Flanders Sportif had sold out with15,599 riders and it was brilliant. The weather cleared, there was always a wheel to follow and people were relaxed and enjoying the ride. I saw mostly road bikes, a few mountain bikes, some electric bikes and heard rumours of a penny farthing. The other grand fondos I’d ridden had all been races so toodling along at my own pace in the glorious Belgian sunshine was a revelation. I was wearing my ANZA kit and it was a conversation starter. I got lots of “hello, you’re from Singapore?” and then “wait, you sound very Australian…” and it was great. About 10 km in, after a bit of the same chat with some Australians, I got a “Solo Australian female? You can ride with our tour group if you like! It’s led by Stuart O’Grady…” and that’s how I came to ride the Tour of Flanders with a past Paris-Roubaix winner. Double winning.

The day was great. Stuart was great to talk to, the quintessential Australian, everyman’s bloke, loves beer and had all sorts of cycling tidbits about riders and the course (he also did back-wheel skiddies while descending at 50kph). The cobbled climbs were challenging, the descents fun and rolley, and I was well paced with the middle-aged men in the group (and Stu, who realistically hadn’t ridden a bike in 4 months). The Belgians also know how to put on a sportif with each feed stop having pumping DJs and a variety of food and mechanical services.

The day finished with beers and frites and more beers and fritesetc etc, and I hitched a ride home with Stu’s group who I then met later for dinner and more beers. Flanders was super-great. 

Review: Would ride again. 

Ronde van Vlanderen

The next day I went to watch the race. At Flanders, both the men and women race on the same day and in the morning before the women’s race, I met Jessica Allan, an Orica-Scott rider from my home town, Perth. The start of the women’s race was a real buzz and it was wonderful to see so many people out supporting women’s racing. After the start, Adam and I rushed off to the Kweremont, a 3km climb which the women rode up once and the men 3 times. 

The Kweremont was a great place to spectate from, and again, the Belgian’s know how to organise a bike party/cycling race; and there were DJ’s, big screens, food stalls and plenty of beer. We had jumped the first barriers and were located right on the cobbles, along with spectators from all around the world. Watching the pros power up cobbles repeatedly was humbling. The day before I had slowly ground my way up the Kweremontin my easiest gear but the pros? Big ring, pain face and repeat climbs – great watching.

The Paris-Roubaix Sportif

After a week filled with Belgian chocolate and beer, I travelled south to Roubaix for the Paris-Roubaix. I initially wasn’t planning to ride the sportif, but a friend persuaded me that I’d be fine, and I believed in his unfounded confidence in my abilities and signed up. After all, it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunityto ride the same final 172 km that the pros ride, complete with 52km of cobbles (I obviously didn’t think it through). And because misery loves company, I persuaded my friend Colby to join me (his wife thought we were crazy – she was right). Doubt started to creep in as we picked up our race packs. There were fewer women at this event than I’d ever seen at a cycling event, maybe 1%? Women are generally sensible, perhaps I am not being sensible…

The day started out foggy and 5 degrees and after 10km we hit the first cobbles, the 3 star, 2.2km Troisville à Inchy. This was nothing like the smooth, reliable cobbles of Flanders. The Northern French farmers had obviously placed each cobble specifically to inflict the maximum amount of pain and I bounced around like a cork in a thunderstorm. Don’t hold the bars too tight, but don’t let go, keep pedalling, pick your line… I felt like I was small enough to float over the Flanders cobbles but Roubaix cobbles were brutal. The second set of cobbles was worse, the Viesly à Quiévy included a cobbled descent and it was bloody terrifying. Don’t brake!! Keep your line! I tried to hold my line on the crown so I didn’t die in the surrounding cobbled potholes on either sides. Turns out, when you stop pedalling from terror, you slow down, and when you slow down the cobble-induced pain is enough to jolt you back into pedalling again (in my defence, the following day the pros crashed badly on the same cobbled section so I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating). Anyway, I made it through; 2 sections down, only 28 to go – it was going to be a looong day.

 

I soon learned to seek out every gutter available. I rode on everything, dirt, gravel, sand, grass shoulders, anything for a little relief from the horrendous cobbles. Why was I even doing this? What kind of sadist was I? Anyway, my CX skills definitely came in handy. At around 70km I reached the 10thcobbled section, the famed Trouvee d’Arenberg. No gutters, no relief, you’re supposed to just power through cobbles like a serious cyclist but really, maintaining power over 2.4km of 5 star cobbles is a joke (and a very bad one). Section done, only another 100km to go! At each feed stop we regrouped, complained about the cobbles, and laughed/cursed at how stupid we were to have signed up for this sportif – it was that kind of day.

 

By the 19th segment of cobbles I was kind of getting the hang of it. 10 segments to go, I was inspired – 50km left? That’s practically almost finished! The last 50km was a bit of a blur, more enjoyable than the first 120km but by far the best part of the entire day was entering the velodrome for a lap at the finish! Hurrah! Finished!

 

I’m pretty sure I only finished the event due to sheer tenacity. That and my friend Colby who let me follow his wheel over the whole 172km (he’s a good bloke). All those photos of me smiling? That’s me laughing at my own Most of me never, ever wants to do that ever again. a very tiny part of me wants to come back and better it “now that I know how” (those last 10 sections were much better than the first 19!) but luckily I live very far away and that probably won’t happen. 

 

The next day, I watched the pros ride the Paris-Roubaix and drank beers at Arenberg, which was much, much better. And now, when I watch the 2016 Matty Hayman video where he says the Paris-Roubaix is his favourite race I think he has problems. 

 

Positives: I can now can hit every road bump and grate in Singapore and scoff “you call that a bump?”

Negatives: All the cobbles. ALL OF THEM. It really is called the hell of the North for a reason (correctly advertised). 

 

 

Tour de Phuket – My first multi-day road race

by Andrea Ferschl

After missing the Masters Tour of Chiang Mai last October due to injuries I was keen on competing in another multi-day race. Since I don`t like Bintan ( I don`t know why), Phuket seems to be the perfect choice: not too long, I knew a few roads, and, for me, the best one, it is hilly!

So I signed upand was very happy that a big ANZA group, especially from my weekly Kranji 35, had also decided to race TdP. We did a few great training rides like Phil’s Hills ATI/ Southern Bumps/ RRR and I tried to train regularly on Faber to get at least a few meters of altitude.

So after all the preparations and packing the bikes, arranging the temporary accommodations of our daughters and being petrified to run out of gels Martin and I started off on a great weekend.

TdP Prologue, 5km ITT

After arriving at the Race Hotel and building up the bikes we had just enough time to grab some food before heading off on the 8km to the start line at Phuket Gateway. We weren`t in a hurry and so the whole Cat 3 group did a slower course recce all together. As we left the Gateway and turned right to the first and longest straight, I felt the wind and was very pleased to have my clip-on bars on. The course was great (besides the wind), there were only two turns slowing you down, and to the finish line you had a little “climb“ up, so it was perfect for me.

Now the waiting for the starts began, and that`s when my heart rate usually reaches the top (yes, I`m absolutely sure, my heart rate during a race will never be as high as before!). I wished Martin good luck, who started 20 min before me, and tried to calm down, but since I had never done an ITT before, it wasn`t very successful. I wanted to be very fast, as fast as I can, but how fast will this be? And is it faster than the other women?

At 15:02 my time had come, and I started not too fast to make sure I did a safe right turn. Heading down the long straight road I quickly found my “triathlon” rhythm, so I just had to remind myself to go as fast as I could and not to save energy for a run afterwards. Soon I passed the woman who started 1min before me, so I was sure I was not too slow. At the two tricky turns I may have lost a few seconds, but my priority was to stay ON my bike, so I didn`t care about that. In the last meters I pushed myself a little bit more, and after 6 minutes, 42.1 seconds I crossed the finish line.

Surprisingly, my time put me in 1st place of the women´s Cat (even 9 seconds faster than Luo Yiwei from the SCF Team, but later she decided to get in Cat 2 and didn`t count any more for the women´s Cat), and was 7th fastest in Cat 3 overall! I was very happy to get my first yellow jersey, but additionally I was very very proud of my fast hubby, who finished 3rd and got his podium, too!

After the podium ceremony we slowly rolled back to hotel, grabbed one, two or some even three ice cream on the way and the evening ended with a lot of food and beer (and for most of us with a lot of waiting for food and beer) in the hotel restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TdP Stage 2

The second day started with an early and nervous breakfast at 6am, and although I wanted to get enough calories for the day.  Starting in yellow wasn`t good for my stomach and so I ended up with a little bowl of muesli and a half of a little muffin. At 6:30 we all rolled down to Phuket Gateway again, and after some photo shots and with the ominous feeling of doing poorly because of my tiny breakfast the 140km stage started with a 7.4 km neutral roll-out.

Then, after maybe 20km, the pace picked up and some riders started half hearted attempts to break-away, but nothing serious happened and the peloton stayed together until we reached the first KOM at the 69km mark. In the kilometers before I had managed to get into second position, and after a lot of rolling hills the KOM started. I pushed and pushed, and I saw Tim and Phil right beside me,  and suddenly and much earlier than expected I saw the line on the road and realized- that was it. That was it? This steep but short climb?? Ok, don`t complain about it, still 70km to go!

On the bottom of the hill we were a nice little group with only one other woman, Jaqueline from the Matadors (a Suisse woman who got 2nd in the ITT, only 25s behind me). Unfortunately shortly after this downhill ride we were misdirected, and the others were able to close the gap. That`s when I got the news, that Ian unfortunately crashed on the way down and also one of the other women came off her bike, but nobody knew if they were injured or why they fell.

The next 40km was a nice steady pace with the temperature rising, but I still felt very confident and my plan, just to stay with the other women and therefore in yellow, seemed to work. At 109km the second KOM starts, and this one was longer, steeper and at the end I was first woman, but I didn`t manage to catch up with the bunch of guys in front of me, including Tim and Phil. That was my biggest mistake of the day, because behind me were only Jaqueline and another rider and then, as long as I could see, nobody else. Soon we were a tiny group of 3, still 30km to go, the sun was burning down, and also my biggest rival was with me.  And Jaqueline obviously had fresher legs, because she pushed from the moment they had caught me.

A little bit further the guy dropped, and suddenly I lost all my confidence; my legs hurt and began to cramp, it was too hot for me and the never ending rolling hills were killing me.  Jaqueline went off, and soon there was a 50-100m gap was between us. I became really desperate, but forced myself to drink and eat to get rid of the cramps. I started thinking: did I ride 110km in this heat to loose my yellow jersey in the last 20km, even without a struggle? And, additionally, will I really go 20km to the finish line on my own?? NO, NO,NO! So in an act of black despair I pushed all-out to close the gap, and then, after another “climb” and a fast downhill ride, I caught her. She didn`t look strong any more, so we decided to help each other to finish. A bit later we passed Tim, but when I asked him for help, his short and exhausted answer was “Can not“, so we rolled on. Then, with maybe 10km to go, suddenly Apinya (a young Thai woman, 4th in the prologue) appeared from nowhere and tried to pass us, and from that point on we had no fun at all. And just when I thought it couldn`t get worse, the race changed to a TTT, but with the difference that Apinya, in front, was surging ahead and Jaqueline and I were trying to slow her down.  The only good thing was that Apinyas mobile drink support supported us too. Thanks a lot to these nice and gentle guys!

The last kilometres hurt like hell, and since I saw the 140km mark on my Garmin, I was hoping for the sign-posted last 1km, but it didn`t show up! Apinya gets faster and faster, we were struggling hard to stick with her, and then, after 147km, we finally reached the sign.

Now the sprinting and chasing started, but the moment I stood up my legs cramped almost everywhere and I knew there’s no chance for me. I just tried to loose as little time as possible, and then I crossed the finish line as 3rd, totally spent and cramping.

In the end I lost only 3 seconds and was still first woman overall, Apinya won the stage after a fantastic chase and I got the blue jersey for winning all KOMs, but I wasn`t sure how I could survive day 3.

After showering and a nice (for me) and painful (for Martin) massage I regained my confidence and planned, to win at least the first KOM the next day to get the blue jersey, the rest will come (or not).

TdP, Stage 3

The third day started no better than the second, it was much to early to eat and my stomach revolted again and even though it was a kind of routine I was even more nervous than the day before.

Rolling down to Phuket Gateway, my legs surprisingly didn`t feel too bad, and after a short briefing we started again with a 7km neutral roll-out. Until the first KOM at the 34km mark our reduced Cat 3 Team (the luckily not injured Ian had left us the evening before because of his broken fork and TC didn`t feel well) did very good work for Tim and me (big thanks especially to Cam and Martin!), so we reached the KOM in good condition and could both win our category.

Afterwards, the Peloton split into two bigger groups and a few smaller, but Apinya and Jaqueline were still in the first group with me. Now 50km rolling hills were waiting for us, and sooner than the day before I reached my „no-more-power“-point, as we had to ride a hilly and curvy road with a rough surface and a lot of big potholes. I struggled with getting dropped, and Jaqueline and Apinya were still on the front, looking strong.  A few kilometres before the second KOM, though, I suddenly felt better and told myself to push on, and I made it back to the front. The second KOM was the first one in reverse, and it appeared to be much steeper and even longer than in the other direction! Reaching the top as first woman I could hardly breathe any more, and therefore I didn’t look back to the others, instead I struggled very hard to stay with the first guys. Then, maybe 800m after the KOM, another very long and steep hill nearly killed my legs and lungs again, but somehow I managed to stay in my group, above all because I was afraid of being caught  by the other women by going on my own.

The last 20 km to the finish line we picked up a few guys from Cat 2 and some others dropped, but I felt much better than the day before (maybe because I knew it`s soon over;-)) and just rotated in our little group. Phil did a great break away, but unfortunately about 500m before crossing the finish line we passed him – sorry Phil, but I could not slow them down in time!

After crossing the finish line, we took some fast drinks at a little shop and rolled slowly back to Phuket Gateway, where the Award ceremony started. There we had to celebrate quite a lot of overwhelming results for Cat 3: Tim and I were the KOMs of the day, the KOMs overall and I won the stage and overall. And, additionally, we won the Team result overall!

After the ceremony we had to head back to the hotel, pack the bikes and could only take a short shower before leaving the rooms for check-out. Some of us had a later flight, so we gathered again at the restaurant, eat, drank and had some fun in the waterpark!

 

Thus ended this great weekend of pain, luck (especially for Ian), fun, relaxing, eating delicious Thai food,  and happiness! For me my first multi-stage race was a wonderful experience, and I had to admit, in the beginning I was very afraid of riding in a big peloton again and especially of falling again, but it was a lot of fun and during the race I never felt uncomfortable or was afraid of something (or someone;-)). I can only recommend it, and hopefully in the future more women will seize the chance to race. Furthermore I want to thank Cycosport for doing a great job once again, and last but not least biggest thanks to all the ANZA  guys racing with me:

YOU´RE ABSOLUTELY AWESOME (and I´ll definitely miss you!!)!!

Daytrip to Bintan. Daytrip to Bintan. Daytrip to Bintan…..

NIK_6630Now before you all get on you soap boxes and say how insensitive I am for mentioning this.  I checked with the lady in question and she was fine with me mentioning the slight memory loss she suffered last week in Bintan.

Now before you all get on your soap boxes… Ok, enough of this hilarity, it was actually quite scary for somebody who had never seen first hand what a bump on the head can do, and we can use it as a little lesson learning exercise as I think, maybe, there was one thing we should have done differently.  Those better trained in first aid can tell us the other things.

Bintan Daytrip.  Done it many many times.  Standard drill.  Do group photo, check. One fast group, check.  One slow group, check.  Support vans for both, check.  Only this time even better, with motor cycle out riders to patrol the turns and make sure we all go the right way.

No problems, uncheck.

Rick: “has anybody seen my bag?”
Everybody: “Where did you put it?”
Rick: “In the car that was at the front”
Everybody “Err, that wasn’t one of our cars”
Miss Ner(local nickname for Neridah) “F&*%%$ Id^^$, I told you which car to put it in, F*#&* it we’re leaving”

I look around as Rick gets his driver to start calling other drivers, when I look back my larger slow group has left with Miss Ner, and I do the old “F^%& it, he’s a big boy and can sort it out and this is Miss Ner’s trip anyway”

It’s 9.15, the ferry home is booked for 3.35, the fast squad plan to do 170km, anybody see the problem with this equation?  Motoring is the word I would use, and they’re standing around trying to track down a lost bag!

Anyway, noting much to report, riding riding riding.  The fast boys eventually catch us and I throw out a playful “you need to be going faster than that if you plan to make your ferry”.  I think I heard a ‘thank you’, but you know how it is when your riding, sometimes your hearing isn’t quite what it could be.

No dramas, a few tired riders by the end of the red road, but otherwise all is well.  A nice tailwind assisted (I know there is no such thing as a tailwind, we just rode strong) trip down the coast.

All is going well, although Bintan is showing signs of getting the better of me just for a change, so I come to the top of a hill to find two of the team on the deck, a small wheel touch at the crest of the hill and it’s first blood to Bintan.  No worries, a minor mishap, onwards troops!

Feeling a little better.
Feeling a little better.

So I swear it can’t have been more than 2km further down the road when Teressa decides she wants to get better acquainted with her rural side and takes a dive into the dirt.  We stop again, and she’s sitting up looking fine, just a well dusted shoulder, which I’m guessing must have hurt like hell on Monday.  After a few minutes of chatting, checking over ensuring nothing is damaged on the bike, or her I guess, she announces she is good to go, but we thought it would be a good idea to call the van back which as bad luck would have it had just raced ahead to deposit two tired riders a little further up the road and closer to home.  The news that the van was heading in the other direction left us with a dilemma.  To sit and wait, knowing that we’re on a bit of a schedule if we plan to make it back to the ferry in time for the 3.35 or listen to the patient who looks ok, is reacting ok, and says she is ok.  We decide she’s ok to roll gently just to keep us moving and to close the gap to the van.

Less than 1000m later and half way up a small hill Teressa stops again and Matt and I circle back to make sure she it ok.

Teressa: “I have no idea where I am or how I got here”NIK_6663
Me: “Get off the bike and sit down!”

Teressa then proceeded to tell Matt and me that she didn’t know what happened, Matt explained a slight touch of wheels had brought her down.  She apologised for holding us up, then repeated the question, and again, and again, and again!  I look at Matt, he looks at me and we share a “Oh Crap!” moment of understanding.  Quite NIK_6687an impact now became evident on her helmet and Miss Ner later discovered that it had done its job and cracked right through on the inside.

That’s pretty much the end of the cycling write up.  We split the group into slower group to leave now, faster to stay behind until the van arrived to transport Teressa and after a few more km I joined her in the van having been burnt up by the faster group.  Still in good spirits, she announced that some of the other riders looked a bit tired and NIK_6689maybe she should swap with them to which my reply was an emphatic “You’re not going anywhere”

A tough day’s riding as can be seen from Johan’s expression and fortunately no permanent damage, just a night of observation in Hotel Gleneagles.

Anything we should have done differently?  If there is a next time, and I hope there isn’t, we’ll be insisting that anybody that takes knock to the head during a ride retires for the rest of the ride and takes the chauffeured trip home.

Let’s be careful out there people!

Andrew

November weekender to Frasers Hill

Laura Gordon

As the club trip organizer, I thought it only fair to rally two newbies to the Fraser’s Hill Club Trip – to put their thoughts down on paper, on their personal experience of the trip. With over 25 ANZA members joining us in KL – either by club supported Coach, self fly and self drive – needless to say an epic and enjoyable trip was had by all.

Fraser’s Hill | Day 1
By Jonathan Hooper (aka Hoops)

The trip to Kuala Lumpur has grown in popularity with ANZA riders over the last couple of years and this trip proved it with an outstanding 25 ANZA riders making the trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. The trip was also extremely popular as it was being organised by the infamous Gordo Getaways. With numbers exceeding the usual bus capacity and a continual wait-list, many people had to make their own travel arrangements to Kuala Lumpur.

The great thing about this trip is that it caters for all club members ranging from Krangi 28 Riders to Krangi 36 +. It is a gruelling two day ride but everyone is up for the challenge and supports each other. It definitely beats doing a Krangi Loop for the 30th time.

We are all kindly hosted at the Parky Royal Hotel by former ANZA member Mark Losi who is also the hotels General Manager. The service we receive is remarkable and makes the trip very trouble free.

Day 1 is a tough 200km return journey North of Kuala Lumpur through the Selangor State Park up to Frasers Hill (Bukit Fraser) with has an elevation of 1280m. Frasers Hill is located on the Titiwangsa Ridge in Pahang, Malaysia and is rich in biodiversity. This is a beautiful but also tough ride.

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The ride started at 7am outside the Park Royal Hotel. A couple of stray riders showed up and unfortunately they would lead us on a detour later on in the day. We were escorted trouble free as a single group out of Kuala Lumpur by one of our two support vehicles.

After the 20km escort we faced the first climb of the day, which is a small 1km ascent. It is a punchy little climb, which separated the group. The next regroup point is at the 30km mark, which is at the top of the second climb. The second climb is called Evian and is a mild 5km climb. With fresh legs and the lure of the first drink stop at the summit we all easily reach the top. It is this climb on the way back after 160km, which proved to be many peoples nemesis.

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At the top of Evian the group split into two. The first group descended down Evian through Uli Yam and along a 15km flat section to Kuala Kubu Bharu known by locals as KKB. It is along this flat section where we were taken on a slight detour by the two strays we picked up back at the Park Royal. Lucky enough the end point is the same and we stopped at KKB refuel before the 40km ascent to Bukit Fraser.

After a quick stop we hit the road with a tidy group of around 10 riders. The pace was set pretty high over the first 10km, which is a reasonably flat section of exposed road around a dam. Once we left the dam and entered the Selangor State Park the ascent begun. It is a relatively steady climb, something like South Buona Vista for about 30km. We kept the pace reasonably high with everyone taking their turn on the front. After the first 10km the numbers started to dwindle and soon there was only a group of three of us: myself, Adam Nelson, and Victor Michel. We kept rotating smoothly until 8km to go where the road pitched a bit more. We separated here and headed to the summit on our own, with Victor taking first honours.

At the summit we all grab lunch, share our stories of the ride so far and welcome fellow riders when reaching the top. This marked the halfway point of the trip and with the prediction of rain many riders decided to add on a few extra layers for the decent with Victor Michel and Glen Kenny even going to the extent of arm warmers and fleece jackets.

The decent is a bit technical and with slippery mossy patches you really have to pay attention. I managed to overshoot a corner and ended up in the drain. Luckily it wasn’t any worse than that. The sun was out and it was a nice and warm decent compared to the expected rain forecast. We all managed to make it down safely with only those that wore arm warmers and fleece jackets feeling as if they just descended in a personal sauna.

We all stopped to regroup at KKB and then headed back through Uli Yam to ascend the backside of Evian. It is a gruelling 5km climb and after 160km of riding this is by far the toughest part of the day. The group split quite early but many riders kept those in front of them in sight and made steady gains. There were a couple of small attacks most notably Craig Cameron’s attack at about 2.5km from the top. He hung on to Victors wheel for a short period of time but then seemed to be going backwards very fast. Victor once again took top honours with Adam following in second.

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Everyone was pretty relieved to reach the summit of Evian. It truly is a tough climb after 160km. From the summit of Evian it is a simple decent with a short climb back over the wall and then back through the city to the hotel where cold beers await.

All in all it was a great trip and it is highly recommended to all ANZA members. Make sure you sign up for the next trip. Thank you to ANZA, Mark Losi and the Park Royal and special thanks to Gordo Getaways for organising the trip.

Genting Sempah | Day 2
By Adam Nelson

Day two of Gordon’s Getaways KL getaway and the peloton rolled out (eventually) at 7.45 for the day’s short stage to Genting Sempah. 70 k in total with 15k out and back climb through beautiful forest canopy on the outskirts of KL.

Discussion that morning was still focussed around the fall out from the Gin-gate scandal and the team hotel was surrounded by paparazzi (Peter H and Macca), keen not just to catch a glimpse of the leaders but also to see if there was any comment from the riders implicated in the scandal. Not since Festina had they seen such controversy.

Yet the gin-plications of that incident were not the only upset of the morning. When Craig Cameron eventually surfaced from the team hotel following a minor delay (that has been claimed had nothing to do with the previous nights events) he realised he was part of the worst kit disaster since Castorama ’94 Yes, C Cameron and ‘Sultan of the Bukits’ (SoB) Victor were dressed in the same jersey.

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Once the crowd had settled, our host and the days ride captain, Mark Losi led the bunch through the neutralised sector of central KL.

L.Gordon herself was notably hanging near the back if the pack, recovering from a Frozen Margarita related injury from the previous days (Night, surely?) action.

As the Anza-ton rolled towards the foot of a hill, it seemed they were not the only cycling ‘event’ on Genting Sempah. Unlike a lone Matador and a handful from Geylang Cycling Club, Anza were the only people who were not there to race up the hill. A group of 1200 riding in an actually neutralised pack (with proper van and everything) were chased down as they headed towards the foot of the climb

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A small group took off to get ahead of the knobbly-wheeled racers – and quickly became smaller when one member suffered a puncture. Hoops’, who as well as showing himself a talented coiner of French neologisms (verb. Fr ‘ooperer’ – to wheelsuck unfalteringly up a climb- example usage – il a ‘ooperé tout la jour hier ) also proved a true patron of the peleton, stopping for one whinging, punctured pom.

The bunch all completed the course, with most overtaking a vast number of resentful mountain bikers, apart from the one guy who was gassing it through everyone on a fatbike, he looked like he was loving life

Anza regrouped at the top for the descent, with Peter Hewitt kindly offering cool-down bidon showers for anyone overheating from the ride, on what would be his final Anza outing. He also helped boot this whinging poms tyre after a blow-out on the descent proving once more that he is not just a grade-A wind up merchant but also an all round top bloke – you will be sorely missed.

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The roll back into town included the obligatory ice cream stop for all, but one escapee, determined to take the final ‘points’ on the line… Obviously the ice-cream eaters were the real winner.

The hospitality of Mark and the Park royal extended to wonderful poolside lunch where some of us took the ‘poolside’ dress code more seriously than others.

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Beer was consumed and both tales and hills became increasingly taller before we all waddled to the bus, where both ‘Heads Up’ on iPad and ‘Hey Ruth’ occupied the long drive and the longer queue for Singapore Passport control.

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Thanks Laura, thanks Mark, thanks ANZA. Ace trip when’s the next?

Masters Tour Of Chiang Mai 2015

Craig Cameron

Stage 1 – Stage one was destined to be a sprinters stage however with the 30s riding in the same peloton as the Open A and Open B categories I was fearful that the one climb of the day to pick up the KOM points may result in me going straight out the back with some pretty stiff competition fighting for the climbers jersey.

The stage started with a 23km neutral Zone out of Chiang Mai in to the green countryside at a very nice 32-35kmh pace. There was talk of ex Pros ripping up the peloton and the first 15km would be off from the gun on twisty narrow roads. When the gun did go of it was a fairly quick pace however the peloton was pretty well behaved and incident free. For me the most decisive moment was as expected at the KOM climb but not due to my lack of climbing ability. We had been told the KOM was at 69km and was just short of 2 km. At the 62 km mark Raoul and myself found ourselves having a chit chat and a drink at the back in preparation for the climb when the road went up hill. Immediately there were splits all over the place and the Peloton were down to around 25 over the top and I was off the back chasing to get on. The immediate pace was quick however I managed to get on promptly and was happy that the peloton was down to a smaller numbers. Unfortunately the open A guys never kept the pace that high and large groups were able to get back across and the peloton swelled before hitting the flat open 15km section before the finish.

Once on the open highway the impressive Singha team headed up the peloton and we never dropped below 48kmh on the 15km run for the line. It was obvious that the correct wheel to follow was Singaporean rider Vincent Ang however every man in the peloton was fighting to be within jumping distance and realistically with him in the open A Cat and me in the 30s I opted to not fight too much and try keeping a good distance back to get a safe finish. Hoops came past and offered a wheel to follow and did a great job keeping us up there however the young development team from Malaysia came past me with a train and were looking strong so I gave him a shout to jump on and take a tow. They pulled for probably around 1.5 km and we made the turn and I saw what I thought was the finish line and decided to move up and pick up a few places and hope to get a podium. After passing Hoops it was apparent it was the line (we had passed a motorbike saying 2km to the finish only a few hundred meters ago…) and I had managed to be the first 30s rider over the line with Hoops being just pushed in to 3rd place.

Unbelievable start to the race with 3 Anza riders finishing in the Peloton with a 43kmh average speed over 75km. Hoops decided that he hadn’t raced enough or never saw the finish and decided to carry on riding and missed the presentation. If you want a laugh at his navigation skills check out his strava route home….

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Stage 2 – After a pretty restless night I was keen to get started and on the road as soon as possible. There was 1 climb for the day and realistically if I got over it would probably mean I would have the ability to stay in yellow with a long flat run in. No pressure then.
Thankfully with Vincent in yellow in the Open group his team were happy to control the peloton and right from the start and I was in the perfect position at the front of the peloton and our team weren’t expected to be up there doing any work.

As we approached the climb there was much more fighting for position and around 5km out it started to get twistier and a rider next to me appeared to not see the corner and went straight in to the rider alongside and took them both off in what looked like a nasty crash.

As we turned to start the climb I was still positioned well but not right up the front as I had been earlier with the real climbers looking to pick up more points I had been pushed back. Once we headed round the bend it went straight in to a steep ramp and I was immediately in trouble as the pace was just too much for me and I started heading backwards. The climb consisted of 3 ramps of around 750m with around 200m respite (or not) so all in all I had it in my head I needed to suffer for around 3km. On the second ramp Raoul noticed I was in trouble and sat up to pace me to the top and kept motivating by saying only 200m to the top. Even as we passed the 1km to the KOM sign….. Apparently it was working as I kept coming back towards him however at the time the 1km felt like a hammer blow.
As I came over the top we had to negotiate what had been described as a very technical decent before the ramp eased up a little and was pretty much a downhill run to the line. I immediately set about pulling back time and made a mistake by taking a drink in to the first switchback and went off road and with Raoul behind me. Luckily we both got away with this however we were up against it and I set off as hard as I dared after Raoul signalled to go on alone. I pushed past a number of riders and took quite a few risks to keep the pace up and get back in to contention. I was gaining on one group up ahead after chasing for some time however with the gap down to around 150m I was tiring and struggling to close anymore when they lifted their pace to over my 44kmh and started pulling away. Damn

At this point I could see another group had formed and were also chasing me down containing Raoul and decided to sit up and try work with them to get to the line quicker. On joining the group we started working quite well with a paceline however it soon broke down as many of the riders were tired and speeds were fluctuating vastly depending who was on the front.

With 1.5 km to the line Raoul hit the front and led me in to easily take the sprint. Hoops had fared very well over the climb and just missed out on another podium while sprinting for the line in the second bunch.

I had lost the yellow jersey for sure however I had given all I could to stay with the guys on the climb and unfortunately it was just not enough with the standard of riders we were up against.

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Stage 3 – This was pretty much a flat 70km then a 15km hill climb to the finish. As Hoops was the top GC contender we aimed to work together and keep him near the pointy end so when the hill started he was in good a position to stay in contention. As a team I think this was our best riding of the weekend as we kept a presence in the top 15 the whole way til the fireworks started. Once the climb started I decided I wasn’t going to go in to the red to stay with the top guys and immediately tried to get in to a pace that I was comfortable to hold to the top and watched Hoops and Raoul head up the mountain. I slowly started to catch a few riders that had been dropped and as I neared the last 3 km I could see I was pulling in Raoul slowly.

With around 2 km I managed to head up the road but wasn’t able to sustain when the road pitched more on the corners and Raoul and Seb from the Joyriders were on my wheel again. With some crafty riding Raoul decided to let my wheel go with 200m to go in order to put some time between us and then attacked Seb to just manage to take the line before I got there and we gained a few more second on those behind. Hoops had managed to hold the pace again but had a touch of wheels while climbing and had to unclip and lost a little time and had to chase back on. With some pacing from Vincent he kept a high speed to the line and was still able to get in the top 10 and would be starting the final stage in 8th position overall. Remarkable when you consider the big Kiwi was dropped from Cat 3 to the Grand Fondo less than 1 year ago.

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Stage 4: A Mountain individual Time Trial 10.5km ride with over 600m of elevation all out. Not the type of stage suited to me however I was strangely looking forward to getting out there. Having not ridden the route I had to try and get some details on how hard to push and when. From the profile and picking up what I could from others it looked pretty much a constant gradient up until the last km where it flattened out before kicking up very steep the last 500m. I was starting 30 seconds behind Raoul who was sitting 10 seconds behind me in the GC and Hoops was going to go a few mins after me and had pretty much sewn up his top ten finish unless there was any spectacular blow ups.

After setting off pretty hard the first 500m I soon found a gear that kept my Cadence around 95 rpm and settled in to a tempo in an effort not to drop my 10 seconds to Raoul. Within 2 km I was passing the man that had started 1 min ahead of me however there was no sign of the French man. At around 5km the rider that started 30 seconds behind me caught and I tried to follow at his pace for a few hundred meters. The pace was just too much and I made the decision to hold my pace and pull off a little rather than pop and risk dropping a lot more time.

The road eased up a little and I had my first glimpse of Raoul who was negotiating a pass on Michael from the Matadors. I pushed on and used as much of the road as possible in the corners to make sure I was not wasting any speed I had managed to find carrying it in to the final ramp of 500 meters to the finish. After the last 10km of climbing the finish was brutal there is no other word for it however I could see Raoul and I knew I was on target to keep my position if I kept the tempo up. I remember it was steep however can’t recall much else as I was pushing to my limit and was only focused on the line and getting over it as soon as possible. I crossed the line and with a friendly push from the organisers managed to stop at the side and regain some vision before seeing big Hoops come over the line in what looked to be an equal amount of pain.

Hoops had a great weekend and managed to take 8th place in the GC with myself and Raoul picking up 16th and 17th. For me I went in to this competition with an open mind and was treating it as a training ride for Bintan with the recent bad conditions for riding in Singapore. There for to come away in the top 20 and a stage win I’m over the moon. It will take a lot of riding to forget the feeling of riding out in the yellow jersey on stage 2 behind the Singha team and was pretty special for me.

There is some serious competition at the event but would highly recommend the event for anyone looking for more racing in the region even as a beginner. The stages are much shorter than others in the region which encouraged exciting fast riding and if you were dropped its not as though you have a 100km solo trek back to civilisation which often puts people off entering events.

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インダルジェンスのツアー

Or as we like to call it “The Tour of Indulgence – Japan Edition”
By Andrew Cherriman, but only made possible by the gang.

Bjorn – Chief Organizer and Negotiator
John – Chief Engineer and Data Analyst
Mrs John – Courier and all round good sport for putting up with us.
Raoul – Sweeper when needed and Pace Setter when not (don’t post that ride, you’ll be thrown off the team)
Matt – Rapha consultant and provider of Sky ultraviolet lube (who would have know such a thing existed!)
Mrs Matt – Chief interpreter and nutritionalist, and again all round good sport for putting up with us.
Russ – Equipment Limit Tester
Mike – Chief Food Tester
Noel – Rouleur extraordinaire, Downhill maestro and the best wind break a man could ask for

We didn't see this.
We didn’t see this but apparently this is what it looks like!

It was many months ago that Bjorn suggested we do a trip to Japan and offered to start the organization, by the time we got to Tokyo, I think he was wishing he hadn’t bothered and the aptly worded disclaimer on one of the final emails said it all.  To paraphrase”I’m going to Japan to ride my bike.  If you happen to be in the same place at the same time, that’s great, otherwise see you some other time you useless *&%$& ”

The plan was to ride around a bit trying to understand the street signs and then climb Mt. Fuji or at least that’s what I got from the various organizers emails.  Who was the organizer again, we must get a better one next year?

KillBillThe problems started almost immediately after a fine dinner at the restaurant used in the final scene of Kill Bill as our chosen club for the first evening in Tokyo “Bauhaus Tokyo” was closed for a public holiday, not only that but the second choice, almost certainly as good music as it was next door, also proved to be shut for the holiday.  Fortunately for us, this prompted an early night which is probably just as well given the 10distance we had to ride the following day.

Ok, so one of the beauties of Japan is the ease with which you can bring your bike onto a train, just as long as you have a cover.  Yeah right, as long as you don’t run into an officious ticket inspector who knows there is a rule but isn’t quite sure what it is.

Much negotiating by Bjorn resulted in an understanding that if we took the wheels off, we made the bikes smaller and then he would let us on, or at least that’s what we thought we’d agreed.  We headed towards the platform to see the ticket man running after us looking very angry and shouting.  We headed for the train knowing full well that Japanese trains leave on time and if we could be on the train at the departure time, we were good.

And so the dance began, the ticket man threw one person off then moved on to the next, and as he moved on, the person who he had thrown off, got back on 🙂  But finally sense prevailed as the conductor of the train turned up and told him it was fine just as long as we had covers.  Problem solved, we had found the man with the knowledge, an important thing we were to find in Japan.  Everybody knows there is a rule but not everybody knows what it is.

Day 1So day 1 got underway and a blistering pace was set leaving a few of us wondering whether this was a tour of indulgence or were we setting the scene for a tour of despair.  Now the thing to remember is that this was a hotel to hotel ride with no support car, so no bail out options, just ride until you get to your hotel, and hope your mates are going to wait for you 🙂  Often a forlorn hope, but they say it’s motivational.

The route was broadly flat although a nasty climb in the middle was unexpected.  A small interlude in the middle to board a ferry and eat ice cream was most welcome and with relatively little trouble, we rolled into the hotel.  The hotel said we had to leave our bikes in the carpark, but a quick recce uncovered that the carpark was completely open to anybody wandering in and so having assessed there were lifts that bypassed reception, the bikes were quickly stashed in rooms for the night.  Dinner was a never ending selection of local delicacies most of which Mike wouldn’t eat and lashings of beer and Sake.

Day 2Day 2 didn’t start so well, it was raining; hard!  We put the rain jackets on, those of us that had them and set of we planned a small detour to visit the largest wooden Buddah, and to visit a little island with a shrine up a mountain.  Bjorn told us they were cultural icons, but even after 90 minutes, most of us were just looking for the nearest coffee shop to warm us.  Yes, when on a bike we are all philistines. It was at this point we realised that a) we were soaking, b) we were cold, c) we had only done 30km in 2 hours, d) we had 150km to do today and e) we had no support.  Time to put our heads down and pedal.  And so ensued a long, long day in the saddle punctuated only by stops at the riders friend “Family Mart” to take on more food and warm drinks, and one stop at a bike shop we found for several of us to buy more thermal clothes.  The shop owner didn’t seem keen to let 8 dripping riders into his pristine establishment, but we played the ignorant white man card and them made up for it by spending way more than he thought he was going to make on a wet Friday afternoon.

I wont regale you with tales of the journey.  Suffice to say Matt and I were ditched by our ‘mates’ and only that fine fellow (for a Frenchman) Raoul stayed back to make the lantern rouge a 3 man show.

On turning up at the hotel, it seemed that we had found another man who knew there was a rule but didn’t know what it was.  He was determined to keep our soggy bikes out of the hotel, and suggested we lean them against a tree in the car park.  surprisingly we weren’t too happy with the idea of $100,000 worth of bikes being alone and unlocked all night, so Bjorn negotiated with the manager for the hotels only meeting room for the 2 day stay and a large plastic sheet so that we had an impromptu club room and maintenance area.

Dinner was indescribable, no, really, it was indescribable.  We have no idea what part of what animal we ate, but Evangeline did a fantastic job of emptying the woman’s kitchen of every carbohydrate that she possessed.  It seems a little Japanese does indeed go a long way.

Day 3Day 3 was the ascent and it started well, no rain, unfortunately, Fuji was in the clouds and we had to ride through them.

Once you get to the national park, and yes bikes do have to pay the 200 yen entry fee as it seems we are less than 125cc, it is a 24km continuous climb of between 5% and 8%.  Actually really nice once you settle into a rhythm.  On a bright sunny day it would be lovely and even on a wet dreary day it was ok.  I think the view would be great, and you can all refer to google to see what it would look like if you could see further than 200m.  Matt and I just worked our way up following the “no man left alone” rule.  they have helpfully put km markers every 1km, which some of us loved, and some of us found very 1kmtogoannoying.  I think at th ebottom they are crushing; 23km to go 5.6% is not a great sign, but the closer to the top you get the better they are 1km to go is much more pleasant.

More coffee to warm up, a change of thermal top into something dry, and several of us bought commemorative Fuji waterproof tops for the descent.  The fact that you can but Fuji waterproof tops shows you just how often it’s raining up there!

The clouds cleared just long enough for a couple of photos of the top of Fuji.

me_fuji Matt_Noel Fuji

The descent was cold, fast and wet, with only one crazy moment when at a road construction area, the man told us to stop and the 3 in the group at the front weren’t sure if their brakes would actually stop them in time.  Wet roads, steep descent, carbon wheels, bad, bad combination!

refuelBut we all made it back to the hotel.  4 decided on another few km to get them to 100km, three of us headed to Mos Burger to refuel.  Best Burger I’ve had after 2 wet days in the saddle ever.

Dinner was a never ending Japanese meat BBQ with lashings of beer and sake.

And so to the final day over 100km descent from 1000m to Tokyo.  Hold on though if you think a 100km descent has no climbing, think again, there were a few nasty ones in there and by the end of the ride we were all pretty dead.  The biggest lesson for us though was in planning who carries what spares.  As Russ developed a split in the sidewall of his Day 4rear tyre, we realised, that while between the 8 of us we had 19 tubes, not one of us had a spare tyre.  Note to all people arranging group trips.  You always have enough tubes among you, share out the other stuff you might need.  Tyre, Chain tool, chain, gear cable, brake cable.  The list of essentials is short and not very heavy, but not having one can either be a fatal end to the ride or make the rest of the day very uncomfortable.

With the help of a park tools tyre repair patch we nursed Russ back to the hotel in Tokyo where much thanks was offered to Bjorn for his excellent organisation and for putting up with our sh$^e all weekend.

Oh, as a final note, for those thinking about it.  The roads are narrow compared to Singapore, and I think we have found a country where the truck and car drivers give even less space to cyclists than here, in particular they do like to cut in after they have nearly overtaken you, so be warned travelers and keep your eyes open.