Monday, February 13, 2012

Sexobang —Tour De Interior

A little over half a year ago, I started cycling on almost every Saturday with some friends. And our group gradually grew to include more members. Later, we welcomed some women cyclists into the group too. After a while, we decided to name our group Team Sexobang.

A few months ago, one of the Sexobangers, Darren, mooted the idea of a cycling tour from Tenom to Ranau on the 13th of January 2012—he referred to the tour in the style of Tour De Interior. The total distance was well over 160km. But I think that distance was not really a challenge to most of us. The main challenge was the rolling hills on the Crocker Range which was quite punishing on the quads.

I did not originally plan to join the tour, however, as it was intended to start on a Friday, and I was quite reluctant to spend my leave on a cycling tour. It was initially planned that the team would start their journey from Kota Kinabalu (KK) by train in Kepayan, all the way to Beaufort, before proceeding to Tenom, the starting point of the tour. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, the train ride became impossible at the last minute, thus resulting in a special convoy of support vehicles from KK to Tenom first thing on Friday morning.

A couple of days before that, I realised that some other cyclists from another group were also joining the tour; and they would only join the Keningau-Ranau leg on Saturday morning. A few exchanges of text messages later, I managed to secure a seat in Auther's truck on Saturday morning.

At around 5am on that Saturday, I rode a short distance from my house to Burger King in Damai where I met Auther (later, I realised that his name was pronounced as Arthur, and not Author) for the first time. Denny arrived a few minutes later. We then set off to pick up some of their other friends. I was fairly amused to note that all the cyclists in Auther's group had the tendency of uttering the word "bro", in almost every sentence that came out of their mouths. We stopped for a bit in Papar town for breakfast, and then went up the steep Kimanis hills, arriving in Keningau to find the rest of the pack just about ready for the long torture.

Before we started the journey, however, we had a final briefing by Darren. Then Paul announced the dedication of the tour to our friend, the late Andrew Voon. A quick photo session followed...

Claire and Hana were also there. Of the two ladies, I was more interested in Hana, as I knew that she had only started cycling a couple of weeks before the tour. I wondered if she could handle the rolling hills, and I have to admit that I seriously doubted that she could finish even the Keningau-Tambunan leg of a little over 50km.

It was not a major concern though, as Darren, apart from being the organiser of the tour, had also taken up the role of the escort for the ladies. He was happy to assume that role, of course, as you can see from his wide smile in the photo below.

It was a beautiful sunny morning with the cool air of the highland of Keningau. We decided to take the gentle undulating village road. There was a sharp turn on the hill, and I had the unpleasant experience to be the first one to fall off my bike. It was just a minor mishap which did not trouble my cycling at all. The road was somewhat narrow and we had to be careful on the occasional huge lorries on the road.

But for the most part, it was a peaceful trip along the countryside, with beautiful views of hillslopes...

Of cows resting on the road, even though they did not pay any road tax...

Of acres upon acres of paddy fields in the yonder...

With intricate irrigation system...

Hana was steady on her bike, and once she's into it, it was hard to believe that she had only started cycling a few weeks before that. I was secretly impressed—not only with her sexy figure—but also in her determination in negotiating the hills.

Amelia was also there that morning, but because of a nasty fall the previous day during the Tenom-Keningau leg, she had a bit of problem with her wheel, causing punctures twice within just a few kilometres. That put an end to her cycling tour. But she played the role of motivator, sitting in one of the support vehicles and shouting words of encouragement with a megaphone. She also spent about an hour running on the highway under the hot sun. Insanity is a strange disease, you see.

It took us perhaps four hours or so to reach Tambunan, just in time for lunch. I was among the first few to reach. And while waiting at the roadside for the rest, the guys were telling each other how they went downhill up to 78km/h. I was always conscious of the danger of going downhill too fast. I limited myself to a maximum speed of 50km/h only, thus seeing a few of them zooming past me.

We were all still talking when someone announces the arrival of the mighty Teo Chen Lung, the Kipas King. As if because I feared his arrival, I lost my footing and fell off my bike for the second time that day. I got up quickly though because there were cars coming. But later I thought it would be nice to take a photo of that fall; and while I was at it, I might as well make it look more dramatic!

We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. And it must have been at least an hour later before the last pack, including Hana, the escort and Auther and his friends arrived. We lingered on up till 2pm in Tambunan before starting for the Tambunan-Ranau leg.

The ride out of Tambunan was quite pleasant. But by then Hana and Claire decided not to continue cycling. Andy took the opportunity to borrow Claire's bike to ride the final leg to Ranau. At first, it was very gentle. But it soon became clear that there were more hills ahead—many, many more! And they were very long climbs too; some went on and on for several kilometres at a time.

For the most part, we struggled uphill, while the ladies had some fun teasing us.

After several punishing climbs, we stop for a bit at one of the villages along the way. A local man in a security uniform approached us, and we struck a conversation with him. Having had a bit of experience talking with villagers during the TMBT, I don't know why I asked this fellow about the hills ahead. And of course according to him, there were no more hills ahead; all very gentle undulating terrains. Villagers, if you don't already know it, don't really know the meaning of the word "HILL", you see.

As we continued our journey, we almost immediately started climbing again. By then we were already wet from the drizzle, but it eventually became a heavy downpour. At some portions, visibility became quite poor because of the fog; and the road was fairly slippery.

I became more worried on the downhill part, so I was careful to use my brakes. Andy, perhaps due to the excitement of the adrenaline rush during the downhill part, got a bit carried away. Unfortunately, he went too fast and was unable to stop in time to avoid these potholes at the bottom of the hill, thus losing control of his bike, skidding a few metres further, and finally landed on the grass on the roadside with a fractured collar bone.

He remained on the ground for a while before the support vehicle arrived. It was then not very far from Ranau, perhaps 30km to go. The ladies put him into the truck and rushed him to Ranau Hospital. The rest of us continued cycling and braved more hills ahead.

The rain became heavier again, and upon reaching the top of the hill, even Gilbert Wong who was the first in the leading pack had to admit that it was too dangerous to ride in that condition. From that point onwards, it was almost downhill all the way. With the rain and poor visibility, we had to reluctantly end the tour with about 20km to go.

It was quite a bitter decision to make for some of us. Certainly, it's not my habit to surrender in any challenge, but in the end I suppose safety had to come first.

We loaded our bikes onto the support vehicles and went all the way to Ranau, eventually learning that Andy was given a strong shot of painkiller. He made his way back to KK that same evening with the rest of us. We went to a restaurant for dinner before heading back to KK. It was such an exhausting trip. Apparently this will be an annual event, so hopefully many more cyclists will join us next year!

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