30th April : IS12 Day 3
Finally its the morning of the final day of IS12. So fast 2 days and 250km have passed. The last 169km. I woke up in the really cozy bed of the hotel room, wishing i could sleep longer. But today is a day of history for me personally, wanting to complete 5 consecutive years of riding PCC Interstate, through the most pain, joy, wild circumstances, support, and importantly, a journey of self seeking. A journey of faith in itself if you will. From my first IS report I did say i hope to join many more Interstates and hope i be able to finish all that i have participated in.
Well that day can be today albeit all goes well.
I got up quarter past 6am. A little bit late since there is no breakfast provided by the hotel today. Ate buns in the room instead. The profile of todays route is flat. All the way airport runway flat. Having my usual morning chat with cousin about the road ahead. From leaving the hotel room right to taking our bikes. The last morning of the Interstate ride, everyone is out in full force displaying their own personal achievements, or wanting to achieve something personal for themselves. Pushing the human body to endure constant pain and effort.
Its the morning everyone looks forward to. There will be lots of photo taking and video recording. Its a monday morning in Muar. A working school day Monday. And all 400 of us are going to wake and shake this town up. And maybe irk a few motorists. But mostly we might be impacting and bringing a positive exposure of the sport that is cycling as a community and as one body.
I was mentally prepared as i was physically in good shape still. My cousin was doing alright as well. We both have done the hard part. Riding on flat roads should be one of the easier sufferings on the bike.
We rolled off at 7am in the usual big bunch. Navigating through the town center and getting out to the open main road that goes straight all the way down south towards Pulai and JB. We certainly made lots of heads turn on the way out of town. Looks like navigating out from Kota Bharu 2 years ago. The marshals car was equipped with the onboard mini cam that recorded the whole bunch riding. Alot of waves to the camera man. A lot of laughter and cheers.
Me basically I just wanted to finish the day like every other Interstate : In one piece.
Rolling in the usual 10km, everyone is having a good time being bunched up, dragged in a long line of 300meters at least. Me being near the head end this morning, looking back at the long winding snake of cyclist taking up almost a lane of traffic. The pace was relatively medium high at 30-34kmh.
I was busy trying to locate my cousin lost in a sea of color. And out of the corner of my eye i saw him stopped by the side of the road checking his meter. I couldnt stop or get to the side lane so I had to move on, stuck in the tide of cyclists. I dont know why, but i felt that it would be unfair to judge Willy's performance which was fantastic in the hills, if i did not give him a run on the flat roads as well. I am after all in a position now to give a really good frame some good tests of its characteristics and capabilities.
Actually that was an excuse. I wanted to try going fast today. Being a flat road, its tempting not to go fast. :P
I dont know how. The pace steadily increase from 35kmh......then to 38kmh.......then to 40kmh. Once i saw this figure of 40kmh, I know now its going to get real tough on my lungs and my legs. I look towards the front of the group and theres like 50 ,60 or so riders in front of me. But when i turned back.............just a handful of riders were hooked to my rear tire. The rest of the peloton was gone. Its either i stick to this first and fast group or i drop to the next group. Well since im at the rear end of the group , i get lots of wind shield. Sticking to the group was not as tough as i thought it would be, with Willy being made of funny tube shapes and a light fast accelerating wheelset. It probably helped alot.
And then speed went up....42kmh......44kmh.....45kmh........47kmh....man these guys are crazy. Already i was in the big 54T ring with a 15/16 rear cog. I myself love to push a big gear at low cadence, it somehow feels less stressful than 100rpm. All the time my attention was only on 2 places, the riders ahead and the speed we are going. On the drop bars nearly the entire time squeezing whatever wind advantage and power saving advantage I can get.
Slowly few riders drop out from this fast blazing group. As we move like a long train on smooth tracks, the camera man decides to show up and take videos and snapshots. I wanted to wave, but i couldnt. Haha.
Then i saw another small bunch of riders breaking off............and in that bunch was Bahri "Legend" Aris. I overtook him and said "That was you in front?!!?! No wonder we hit 47kmh". He just laughed and continued to drop further, while i continued sticking to the first group. Dont know but this guy is capable of a come back plan.
The train goes steady for 45km. And im still in the big fast bullet train heading down towards Pulai Springs Resort, our final stop. Wait, 45km..........we only did 1hr 30mins of riding. That was really fast. That means the last hours avg speed must have been 39-40kmh. Nothing but just keep going forwards tucked behind the big group. Now for the record, I have not been in the front fast group this long before, neither have I enough training to be in a fast group at all! Mostly my thoughts while in this period is : Blank. Blank for another 25km or so. Soon we passed a small town with traffic lights, and then thats where i said goodbye to the 45kmh speed. The traffic lights broke alot of the riders rhythm. Now we were split into two. The first group was never to be seen again until Pulai Springs.
So now im stuck with a 5 member group of the Trek dudes and a few other riders. With their black/yellow outfit matching with their yellow/black themed Trek bikes, either they are worshiping the brand or the man who once rode this brand to 7 TdF wins. Beats me.
At first it was just the 9 of us. Small, but going steady at 35kmh. Still pushing my big gears. And after 5km with them...........we stopped for a drink. 75km! In 2.5 hours. Almost halfway done! Now that was really something i thought i could never do. But these riders are friendly and fantastic. They dont go all out to punish with speed, but keep speed consistent and predictable. And they say they were just taking it slow.........uh huh, right. Slow. A quick 10 minute breather is all we took to fill water and release water. Getting back on the bike straight away cruising along this long road.
I must say the road conditions were not really favorable to me. At times its rough everywhere. Pot holes here and there. Almost last 70km i was also busy avoiding road hazards asides concentrating riding in the group. And problem with going fast is sometimes we cannot react fast enough to a road hazard if the front man does not give signals/warnings.
So back again on the saddle, the group of us is now about 10-12. A little while later another couple of riders manage to catch our group and joined the train. And we also caught another group in front. So now we were happily in a sizable group again, and me will be just sticking near the rear end enjoying the pull. It was a nice 15-20km pull by the front riders. But they seem to be a little bit lacking of road hazard warnings.
One of the hazards i couldnt avoid was small pothole. Though small, but due to the speed we were going, my bikes front end slamed into the pothole so hard, my handlebar actually went down a good measure due to the force. So much that I was riding uncomfortably. I was alittle cheesed off, so I yelled to the front "SIGNAL PLEASE!".
Well, I think they didnt hear me..........because not too long after.........again............i slammed into another, but deeper, pothole. Very very hard. No signal was given. Everyone infront just suddenly parted left and right. You know, like Moses opening the Red Sea? The Israelites saw dry land to walk across. I saw this big @$$ hole (not big a**h**e, but big a** hole) suddenly right at the front of my tires and I was going "Oh mama..........". Soon as i whacked into this hole, I heard a sound not many riders want to hear. Air gushed out. From my rear tire. And it went flat in an instant.
I was quite frustrated that the riders in front did not give any signal whatsoever.
But then lo and behold, since this puncture took place on a small ditch crossing, when i got to the other side, i saw a group of riders all by the side of the road and at least 2-3 riders with their bikes upside down and wheels off the frame. Seems im not the only one being a victim of this bad stretch of road. So i joined in the (not so fun) fray being beside the road with a flat tire.
My cousin uses tubeless tires on these Shimano Dura Ace 7800 wheels, and already inside is the caffelatex. Its pretty much the green slime for car tires, but this is for bikes. And i saw this really deep 1.5cm cut in the tire with the caffelatex oozing out trying to dry and seal the hole. But not successful as the cut was way too long to be covered. So i decided to take off the wheel, take out the tire (and have caffelatex spill out) and put in a tube. Thank God a support van was there and borrowed a pump. In not time I had an inflated tire. I just hope the cut doesnt grow and lasts for the last 69km or so. At the same time i readjusted my handle bar and did a whole bike check since I went in 2 potholes already. Turns out there was some caffelatex that came out from the front tire but it sealed the rim wall. Guess the first pothole did that, but didnt manage to make a puncture or a pinch flat.
Well............great. Now my rhythm is screwed and I lost the group. So i guess I will be on my own for the last 69km. Pedaling off under pretty fair weather. Now i think i better ride solo so that i can see more road in front of me and avoid all the potholes than seeing peoples rear wheel and butts. Now getting back to 35kmh seems like a hard thing to do.
I rode along for about 3 or 4km........suddenly I heard a faint shout of my name..........coming from the opposite side of the road. Guess who guess who...............Bahri. :)
The invitational wave to come and stop together with him (and new friend Doctor Sani) was just too irresistible. And i saw drinks on the table they were sitting on. So okay, pit stop no 3 for today. Sat down, had a nice drink. He said he saw me stop by the side of the road attending my puncture. The 3 of us also had a nice chat with the local shop operator and family doing their daily business. They were surprised to see many cyclist going towards JB. We just explained the whole trip thing (like we have done always when people ask us). They are always left stunned when we tell them the distance we travel per day for 3 days.
And the other usual topic talked about are the bikes. I mean we get lots of questions regarding the bikes, but mostly on the price. And when this time the Malay uncle asked us "How much are your bikes?" , well, the 3 of us looked at each other...............and actually feeling really....................shy......................to tell just how much it costs for each of our bikes. Mine has already touched the 6k mark. Bahri's is in the 10k mark already. And doctor Sani's Pinarello Dogma 60.1 with Campagnolo Record 11spd and Lightweight wheels? 35k.
Well the uncle insisted we just say how much it is (in front of his wife and children, staring at us intently). So okay, he opened the price range "5,6k?" he asked candidly. Me and Bahri nodded our heads. Thats about it. But when it came to doc Sani's turn.......its like he's blushing. Then suddenly doc asks the uncle to go over and try to lift his bike. And the uncle was amazed at the lightness.
And further more doc explained "Its all about passion for the bike. You know, exercising is a healthy sport. And we all do it to keep fit and have a good time together. The cost doesnt really matter, but when I saw the bike, I like it so much so I bought it. By installment actually" . "My first bike was RM4k. Then used it for a while, and i sold it off. Got my second bike for RM11k.". "MY third bike which is this one is RM35k"
The uncle took a second look at the Dogma. And a third look......
"RM35k?" the uncled asked again
Doc Sani replied "Yes 35k, but because I like the bike so much I dont mind paying. By installment that is. I bought it piece by piece, part by part." "So now its assembled and I use it for my cycling rides." *chuckles*
Me and Bahri looked at each other again dont know how or where to hide our faces trying to contain abit of laughter. But in all honesty the whole conversation was hilarious. Im sure we made their jaws drop right to the floor.
Welll a good 15minutes spent with the locals sure was fun. And its 11am with 65km to go, I would say the journey is not long anymore. 3 of us bade farewell to the nice lovely uncle and his family for the hospitality. More serious business awaits. Bahri suggested we ride together no more than 31kmh taking turns pulling each other. Well i thought that be a splendid idea. So we rode.....taking turns pulling each other. Roads were still pretty rough and still had to avoid lots of holes cracks debris dead animals etc. At one point there was so much debris and holes, and I was at front, I had to give double hand signal (spreading my arms out and pointing down on both sides) to signal holes on my left and right. That was funny. I heard a big laugh from the two behind me.......
I was starting to feel the pain of the 31kmh pace after about 10km. I actually could barely hang on to the pace. Well thank God we went through a town with lots of traffic lights. And somehow we caught up with a big group infront. Yes, the 3 of us managed to catch a group. Aint that swell? In the beginning, we said to rest at every 30km. So 2 stops only. Next stop at 140km. So we followed this group since it was so much easier on our legs. Minus mine. Im the one sitting at the back with my tongue scraping the road.
140km came. And went. Erm, I shouted to Bahri in front "Are we still stopping for 140k pitstop?"
Bahri asked Doc Sani. No. They are not stopping.
But my legs are almost already flat and I need a rest. So i told Bahri that i will take a pit stop like it or not. They went ahead. While I fell back slowly at my own sweet pace. After all its just little under 29km to go. Its about 12 noon, so i dont need to rush to the finish line. I took a short stop at a petrol kiosk. And then after that its looking towards my 5th IS fininsh. So close i am now.
The last 29k wasnt exactly friendly either. There were some rolling hills, windy hot dry sunny weather. And alot of traffic as we are nearing Pulai town. I see signboards pointing now to JB town, Pasir Gudang, Skudai, Pontian. Oh guess what, lots of riders stopped over for ice kacang at a local stall/shop. Including the Trek boys. Now ive overtaken them, despite my puncture and my stops!
In the last 20km i took things really slow and relaxed. Few riders came and went. Then i manage to follow this solo dude also desperately and slowly trying to complete the days ride. We stuck together since we were both on the same boat. Grinding slowly up each hill like it was a mountain, riding on the flats like a 2 cylinder car. The final 6km was really tricky as it got us twisting and turning and making a U-Turn even (first time in IS history i think). The dude was cursing and swearing at the crazy route. I just had nothing to say but shut up and finish it, with a wee bit more to go. Nothing can really stop me now unless the earth suddenly collapsed beneath my wheels. And a few more turns, a traffic light, a left hand junction.....a nice guard house....and voila : Pulai Springs Resort.
Yeah. Finally 5 years of IS is done, toasted, in the bag. I finished at 2pm. A very fast time for me considering the distance. If i stuck with any group i would have come in much earlier. Bahri was already there sitting down with his feet up and drinking the welcome drink. And he came in nearly half hour earlier than me. But the point is : I have done it! So its my turn to sit relax and think of all the regrets fun crazy happenings for 5 years in a row. So now i wonder, what about the next 5 years? Heaven knows.
So all i have to do now is laze around, wait for my cousin and half of the rest of the riders to come back and wait for hotel rooms to be ready. My cousin came in at 3pm. Well done to him for IS no2 finish. I wonder will he do 5 in a row as well? Well he came all the way for this ride for the last 2 years and looks like he is pretty addicted to it also. 3.30pm only we got our room keys. The hotel room was really 5 star resort luxury. A suite with small living room, a kitchen, bedroom and bath. Sweet. Not so sweet was that we have to pay RM50 a day for the internet access. This must be for the Singaporeans. :P
After a nice bath, we walked around the resort compound for a while. Then looked at some bikes parked in the basement car park. A banks worth of money sitting there. The security guard better be doing his job properly.
The final nights dinner was nice, with the recap of vids photos, speeches, and a lucky draw (which none of us were lucky). My cousin went out with his friends after dinner while i just wanted to rest and relax in the hotel room. So for Day 3 of IS12, it is done. Tomorrow, 3 things awaits me : A very nice western buffet breakfast, the bike packing, and the bus ride back to KL.
TQ TQ TQ All for the 5 years of hell on wheels.
1st May : Day 4
So its the departure home day. Nothing much to write about. Bus leaves at 9. We woke up at 7.45. *am we were out the door packed. The breakfast was top class western style buffet. I wish i could whack all the food. I nearly did with 3 plates in front of me.
The bike packing and all was usual. After all the short mechanical work, up the bus and over back to KL. Ive traveled the NS Highway between KL and JB so many times I didnt even feel like looking out the window. Bus stopped twice en route back. By the time we landed in Kajang, it was roughly 3pm.
Back in city life and mundane routines again. Will wait till next August for the 2013 Interstate as Hari Raya falls after before August, so the normal Merdeka day IS ride is back again. Wonder whats next for IS13? Its anyone's guess.
But for now, and the last 5 years...............
Thank You for being with me, and thank you for letting me be with you riders.
And to the blog readers, more to come i hope. But id like less drama so i can write shorter write ups. These long posts are killing me.........