Thursday, September 6, 2007

365km, 3 Days, One Helluva Good Time: The Interstate Ride Report

The Day Before

Murphy's Law: What can go wrong will go wrong. Just as i was taking my bike down to the car, I realised something was wrong with the bike. The familiar click-click-clicking of the rear wheel as it rolls was missing. I tried turning the cranks but the rear wheel wasn't moving along with it. Damn.

A quick pitstop at Edwin's solved the problem. The cassette body needed servicing and after about an hour, we were on our way to Ipoh. Good thing I caught this in KL and not five minutes before the ride starts. Phew!

Day One

At 6:30am, we gathered at the hotel lobby. 250+ riders, in their colourful cycling gear, got ready to roll. A quick briefing by Mac and we were on our way.

My first day was not without incident. At the 6km mark, some idiot directed us to turn right at the traffic light. So we followed. But I knew something was not quite right. A quick look at my tulips revealed that we had gone the wrong way. We were supposed to go straight. Managed to call out to most of the misdirected riders to turn back. I was pissed. I sprinted back towards the traffic lights in anger, the thought of leaving a Look Keo cleat implant on that idiot's face strong on my mind. We were back on track but were two KMs off the tulip guide.

Cooled down soon enough when I saw the scenery. It was gorgeous.

Somewhere along the way, I saw Ronald stopped at a support car. Decided to join him for a while and wait for Senn. Unseen by me, she had zipped by in a big pack. So after waiting for a while, I decided to move on. Caught up with a rider on a Cervelo R2.5 wearing a CSC jersey and he gave me a free pull all the way to Karai, where I eventually caught up with Senn, Mac and the rest.

Pitstop in Karai with the World Champ

After Karai, we headed off towrds more beautiful scenery. However, this was where I got into a spot of bother. My legs just refused to co-operate. And I was getting dropped by Senn and Mac. Got off the big ring and just spun in the small ring to recover until the next watering hole. Fortunately a big group decided to stop there and I was thankful for some rest. A couple of 100Plusses and some foo chok gave me the strength to tackle the daunting Bukit Berapit. It was nice steady climb, less than two kilometres long. But in the heat, it was still tough.

More beautiful scenery just outside of Karai

After the climb it was an easy ride through to Taiping. I rode with a small group till the Taiping Lake Gardens where I found myself riding solo again. Finally got to the Golf Club at around 1.15pm.

A quick shower, lunch and a nap before proceeding to the golf course for a group photo session.

A river of blue heading for the photo session

After that, we had a sumptious steamboat dinner, which unfortunately started late because the cookers weren't working. All in all tough, a satisfying first day.

Day Two

Decided not to bring my camera for this ride because I had heard that it might rain. The ride started at 7am and I started off at the very back of the pack. For the first half I rode with PK and his group. It was going at a nice enjoyable pace. The little dimple that Mac told us about was steep as hell and I saw a lot of riders getting off their bikes to push. Short but steep, really steep. After that it was a 12km cruise to the watering hole.

This was where the fun began. I pushed off with the group but soon realised I had left my water bottle at the warung. So I had to turn back to get it. And so began my mind-numbingly boring, loooong, solo 65km ride. It was tough and it really plays with your mind. And it was tiring, with no one to help you work. As it turned out, it didn't rain at all and the sun was exceptionally hot. Making the solo ride even more mind-numbing.

At the approach to Bukit Mertajam, I caught up with Senn, PK, Mac and Vong. It was such a relief to see other riders! Rode in to the hotel with them at around 1:20pm, my arms and legs covered in salt. I was pretty close to dehydrating.

That night's dinner was a bit disappointing, they ran out of food before I managed to get any. Apparently the hotel is a little inexperienced in dealing with hungry cyclists!

Dinner time but didn't get any food

The route profile for Day 3

Fish porridge to make up for the disappointing dinner

Day Three

Finally, the big day: the Penang Bridge Crossing.

We pushed off at 6:30am in a strict two-by-two formation, with the marshalls (I was one of them!) in pink manning the outside. It was tough keeping the formation with the front setting a very high pace and the back of the peloton dropping off. And some of the riders just didn't have the discipline, going around other riders when we specifically said no overtaking.

Arriving at the bridge

It was time to cross the bridge. It was very windy on the bridge which posed a problem for those with deep dish wheels, me included.

Crossing in strict two-by-two formation

And midway through, rain started to fall, so all the more reason for us to be careful out on the bridge.

Going over the top of the bridge

We made it across safely and headed to the Queensbay Mall for pictures and light refreshments, courtesy of one of the eateries at the mall. Very nice of them.

Pretty in pink: the bridge crossing marshalls at Queensbay Mall

After the short rest, the rain really fell. A lot of riders decided to call it quits and take the support cars. I stubbornly went on, having kept my camera safely in Syahiful's car. The rain was painful, pelting on your skin like bullets. Luckily by the time we got to the first climb of th day, it had stopped. But it left a pretty treacherous descent for us riders.

The climb wasn't as tough as it was made out to be. Kinda like Genting Sempah. I actually enjoyed the climb. Between the two climbs, we made a detour to the Balik Pulau Sports Complex where we were treated to lunch by some VIPs. It was quite an affair, with kompangs and speeches and really good food. The sambal belacan was especially good.

After the food, there was more cycling to be done though. Especially the mother of a climb. I was pulled all the way to the foothills by Jester, who then let me fly up the hill on my own. It was kinda like having my very own domestique.

Again, the climb wasn't very tough. Lke the first hill, only longer. It was fun just spinning up the hill, passing riders as I went along. And once we got to the top, the scenery was beautiful. I tell you, sambal belacan is my powergel!

Then came the very technical descent, with very little time to rest. One corner led to another and because the roads were still wet, I only went at about 33-35km/h. But once we hit the end of the descent though, I threw caution out the window. Managed to join a paceline, which included Mac and Jasmine and flew through Batu Ferringhi all the way to the hotel. Was almost sad to arrive at the hotel, wishing for another few km to blast through.

All smiles after another completed Interstate

A big thank you to all the organisers of the Interstate 2007. The routes were good, the accommodations excellent and the company superb. Now I look forward to next year's Interstate.


Adrian said...

sound good mate. i'm sorry i missed it. hopefully it wont clash with 70.3 next year. lucky you fixed your cassette before you left!! what is a tulip??

Dancing Ciken said...

wow penat baca. good report!

ishsal said...

amazing, i will not miss it next year!

tryathlete said...

adrian: a tulip is like a route guide with lines and arrows. it shows you where to go at critical junctions. if next year's 70.3 is on 7th sept, you'll be able to do next year's interstate. It's always on merdeka weekend.

jaja: thanks. panjang but it's still not complete. so many things to report, so little space.

ish: make sure you don't.