If you’ve lived in Singapore for any length of time, ride road (or mountain) bikes and haven’t taken a day trip to Batam in Indonesia, then you are missing out. Just an hour on the ferry from Harbourfront terminal, Sengkupang is the start point for a variety of rides ranging from an all-day sufferfest to a gentle scenic ride or even take advantage of the several mountain bike parks.
On Saturday February 16th, 2019, (Iron) Mike Musing took around 40 ANZA roadies over to Batam to tackle the fabled 6-bridges route. It was a challenging 157km out and back ride raking over five of the Batam archipelago islands and rising 1400 metres in total along the way. While not a massive amount of climbing for this distance, the rollers kept on rolling, only giving respite on several flat sections along the way. As we rode on in our three (speed-tiered) groups, the promise of a cooler, overcast day gave way to a burst of rain that quickly dried into sun-blistering 33+ degree heat.
The road quality along the ride is generally good, but you do need to be alert to potholes and traffic. In the middle segment of the ride, there a few vehicles to contend with, but near the ferry terminal, it’s a different story so vigilance and calling out for hazards is important.
Out back in group 3, we had a mix of abilities that made it critical to find our rhythm and stick together. The bunch settled into a nice tempo and took on the early stages of the ride at a comfortable pace while watching the kms tick over.
Pete ran out of luck and we passed him at around the 30km mark with what looked like a mechanical. (Later on, we heard over the airwaves that his passport had dropped out of his back pocket on the road. Bad luck mate!)
As the groups turned around at the mid-way mark (55km for Group 3, 78km for Group 2 & 3), our wheels sliced into head winds and as we began to realise that the ride home wasn’t going to be as easy, a few groans started to emerge. Nevertheless, the riders hunkered down and helped each other out, spreading the effort against the wind out front.
Each group was also accompanied by a support van. Loaded with ice cold water, soft drinks and bananas, these became essential as each rider sucked down around 1L of liquid per hour, far outstripping what could be carried on the bike for a route of this distance. The vans also provided broom-wagon services for anyone who felt they couldn’t complete the ride in one-piece.
While the heat and rolling hills make this route a serious challenge, it is made easier by the scenery and the warm welcome from the locals. The route passes by many local townships and villages and as we flashed past them, there was always a smile and a wave to be had from the residents. Add to this the bright azure waters and panoramic views of the islands and inlets, and it makes for a very enjoyable day out.
A word of warning to all those going across in the future: do not mess with the Indonesia immigration. They are very serious about keeping quiet in the line for passport control, and whatever you do, don’t climb over the barriers to try and speed up the access to the front of the queue. This, as one unfortunate ANZAnian found, might land you in front of the duty-manager immigration officer, and force an embarrassing apology and subsequent scramble for the ferry…
6 am, after a 2 hour flight delay (thanks AirAsia), a 1am bike assembly, and a surprise-curry-bun for breakfast (I had purchased a coconut bun), I was in bleary, “peak” condition to start a long ride. We were a good group of 8; Strong reliable horses Mike Korenoff, Jason Dubois and Timmy Rix. So strong he has a tendency-to-accidentally-accelerate-and-drop-the-ladies Ben Crouch, dependable and steady Phil Galbraith, Lizzie Hodges who counts every animal we ride past, Laura Gordon and myself who were woefully under-prepared but willing to give it a go!
We managed to pack everything onto the pick-up-truck (pro tip: luggage/bike cases for 8 people is the absolute maximum to squeeze onto a truck), and Laura and I compared cycling strategies; I hadn’t ridden at all during November/December, Laura hadn’t really ridden for 4 months, but had ridden 600 kilometres over the holiday period #festive500 – both ideal preparation strategies (not).
We both casually noticed that with all the luggage on the truck, there was zero room to sit in the sag wagon. Hmmm, interesting… The rest of the riders looked pretty good though.
Once the truck was packed, off we set. After being informed we weren’t allowed to ride across the Penang Straits bridge (or we could be arrested), we rode 500 m to catch the ferry across the straits. It was a cool, blustery morning so the ferry ride was a nice, tranquil way to start the day, and everybody remembered to pause their Garmins except Ben Crouch 😛
On the other side we started the ride proper and crossed into red-light-Bukit-Mertjam. With about 20 red lights in the first hour, it was a little like we had never left Singapore. Finally, the traffic subsided and we started a nice tempo. 25 kilometres in, I was on the front and felt something a bit wrong. “Ben, do I have a flat back tyre?” Yes I did. “Mechanical!” and we all pulled over into a conveniently located car park.
I got busy trying to change my tyre, Timmy Rix held my bike and Phil Galbraith did all the hard bits – we were a good group. The truck turned up with a track pump, we finally found the offending tiny piece of glass and off we went again.
At about 100 kilometres in we were starting to get hungry. Laura hadn’t had breakfast and I was at the point of hangry. Riding through Kuala Kangsar, we pulled into various carparks, all past restaurants with their shutters down. We finally spotted a local eatery which was open (with a Domino’s Pizza a few doors down), parked are bikes alongside and after a quick look at the extensive menu (where the only thing actually available was nasi goreng) we ordered plates of nasi goreng with fried chicken all round. After trying to explain vegan food to them, Mike went off to get a takeaway vegan pizza from Domino’s and brought it back over – job done.
Much happier after lunch, we only had 70 kilometres to ride. Just a Kranji, no big deal. Mike was sharp with the directions and we rode like a well-oiled, slightly-full machine. As the day wore on I was glad to be on the wheel. We finally pulled into Ipoh around 3pm, cleaned up, went for first dinner and massages (where I got to explain to the massage-man that I didn’t want to share a massage room with either Phil OR Jason), followed by second dinner and beers.
As we planned to leave at 6am, we decided that the best breakfast option was cold takeaway Pizza Hut (as everything else was closed) and then we ate half our planned-breakfast-pizza for third dinner on the way back to the hotel.
The group was well warmed up after the first days ride into Ipoh, and following some dubious rehydration strategies the previous evening, everybody was up bright and early at 6:30am and ready to hit the road again. Unusually, for this part of the world, breakfast in the hotel or nearby was not readily available due to the early hour, which resulted in numerous cold pizza’s, along with our roadside stable diet of bananas and banana cake being devoured in readiness for the big day of climbing ahead.
As today involved around 2500 m of climbing, there was a sense of urgency to get going as early as possible and take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. We rolled in the dark through the busy morning city traffic of Ipoh and soon emerged out onto the highway leading into the nearby mountains to complete the 20 kilometre lead in to the first climb of the day, which consisted largely of the Cameron Highlands KOM Challenge route.
During the ride in, Mike K tried to highlight the climb ahead, however, and probably fortunately, the mountain peak ahead was completely shrouded in cloud and fog. We were quite happy with this as it was probably better not to visualise what the next couple of hours would hold in store for us. The group stayed together until the climb kicked in and everybody spent the first few kilometres finding their own pace and rhythm.
The initial 10 kilometres averaged between 5 to 10% and certainly warmed up the legs, plus the first mountain rain was encountered, however, the rain was almost perfect in keeping the temperature reasonable, whilst the road twisted and turned ever upwards through the heavily forested landscape.
Around 60 kilometres into the day, we regrouped with Hafiz and our support car, just before the top of the KOM Challenge finish. Everybody was in good spirits and after refuelling, we continued ever upwards becoming completely immersed in the cloud and fog, with around 50 m visibility for several kilometres.
Passing the Cameron Highlands entrance sign on the mountainside, we descended and turned right for the final push and climb to the top of the mountain and our destination for the night, the Smoke House Hotel.
With around 2 ½ hours of climbing already in the legs, this final 15 kilometres climb at around 7% kicked in and certainly tested everybody’s endurance and willpower. Finally, the first signs of the local town Binchang came into view and we crested the top of the climb and descended around 5 kilometres through the rainy conditions, which made the descent quite cold and everyone was glad to reach the hotel, change into a dry set of clothes and a few well earned beers were downed, but maybe not in that order!.
Day 3 saw a relatively late roll out at 8am, after our breakfast was served at 7am. We had selected breakfast off the menu the evening before, and were presented with a selection of fruit, juice, toast (with Jam or Bovril), hot oats and a hearty full breakfast.
Ben and I were a little disappointed with our scrambled egg selection as we both salivated at the perfectly cooked poached eggs others were served. We proceeded to pack bags in the support vehicle and do the final checks of the bikes, and were ready to set off. Everyone was in good spirits with fine weather, and despite a 170+ kilometre ride ahead and fatigued legs from the previous days climbing, we knew much of the first half of the ride was descending.
The first portion of the descent off the Cameron Highlands was quite technical with bumpy roads and all descended at our own pace. We regrouped at the first turn-off and continued on with the descent.
From here the roads became smoother and with very little traffic now, we were able to enjoy an exhilarating roller-coaster descent with amazing scenery. I tried to keep within eye-sight of Ben as he led us down the descent, with Jason and Phil not far behind.
Every so often Ben would slow down to take some video on his I-Phone, and he managed to get some fantastic footage.
After reaching almost 80-90 kilometres into the ride, having descended some 1200 metres, the four of us (Ben, Jase, Phil and myself) became a little concerned as we’d not seen the support vehicle or any of the others for a long time.
Our bidons were almost empty and the temperature heating up we were in need of hydration. A short while later we gladly found a small supermarket where we stocked up on supplies and rested, with the others following soon after.
We roll out in single file with relatively flat roads ahead until the foothills of Bukit Fraser. With fatigue setting in and temperatures rising we maintained a steady speed of 30-32 kph intent on keeping the group together, although the pace lifted in the last 5-10 kilometres with the thought of a pool, food and beer at the hotel.
After riding straight past our hotel the first time a few of us had to back track to gladly find the others on the side of the road outside the hotel. We were greeted by the friendly owner who didn’t speak much English, but thanks to Steph’s translation skills we were able to organize dinner for the evening.
After a shower and recovery shake I met most of the gang at the pool, and were happy to find our hotel, a “wellness centre” served beer and coconut water, which our gracious host would bring down to us upon request.
We recovered and compared tan lines and stories, before a late dinner at 7pm. The owner had ordered takeaway from the local town of Bentong, and we managed to devour a mix of fried rice, noodles, chicken, pork and vegetables.
It was an early night for most of us after a long day and knowing we had one more day of tough riding to come.
Miraculously, 16 banana-leaf wrapped packets of Nasi Lemak are placed on the long family table, ahead of our 6 am breakfast call. Sadly no Marmite, or Bovril to food pair here. White rice, boiled egg, anchovy and chili paste set up the morning nutrition nicely.
At 6.45am we roll. It’s dark, dodging the local cats and kittens scrimmaging for leftovers. Legs are super heavy, spinning on towards Fraser’s. The sky is dark grey, with the promise of rain.
We ride on the B-roads at a steady pace which are now undulating; day is breaking. The scenery is quite stunning, the hills of the Genting region ahead of us, and padi fields are undergoing irrigation. If I didn’t know better could have sworn there were fields of dry ice bubbling over. Clearly tired and somewhat delirious.
13 kilometres in and we begin the climb to Fraser, typically we would approach the hill from the South (KL), in this instance we are cycling over the back of it from the East. I’m somewhat thrown by the first marker – 58 K.
A gradient of 3% with my average sitting at 12 kph was going to make for a long morning. I’m truly buggered, and thinking about packing it in. Steph and I get dropped almost immediately from the bunch, and I lose sight of Steph ahead not short after. Last. Again.
Still no rain, the ride is covered by tropical forest, and the road is quite sketchy in places. I keep my legs turning. Lots of rustling in the trees. A lone male macaque sits on the side of the road – Don’t stare at it! Don’t stare at it! – with premonitions of it launching at me. I’d barely out-ridden two dogs the day before, who clearly took a liking to my shiny Shimano’s.
The gravel road still winds, the weather cool, and gradually passing the 15, 20, 25 and 28 K markers. I turn a corner and hear loud whoops – the bunch, the van and the Fraser’s ‘welcome signboard’ is there! Bloody relieved, there wasn’t another ‘mystery’ 30 kilometres to go, my motivation was restored.
A quick photo-call, and armed with my new favourite cocktail – red Coke and Red Bull* – I quickly fill my bottles raring to roll. If you’re wondering what it tastes like, my teeth tell me it tastes furry.
We are now in the final stretch, relatively, with 85 kilometres to go – I mentally break this down as a ‘Changi’ – of which 30 clicks is downhill. Grateful for my new disc brakes, I score a few PRs on the descent, we ride through similar forestry and wildlife until the windy roads open up. This is a pretty cruisy way to pass the next hour, and further time to recover.
We regroup and refuel at the bottom. What follows is a flat and fast 25 kilometre – an eight-man train, led out by Iron Mike. I ride last wheel, not as efficient I’m told as third or forth but happy sitting in at 34kph watching the shadows of furious legs pedalling. Crouch, Rix and RdB, drop back occasionally and help me back on. I’ve been day-dreaming. Mike also drops back, recovering from his heavy pull. Lizzie and Phil, now on the front, solid efforts all round.
Two more climbs to go, the promise of rain was false, and the 37 degree sun was scorching as we climb up ‘Evian’ – a beautiful, but brutal climb – with a fresh water spring at the summit.
Five kilometers long and a gradient of 5% at the end of a 500 kilometre journey seemed cruel. We take our time, although some choosing to punish themselves. Why? Steph is in view, so maybe I am stronger than I think. That or my new concoction has been doing the heavy lifting.
With Evian complete, a final pit-stop, and only 30 kilometres to go including the short but punchy ‘The Wall’ – a 600m push at 7% – again, mean.
In the last effort JdB gets the second flat of the trip. Not a bad incident rate. We buddy-up again for the last 18 clicks into KL. Poor traffic means that it’s a slower grand-finale, but more chance to reflect on the four-day effort.
There are some seriously smiley faces as we get closer to Park Royal Hotel made much ‘betterer’, with the hot-showers and icy cold beers to round off the riding adventure.
For me personally, I’d ridden more in the last 12 days than I had in the last 6 months – a truly brilliant way to kick-start 2019. Thanks to Iron Mike K and #AnzaCycling for organizing such a wonderful team tour, I’d highly recommend participation in future trips.
Club ride report from Tanjung Pengelih via Desaru, Kota Tinggi, JB, Woodlands and beyond.
The team for the day consisted of Ben Crouch, Chris Bloch, Craig Martin, Jonas Trindler, Juliane Winzer, Michael Jones, Mike Koreneff, Roger Allingham and Tony Brown.
Eating breakfast and slathering on sunscreen at 4.30am is always tough. It was a very early start with the meet at Changi Point ferry arranged for 6am. Nothing a warm vending machine can of coffee won’t fix. So, after a few delays, we were underway by boat just after 7.30am. It was a perfect morning as we made our way on the short crossing to Malaysia, clear blue skies, flat ocean…. It was going to be a great day.
After the formalities on arrival in Tanjung Pengelih, we had a quick group snap and we were on the road and rolling by 8.30, later than we’d hoped for, but the mood was up. The bright skies looked set for the day, the opening 20km was amazing as we made our way east across the south coast towards Kampung Lepau. It was mostly rolling dual carriageway, very little traffic and the bunch chatted away as we made good time. It was a great day to be out on the bike.
We picked up highway 92 which took us south towards Sungai Rengit and the coastline. Without much effort we seemed to be rolling along at a great clip. This all came to abrupt halt once we joined highway 90 turning north east and following the coastline towards Tanjung Sepang. No, we weren’t all on a great day after all, we’d had a good tailwind that was now straight in our faces. The chatting stopped and we had to start working much harder, riding into a decent headwind for what turned out to be most of the morning. The group worked well together, heading north hugging the Desaru coastline through lots of villages, each with their own friendly waving and smiling locals, and series of unmarked speed humps.
By now, we were running low on water. After an unsuccessful detour off route around the new hotel developments of Desaru [ed. this was part of the route], the consensus was to keep following the highway and assumed we’d come across somewhere to buy water and maybe lunch. Just as it was looking like KFC would fill the void, there appeared a strip of shops and a great little supermarket. Ice creams and electrolytes were hastily consumed, and it was soon time to get back onboard. By now, we were back on highway 92 and headed towards Kota Tinggi.
This was probably the toughest sector of the day for all, it was another 50km to Kota Tinggi heading north west. The first thing I noticed was the traffic became much busier with lunchtime approaching, plus the road was narrower, riding two abreast wasn’t going to be safe. The second thing was that I was really struggling. To avoid potential hunger later in the day, I’d eaten way too much at lunch, my body was punishing me for the error.
With the busy traffic, the heat and the speed of the strung-out group, it made sense to split into two. Special mention here to Chris Bloch for towing my group virtually the entire way to Kota Tinggi. Chris got us to the turn onto highway 3, and we were now heading south towards JB and the wind was now mostly at our backs.
After another ice-cream and electrolyte fix at one of the lovely service stations, we were en route home. I’d ticked off a tough section and it felt like it was the home straight. Another 45km to the border checkpoint. We can do it!
Unsurprisingly, highway 3 was the busiest of the roads we travelled on. Riding single file most of the way, dodging pot holes and road debris became paramount. By this time, it was well after midday at the hottest point of the ride. My Garmin told me it was 40C, each set of lights we stopped at, felt like stepping into a sauna. We were making good time, weaving our way through endless traffic queues, getting close to the border. Again, low on water, there was one final pit-stop to fuel up on ice creams and take on water. The border wasn’t too busy, there wasn’t a queue and we sailed through to the Singapore side. Well, some of us did. Craig Martin might be the only person, ever to have punctured on the bridge. Eventually, all 9 of us were safely back in Singapore.
On tired legs we rolled down Woodlands and Bukit Timah roads. Some doing more pulling than others. We said our goodbyes and peeled off as we neared home. Some of the hardcore went for a thirst-quenching beer. What had been a blisteringly hot day, was finished in true Singapore style by a downpour within 5km of home.
It was my first ride into Malaysia. It was very challenging, but it was awesome fun. As soon as the pain subsides, I’m sure I’ll want to do it again. Well done to all taking part, it was a great bunch, with good humour and camaraderie.
We must give thanks to Mike Koreneff for taking charge with navigation and always making the time to check the bunch were safe and travelling OK. Finally, thanks to Anza Cycling!
It was my first overseas cycling trip with Anza and it was an absolutely great trip. Great mountains, great roads, great team and great organisation. Thank you, Mike and all who contributed.
Being in Singapore for more than 10 years and having cycled the Kranji route more than 500 times, I decided to join the KL Climbing Challenge: Day 1 was 135 Km with 2500 m of altitude gain.
As you know well, Singapore is flat, really flat, and to enjoy a new and different ride and to survive the unaccustomed climbing experience, as I thought good preparation is crucial. I started with Yoga sessions, some mental preparation, and obviously I also tuned my bike by changing the chain ring in the front to 36 dents, mounted a light wheel set, got sleeves extenders and a skull cap to block the burning sun (layer one for people with less hair). Finally, I bought the Transition Bag for going by bike from home to the bus station. The Transition Bag was the subject for the entire bus ride to KL.
We left Singapore sharp at 2pm from West Coast Park and after a few hours bus ride with a lot of fun and some philosophical discussions about said “Transition Bags”, finally we all arrived happily in KL. After a quick carb and protein loading we all went early to sleep, the alarm clock was set at 5:45am.
Day One: Saturday morning, after the team photos were taken, we waited for Andrew, he decided to sleep longer and eventually catught up later. We also had a concise briefing from Mike (Mike: “it is all in the emails – didn’t you read your emails!”), we started with a delay of 20 min…
We had split the tour into a few sections.
The first section was a 15 km easy warm up, flat ride through KL. We had little traffic as the city was still asleep. It started very nice, people waving and showing thumbs up when our 21 well-dressed Anza team members passed through the roads.
The 2nd section got slowly but surely serious, it was a 15km climb up Genting Sempah, still an agreeable steady climbing with about 3 – 4% ascent. The nice panorama views and the considerate companionship helped me to reach on the top of the Genting Hill where the faster ones waiting and motivating others to reach the top.
“La Voiture Balai” (English: supporting vehicle) with food, drinks and spares was already waiting on the top of the hill.
A quick break, refill bottles, took few photos and we jumped into a downhill slope going for the tough 3rd section, the master piece, climbing up to the famous Bukit Tinggi (English: high mountain).
An 8-10% end-less climb, one serpentine curve after the other, sweating, with muscles hurting, cramping… and then finally, the reward of this trip: a French village appeared in front of us on the summit of the climb.
With impressive half-timbered houses and a castle from King Louis 14th. Wow. So nice. While re-grouping, we noticed that some of our strong riders decided, unintentionally, to make an extra round as they overshot on the downhill slope and missed the important left turn to Bukit Tinggi.
Chicken was on the menu for lunch, few more photos were taken and then we started the return section. People got quiet, stopped talking as full concentration was required to manage a very steep climb of 14% ascent – only deep breathing was echoed in the valley.
For the return, we split the team in fast and semi-fast riders, the first ones added an extra loop of 20km and the others going home directly guided by Laura, who knew the way back with a stop at the ice cream shop for a Magnum. Yummy.
And the last section, a 15 km flat ride through the rush hour back into KL, smiles on all the faces when we reached the Park Royal Hotel Lobby. A big breath and “we did it” faces could be seen all over. After this exhausting day, with empty water bottles and still very thirsty we went straight to the hotel bar for a fresh cold pint of Carlsberg followed by some yoga, and a shower, the bike cleaning could wait.
I copied Jacob’s message who joined the tour as well. Quote:” Hello Mike, I speak on behalf of everyone in the KL team. Thank you very much for your leadership and organisation. It really made for a safe, fun and excruciating experience. I also want to thank everyone who participated. The team dynamic, consideration for other’s well-being, and positive attitude exemplified by everybody was fantastic.”
You love cycling? Join us next time!
Day 2 Genting Perez
Words by Joanne
The second day of the ANZA KL riding trip was always going to be a bit of a challenge for most of us. For most it was because we had already put 135km or so on our bodies the day before. For others it was that plus the combination of dubious rehydration strategies the night before!
It certainly felt hotter than yesterday and more humid as we rolled out around 7:30am. Luckily the plan was to ride a “mere” 94km compared to the previous day. Three big climbs in there still and with the sun coming out from behind the clouds much earlier than yesterday, it certainly added to the pain.
There was an optional 7km out and back which took us a nice “easy” undulation up Genting Peras before we could roll back nicely down and continue our trip back which I’m pretty sure we all took. The last climb of the day was in the full heat of the sun which certainly made it feel a lot tougher than what it was and I’m pretty sure that by the time we got back to the hotel around 12:30pm we were all very, very happy people!
A quick wash up and we finished off the weekend with lunch by the pool and recounts of the weekend through various experiences. No doubt there were more stories added on the bus ride back!!! A fantastic weekend and very well organised. As a complete outsider, I’m very, very glad I took the risk to join in on the fun.
Gordon’s Getaways have gone away and our captive hotel GM escaped to Yangon, what will KL be like without them?
Friday – By New Frank
Gathering at 2pm at West Coast Highway McDonald’s and after ensuring all bikes were securely loaded, we boarded a very comfortable Malaysian bus. The ride to the Singapore Malaysian border hardly takes 30-45 min. Given the time of day, around 3pm, we cruised past the Singaporean side of the border in no time and set off to cross the border. Arriving at the Malaysian side, we had our passports checked once more and were ready to board the bus again, but not after re-assuring ourselves our precious road machines were still there. Sounds very smooth I hear you say! Indeed, but at that moment our Malaysian friends decided the whole bus had to be “scanned” for potential presence of drugs. True, cycling has been plagued by many doping scandals over the past decennia, but I guess Malaysian border control had other drugs in mind. As everybody knows, we are just happy ANZA folks interested in cycling (and our after-ride coffees and maybe the occasional beer). After an unsuccessful “scan”, that is nothing found, at 4.15pm we were finally on our way to our final destination: Kuala Lumpur!
I had the pleasure of doing several races this year for ANZA, Tour de Bintan, Tour de Phuket and Barelang Six Bridges, but this was my first social trip. From the start the atmosphere was relaxed and very friendly. At the first and only intermediate stop on the good quality Malaysian motorway, we all enjoyed ice creams and other healthy food. Hey, it’s a social trip, not a race!
By 8.15pm, we arrived in KL at the Parkroyal hotel. It took us in total just over 6 hours, which is pretty fast given the time spend at the border. We were treated as VIPs by the lovely people of the hotel and in no time had our road machines in the room. Given it was the first night and Saturday would have a tough ride in store, most of us made it back to the hotel in time for a good night sleep!
Saturday – By Less New Frank
Saturday morning, the day of 145km and around 2,000 meter of elevation, the ride to Genting Sempah, started with an excellent breakfast at 6.30am. We gathered around 7.45am for the inevitable group photo with everyone in the beautiful new kit showing off the names of our kind sponsors. At 8am sharp we were ready for our 15km parade out of Central KL. The ride out of town was smooth and it was surprising to see how considerate drivers are in this big city and leave sufficient distance. You can tell Malaysia has a cycling culture, of which the successful track team is the best example. The experts will recall Azizulhasni Awang claiming the gold medal in the keirin discipline at this year’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships! Unfortunately we missed the cycling disciplines of the South East Asia games which were kicked off on that Saturday.
Hardly warmed up we took on the first climb to the Ampang Look Out Point, a 3 km climb with an average gradient of 4%. The nice thing about a social trip is meeting people you normally don’t ride with given different shape, ambitions, etc. Here were rolled at a leisurely pace to the first hill and regrouped at the top of the hill. After just 20km we were all welcoming the cold refreshments from the 2 support vehicles carrying cold drinks and fruits.
After the descent, groups of similar capabilities and skills formed naturally and we took on several hills of varying gradients. The number of monkeys we’ve seen on the road were countless and it was a relief to Peter Archbold that climbing solo for the best part of the ride with bananas in his jersey pocket and a pace best described as a brisk walk on the hills, thankfully not one monkey seemed to notice the resemblance of Peter to a Deliveroo rider!
The route basically consists of 2 loops and near the end of the second loop as we were approaching lunch time and all stomachs were pretty empty from riding and enjoying the great scenery, only our group was rather unsure of the exact location were lunch was reserved. Our group consisting of around 10-12 riders decided it wise to call the driver of the support vehicle only to realise none of had a network signal. We started to doubt if we were on the right route and returning would imply taking a few hills again, which was not a nice prospect. Only than it occurred to us the restaurant was just around the corner and the driver was already waiving to us. Quite a relief!
The morning efforts had taken its toll on a several riders and in the afternoon multiple groups had formed again. The faster riders reached the Look Out point, basically the gateway to KL. Slowly but surely all riders reached the summit of the Look Out point, the last climb of the day. Some in somewhat better shape than others and together we descended for well-deserved ice cream before riding back to the hotel escorted by our friendly support vehicle.
The ride ended without a single puncture or other mechanical problem which is pretty amazing for a group of 26 riders. That seemed like a good prospect for Sunday’s ride!
After refreshing, we gathered at the Parkroyal lounge where we were pampered again by the hotel staff. Given the rugby game Australia – New Zealand was live at that time, it was a good moment to remind ourselves again what ANZA stands for. Discussing the result of the game is totally unnecessary for the country without black colours!
Around half of the group still went into town, while the rest was off to bed given the next day had some challenges as well. At FLAM’s, we enjoyed French thin crust pizza with a few beer towers. With a Man United game on TV, discussions quickly evolved to where real football is played. Given only Glenn and yours truly were able to defend “real” football, against a majority of Aussies it was clear it was a lost battle. So we will be looking forward to the next World Cup of Aussie-rules football, I mean footie!
Most of us still wanted a good night of sleep, while other were busy “simulating long endurance race efforts” where sleep deprivation is a factor in the race, including sufficient intake of liquids of course. Luckily they made it safe and sound back to the hotel at 3.30am.
Special credits go to Mary Scot and Mark O. for pushing their boundaries with their longest rides ever without getting into the support van (or maybe for 1.5km). And yes, every time Mark asked the driver of the sag wagon how far still to the top, he answered “it’s just around the corner!”
Sunday – By Julianne
The lovely ride up to Genting Sempah was on the menu for today. Not many suffered from any hangovers of last night, so we started bright eyed and bushy tailed our climb sharp at 8’o clock from the hotel.
22 ambitious riders were on the start today. The climb was decent and steady with some new QOMs and no big surprises.
Glen Raoul and Mike took off from the front of the group at the overhead bridge which caused some splits to the pack.
Everyone made it up the climb which was a monumental effort considering the long ride on Saturday.
Other than the way back down where Steven decided to descent with one spoke less, just for the fun and to have some drama. The drama got luckily fixed thanks to Stephanie’s Ringgit donation and we were on our way (after an ice cream stop).
The only drawback was that our well deserved pool time got cut short by a few minutes.
Our KL trip ended with traditional beef burgers at the pool, followed by an almost sharp departure at 2 pm back home to Singapore.
The return drive was uneventful and with a super duper speedy crossing through Malaysia and Singapore boarders we even beat those who flew back into Singapore.
Many thanks to Mike who organised the trip, great job as usual!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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).