One of the broom wagons, called such because it sweeps up tired and fatigued riders.The other was a Toyata Wish.
At 6.30am, four brave souls (suckas!!!) gathered at Centrepoint in Bandar Utama to embark on this epic ride. Driving support was me and Shen.
The four brave souls: Adeline, Ishsal, Senn and Alex
By 7am we were on our way. The first 40km of the route, up to Ijok, were fairly rolly, but once you hit Ijok, it's flat all the way. And believe me, flat for 160km isn't as easy as it sounds.
The route was rather scenic. After Ijok, you go through plantations, then along the coastal road, you have swaying palm trees and on the road to Lumut, there were padi fields. Nice if you're driving, not so nice if you're pedaling.
Some of the scenery we traveled through
But alas, it was a ride of attrition. None of the four riders finished the distance. The first casualty was Adeline, whose night light had broken loose and shattered on the ground, causing a puncture in her front wheel. Shen stopped to assist her in fixing the flat, then drove her ahead of the pack to catch up, but when she got her bike out of the van, both tyres were flat. So ride over for Adeline. For now.
When we made our first stop, at KM60, Ishsal (who, for some reason, brought four spare tubes) lent her two so she could continue. So as the rest of the riders continued, I set about fixing her two tyres (as support vehicle driver, you have to do mechanic duties as well). Got both tyres inflated, dumped everything in the car and off went Adeline and I to chase the other riders. I dropped her off about two KM ahead of the rest and she was on her way again. It was quite exciting, pulling the car off the road, jumping out of the car, putting her bike together then pushing her off as the other riders went by. I felt like a mechanic on a Protour team!
The next casualty was Senn. She was trying out attire for her Ironman and had settled on a pair of Descente shorts that she uses for Olympic distace tris. Good for Olys, unfortunately not so good for anything longer. The shorts started chafing at about 100km. As we rolled into Sabak Bernam for lunch, it got unbearable. So, she rolled into the broom wagon. It was quite unfortunate, she was feeling strong and riding quite consistently. She probably had the legs to go the distance. Anyway, good to know that those shorts won't last the distance. Imagine if this was Ironman...
After an hour and a half, we set off again. I could tell that Ishsal was starting to fatigue. He wasn't staying in his aerobars for long, his elbows were locked, pedaling inconsistent. But he kept going. We went through a 15km patch of road construction that couldn't have been very nice for the riders. It was dusty and bumpy and it left them all feeling shaken.
After the construction, we made a right turn at the Hutan Melintang cross junction. Here the roads were wider and it even had a dedicated bike lane!
We then made a left turn to cross the Perak River. There was an R&R stop here so we made and unscheduled stop because Ishsal was feeling knackered. Here he was given a choice of saving his pride, or riding in air-conditioned van with two chicks. Like all cyclists, he chose his pride.
But it wasn't to last. As he climbed the bridge across the river, his calves started cramping. He fought valiantly through the pain, cresting the top of the bridge and coasting to the end of it. He started pedaling again, but then starting coasting to a halt. Cramps were too much. He hopped aboard the broom wagon.
Now this stretch was a pure test of mental strength. You've ridden 152km, the sun bearing down on you, and the flat, straight road just seems to go on forever. You could tell the riders were struggling, speeds dropping from 40km/h to 20km/h. Driving behind them, I was wondering what was going through the riders' minds. They were probably cursing me for taking them out on this ride!
At 192km, we came to our last refill stop. As Alex and Adeline rolled in, you could see the fatigue in their faces. When I told them they had less than 20km to go, Alex said, "No thanks." His thighs were starting to get stiff. And with that, we packed the remaining two bikes into the broom wagons.
Total distance covered by the riders:
Alex - 192km
Ishsal - 152km
Adeline - 136km
Senn - 122km
Although none of the riders completed the distance, they can be proud to say they attempted it. It was a tough and grueling ride, physically and mentally. Kudos to them all! Even I didn't have the guts to ride that day.
We all learned that day that flat isn't necessarily good. With rolling hills you at least get to rest a bit when the road goes down. With flat roads, you have to pedal all the way. The second you stop pedaling, you're down 2-3km/h.
For me, it was a whole new experience. Driving support can be exhausting as well. Driving long distance at 30km/h by yourself can be mentally taxing too. Not as bad as what the riders went through, of course. But I had fun, playing directeur sportif, soigneur, and mechanic at the same time.
That said, all the riders want revenge on this course, so we will definitely be doing it again. And maybe this time, I'll ride and get swept up by the broom wagon.