Cycling Tour: Bintan Island in Indonesia Stage 1

Coconut trees fringing coastal road

Last week I went down to Bintan Island, Indonesia to compete in the Tour de Bintan two day three stage race.  It was a brilliant weekend of racing combined with beach resort living and this tour is highly recommended if you are looking for a holiday with the family and still get your dose of racing. Many of the expats in the Asia region had come with their families and stayed for an extra few days after the racing was over.

I was representing cyclingnewsasia in this Tour since my regular team Champion System Racing did not send a team down to race. I was also the media representative, writing the race reports for publication on the site. This going to be a three part series recapping the racing from my perspective during the two days.

Day 1 156kms time: 4hrs 29min

I was monitoring my heart rate during the bus transfer to the race start/finish area, and noticed the heart rate would stay in the high 70s. This was quite abnormal for me since I have a resting heart rate of 45bpm and if seated should be in the low 50s. Maybe it was the combination of heat and anticipation of racing – remember I had just came down from a comparatively cool Hangzhou in China (14 degrees) to the heat of close to 40 degrees and high humidity. Once the race was underway, I focused on conserving my energy by riding in the small chain-ring for the first 30-35kms as it was that first section that could have been very tough with all the power hills to get over. I also wanted to make sure I’d be in any threatening move that go up the road.  Quite a few attacks went up the road, but each time the moves were bought back. At the 32km mark, there was a lull in the pace and I just gave it a nudge and checked behind and saw that no-one was chasing so I kept going. I was quickly joined by Matt LeCornu (Cannasia) and Tim Wilkons (Cannasia) as well as a couple of OCBC riders. I caught up with the lone OCBC rider and we formed a six-man breakaway that quickly rolled out-of-sight.  I mistakenly thought there were a couple of riders up the road and did not contest the sprint ace points and did not work too hard in the break. Once I realized that we were the breakaway and no-one was up the road, I started rolling through more often and increasing the pace. After 20km riding, we were joined by Nick Swallow (Cycleworx) and Mark Scoular. We started rolling together a bit better but then at the 75km mark I got the first feelings of cramp so backed off and focused on spinning to try and stop my cramp beginnings from becoming serious! I survived till the 98km mark, just 3km out from the second sprint ace line. I started to cramp in both legs as we climbed a steep section, so I had no choice but to ‘granny’ gear it to stop the cramp.  Matt LeCornu also got dropped at the same point so we started trading pulls to get back on. We came agonizingly close to pulling them back in time for the sprint – just 10 seconds! I gave Matt a leadout till the 800m mark but it was just not enough. We hovered 20 seconds behind the five-man breakaway for sometime, but once we hit some more big rollers they went out of sight. I just rode tempo the rest of the way and focused on keeping the fluids going in.

About 30kms from the finish-line, we were caught by a hard charging Colin Robertson who brought with him Tim Clarsen, Marcus Leong and Robert Hensby. Both Hensby and Clarsen clapped me on the back to announce their arrival! Five minutes later, Colin attacks big time and only Marcus could get up to him. I tried an acceleration myself, but I knew I could not sustain an acceleration needed to get him back. So I just kept riding hard tempo under the boiling sun! Again I was on my own, but LeCornu was never far from me. However, both LeCornu and Hensby must’ve had enough as I could no longer see them. They reappeared with the category 2 bunch – a nice free ride on the back of them for a few kilometers to get back to me.  I had found some renewed energy in the last 15km as I was putting out higher average speed (38-42km/h) and was feeling ok. At the 4km to go mark, I was caught by the category 2 bunch that contained Hensby and LeCornu. At 3km to go, we surprisingly caught Colin Robertson. He had blown up big time due to the heat and lack of fluids earlier in the stage. So it was a four-man sprint for 8th position. I did not really care about the result, so I started to lead out with about 1km to go and Colin made a jump on us at 800m. I continued to ride hard with LeCornu and Hensby on my wheel. I gave it my all in the final lunge for the line, the big Australian LeCornu is a known sprinter in Singapore and he was coming up on my right side and then drew slightly ahead, but right at the line my bike throw put my wheel in front of his! The max heart rate in that sprint was a massive 197bpm, the highest I have gone for along time. Normally I can get it to 191-192, so its definitely the heat factor.  It was an extremely tough day in the saddle as we did 1,700m of climbing but the highest point was only 70m! That is a lot of up and down riding.

Riders were getting free massages from local masseuses under tents at the race venue, so I got in line and got one myself. It was the most painful massage I have ever had. Is it supposed to be like that? Or perhaps those guys do not know how to massage bike riders? I was grimacing in pain the whole time, the legs even cramping up during his massage!! The best part of the massage was actually the back and neck areas but still painful. When on the bus transfer back to the resort, I had my legs up on the seat in front of me to help with blood circulation, but when we arrived and I put my legs down – one of them just want into lock-down, I could not move for good minute. I finished the day with a nice relaxing swim in the clear ocean and a walk along the white sandy beach.

Stay tuned for the other reports. For the official stage one report on cyclingnewsasia, click here

See how they are leaning on each other mid-sprint!

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