Monday, October 31, 2011

Kinabalu Cycling Challenge 2011

I really should be blogging about the Miri International Triathlon, but I promised Teo that I'd post about the Kinabalu Cycling Challenge (KCC) 2011 first. So here goes nothing.

The KCC 2011 was held on 18 September. I woke up at about 5:30am to find that it was raining. Looking out from my bedroom window, I saw the wet road outside; and I wondered if the event would still proceed as planned. I thought it would. So I changed into my cycling gear, loaded my bike into my truck and headed out to Taman Awam, the venue of KCC.

When I reached the park, there was already a big crowd there, and I had to park my truck along the highway. My cyclist friends were already there; and they gave a short exclamation upon seeing my arrival.

I'm relatively new to the sport, having bought a secondhand bike from my friend Andrew Voon just a couple of months ago, after the Borneo International Marathon 2011. Since then, I have been cycling about once a week on Saturdays. However, because of other commitments, I was unable to go cycling on some Saturdays.

The other guys in my group are seasoned cyclists, and I have to admit that I've learnt quite a thing or two from them. I did not think I could win the KCC—far from it! But as in any other sports that I have joined before, I would be all out to do my best. However, I secretly entertained the idea of trying to beat at least my friend Teo Chen Lung, since he had only started cycling about a year earlier than me. I thought I could hope to beat him, but not those with many years of cycling experience.

Before the flag off, as usual we were busy preparing safety nets as a precautionary step for possible bad performance. Alex was saying that he had just gone training together with Bob at the mountain two days prior to the race; so his legs were still tired. And he had very little sleep the night before. Teo and I were saying we're just hoping not to finish last. A bit of pain and discomforts here and there—just in case we did end up last anyway!

The mountain bike category went off first; and then five minutes later, it was the road bike category. I felt a bit awkward to start racing at the age of 46, and I made sure that I started way at the back of the pack where hardly anyone would notice me. But Teo was still not done with his safety net thing—he started about a metre behind me. According to him, just in case he's the last to finish, at least he had the excuse that he started last anyway. Kiasuness—as you might have realised by now—is a strange disease, you see.

At the back of my mind, I knew that Teo's KUOTA was a much more superior bike than my GIANT TCR. Remembering that he's younger, bigger built and more experienced than I was, I didn't have much hope of beating him. But then again, my regular readers would know that I am also a greedy fellow when it comes to these things. I can't resist the challenge, you see.

I started the race with an average of 32-33km/h, which could be considered very slow for a race. But I had to be careful not to overdo it, bearing in mind that we're racing 100km, and we had to pass several small hills along the way.

All the time, I kept track of Teo's position. I couldn't afford to let him out of my sight. Going up the hill heading to Sepangar Port, I picked up a bit of speed; and as I decended the hill, I saw the rest of my cycling friends on their return leg from Sepangar. I kept my pace steady, although I slowed down a bit as I climbed the hill again before entering the Nexus Karambunai road. It was around then that I took an energy gel.

The internal road leading to Karambunai was quite rough, and that was very unfriendly to the road bike. At the end of that road, we made a sharp turn at the loop and made our way back to the Sepangar road again. By then I could feel a little bit of exhaustion building up in my thighs, although it was still bearable. Shortly after the loop, on my way back, I saw Teo charging from the opposite direction, followed shortly by Derek.

I was expecting Teo to come surging ahead at Jalan Sepangar, but he didn't. I was tempted to increase my pace, but remembered that we still had many more kilometres ahead, I carefully refrained from speeding up.

Well, I went on to Salut, crossing the long Mengkabong Bridge. And then as I was approaching the round about before entering Jalan Serusup, I was beginning to worry that Teo had still not caught up. I began to suspect that he had some sort of trick up his sleeve. I slowed down a bit and ate a banana, followed shortly later with another energy gel. I was beginning to feel tired, but I kept going behind two other cyclists who had also slowed down to about 25km/h.

At about Km50 of the race route, Teo finally emerged from behind, overtaking us. I stepped on my pedals and caught up with Teo and followed him from behind, entering the loop, going through some rough patches. Teo ate an energy gel, and then turning to me, he announced that we had reached Km60. I was of course already tired by then, and my quads were burning, but if I had any dreams to beat Teo, I would have to start attacking soon. I knew that Teo had the habit of sprinting back to Likas at the Indah Permai traffic lights. If I allowed him to reach that point together, it would be all over for me!

It was shortly after that that Teo suggested that we should draft each other; and I obliged. This thing about drafting is an excellent idea—both of us could benefit in the sense that we could take turns resting. However, when we reached Km65, it became clear that it was time for me to step up the pace again.

Teo slowed down to drink while I was ahead. I upped my pace and started to build up the gap between us. After a while I looked back and saw Teo perhaps 100 metres behind me. I took the opportunity to eat a banana, and then swiftly resume building up my pace again.

Coming out Jalan Serusup and after passing the roundabout, I maintained 33-34km/h, thus leaving Teo further and further behind. But I knew that he would come surging again very soon. He had the habit of letting his rivals lead before he attacks at the Indah Permai traffic lights. I thought if I could build up sufficient lead by the time I approach Indah Permai, maybe I had a chance to struggle to keep up the pace. The finish would be close no doubt.

I pushed through the Mengkabong Bridge, through several more hills, passing Salut, all the way to Indah Permai. At the traffic lights, I turned back and was happy to find that Teo was there. Getting out of my saddle, I climbed that hill, and then zoomed down the other side, cycling with the heavy gear, building up speed up to 54km/h, although for a few seconds only. As I said, kiasuness is a very strange disease—it can make you do things you never knew you could do!

When I approached the Yayasan Sabah Bridge, I looked back once again. Teo was nowhere to be seen. It was then that I realised that the unthinkable could happen after all. Thus encouraged, I started pounding on the pedals again. So much worked had gone into the last 30km, it would have been a shame if I let it all go to waste. I made my way to the Likas mosque, then the Wisma Perindustrian roundabout, making the final loop and finally approaching the finish line.

When I reached Taman Awam again, I had cramps in both my quads. I had to ask for a friend's assistance to get off my bike. I then sat at the curb for a bit to loosen up my muscles before finally joining the rest of them who had finished the race a good 10-15 mins earlier.

Teo arrived about 5 minutes later. It turned out that he, too, suffered cramps in his legs. So it was my lucky day. If he did not suffer cramps, there was no way I could dream of beating him. But then, y'know, it's all in the game! (smile)

Well, no one in our team won anything that day, except that Robert won a lucky draw, courtesy, I believe, of Hyatt Regency Hotel. In the end, I still consider it a fruitful outing, as it was a valuable experience.

Well, one more last pose before we went home that day.

Now a bit of comment for the organiser—the event was awfully organised. The marshals did not know what they were doing. According to the rules, no support vehicles were allowed. Yet the winning team had support vehicles all the way throughout. I doubt that I could win the race anyway, had the rules been adhered to, but maybe some of the other strong cyclists might have a shot at it.

Now perhaps I should refrain from competing next year to deny Teo of the chance for revenge!? (Go on, Teo, call me chicken!)

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