Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tour De Bintan

The TDB is probably the biggest amateur bike stage race in Asia and as Bintan is located only a short ferry ride away, it is the biggest event in the Singapore cycling scene. In the circles I move in with tri-coaching, bike fits, and endurance sports injuries, it seemed to be a regular topic of conversation around me all year.

 I had wanted to race it for a while and very nearly did 3 or 4 years ago when the Team Niseko crew I ride with made the trip down from Niseko. On the day I was about to sign up we had a staff issue in Tokyo and I had to work there for a few months and couldn’t make the trip. Last year I was already signed up to do Mandurah trip when I realised it was on the same weekend as the TdB.
Team Niseko Desu!
I’d been doing some coaching for Metasport tri club in Singapore, helping with their Sunday group ride, and several of the triathletes from Metasport had recently started up a club APS “Arrivo Primo Singapura” - Italian for "to arrive first" - ahem.  And the crew had targeted the Tour De Bintan as the main bike race and probably main focus of the year. APS was formed in post race discussions after last year's Tour De Bintan. Matt W, Glen F, Tim C, Sam P, Gav and Jeremy then arranged a very fashionable kit, some sponsors, a Google email group, some regular training sessions and Ouila - a pretty cool cycling/tri club was born and I was stoked to be part of it. I had missed the group feel of team sports since leaving them for tris a few years ago and it was fun to have it back.

Arrivo Primo Singapore Logo (we dinnit ned the S causing clutter with our cool logo yo!).

We’d had some good results through the year with Matt White winning an early season bike race and we had a good number of racers in the Tour De Bintan with about 10 riders in Cat 2 (including me) and another 6 or so in Cat 3. A few of our Cat 2 guys dropped down to Cat 3 after the Crit and we ended up coming 2nd in the  Team's Event in Cat 3. We ended up getting 3rd in the Cat 2 Teams (top 3 times each day). Bravo APS!

The way the categories work in Bintan there are about 80 riders in Cat 1, including a ‘pro’ team or two and some teams from Aus, about 150 enter Cat 2, and then 100 or so in Cat 3. Cat 2 has a maximum of 100 riders, so they have an elimination race on Day 1, where the top 100 of the 150 entered stay in Cat 2 and the rest drop to Cat 3. In past years, the day 1 was a Time Trial (riders go off individually on a timed course and the times are carried over into the overall timed GC/yellow jersey rankings) but this year they wanted to try something different and made the race a Criterium in the main city of Bintan, which was an almost 2 hour drive from the resort area where everyone was staying.

Some travelled by bus direct from the ferry terminal on Bintan, but I’d spent the night before in the resort area so took the first shuttle bus as there was two waves so got to the area as early as I could from the resort, but unfortunately like many others, my bike was not as punctual. The Cat 2 crit was separated into two separate waves of about 75 riders in each. I had been down to race the first wave but my bike only arrived after it finished so I ended up in Wave 2 - that wave had all the Mavs and was the stronger wave. The decided to only carry over the time bonuses, not the overall time of the race which meant maybe it would be better to be int he easier wave. Who knows how I would have gone in wave 1, but it ended up probably would have been better if I was in that one. Que sera sera. 

APS: Comfortable enough with our sexuality to pose for shots like this.

Criterium 45mins + 2 laps.
41.9km Distance

1:04:58 Moving Time 

436m Elevation (?)

304W Weighted Avg Power 


The crit was a 3.4km circuit with a few short sharp hills and lots of fast right hand turns. It was supposedly 45minutes, plus 2 laps. The tactics for Crits in general tend to be: stay near the front, but not on the front and I spent most of the race in the first 20 as did the other APS guys, Tim C, Jonny C and Matt W. 

My wingman Jonny C leading the way with sprint powerhouse Matt W  ready to pounce. Random Maverick dude struggling to hang on.
The first half of the race passed by without much incident and then I was on the wheel of Jonny for a bit and some dude cut up the inside and started to try and nudge in to try and take Jonny’s wheel. Cycling is so much more aggressive than triathlon, something about the cramped environment with all the bikes together where everyone wants to be sitting behind someone else’s wheel and be near the front leads to a lot of shouting and fighting as guys fight over space and wheels all trying to be the Alpha male like lame-asses.

That's my wheel!
 Not that I am an expert in the etiquette of cycling, but I figured it was my team mate and I was on the wheel first, so that wheel was ‘my property’ and if you don’t man up in a bike race you’ll just get bullied around, so I warned this guy it was my wheel and told him not to come in, but he kept shifting in more and more until we were almost touching shoulders, not dropping forward or back in search of somewhere else to cut in, like I told him to twice. So I put a hand on his shoulder and guided him away. He didn’t take kindly to this and I guess he was seeing red, and made the rash decision to shoulder barge my team mate  (whose wheel we were fighting over) and as luck would have it - the impact was just at the time Jonny was looking behind to see what the shouting was about and he became really unbalanced and swerved back and forth and very nearly came down at 35+kph. I was pretty infuriated and I rode up to him and let him know about it in no uncertain terms. To his credit, he did apologise.

Handbags at ten paces.
That got my blood boiling a bit as the adrenaline and testosterone were pumping, so with no regard for the correct tactics and despite there being 3 or 4 laps left, I decided to go the front for a bit to blow off some steam and then was so charged up I put the foot down a bit and before I knew it I was in a bit of a solo breakaway. I did a lap and half in front before the peloton swallowed me up. I sort of backed off when I wasn’t getting far enough away that I thought I could hold it to the line. Not sure if I should have committed to that break more or not as per the shot below I ended up getting a decent gap, but the fear of blowing up and finishing mid field after getting caught is always there, but maybe it could have stuck if I really committed to it. But probably not.....

Money Shot 

Then we had a bit of an incident on a sharp climb where one of the crazy Cambodian riders took the start of the hill at about 1,000watts out wide and then swooped in and two guys on his inside slowed and ducked inwards a bit and and I went within a whisker of crossing wheels with a guy ahead and had to stop pedaling for a second (not ideal on a 15% hill – but if I didn’t I would have touched wheels and gone down). Unfortunately our sprinter Matt was right on my wheel and we touched wheels and he went down. I felt pretty guilty and like most accidents it was not just the one thing that caused it but the trickle down of a couple of things. I apologized to him afterwards as I was not without fault, but Matt is an experienced bike racer and was very cool about it and saw exactly how it played out.

Video of the Crit frome some random dude. I am the 125 with the junk in the trunk.  Vision of the crashes here near the end- but it doesn't show the whole story!

After that some dude from the Mavericks got away with about 1.5 laps to go when I wasn’t watching and our team was non-the wiser that there was one ‘up the road’. We were mucking around in the last lap sitting up and jockeying for positions more than chasing. The Mavs being very experienced racers were not putting in that much and the last lap was curiously slow. Into the last 500m and Jonny C was at the head of the field and I went up to him and said “mate give me 30sec all out from now” but we had no real plan for the race and if anything it was just to stay out of trouble, with scant regard for the time bonuses. So Jonny didn’t know that we were going to even to sprint for the finish and we had no real plan for a lead out to the sprint etc so there was a bit of miscommunication. More inexperience from triathletes pretending to be cyclists.  So I ended up leading out the sprint and a sprinter from the Mavs came around me with 100m to go and 'won' easily enough (actually were riding for 2nd and 3rd).  Anyway the dude who went around me was a sprint specialist so he probably would have done so even if we got our lead-out tactics right, so it was no biggie as he had my wheel from long out from home. It was not until 10mins after the race I was told there was one other Mav up the road who had gotten away. Bladdy race radios – where are they when you need them? To be fair my tactics were pretty poor across the board and I should have had a crack at the breakaway when the Mav guy went about1.5 laps left, not out of anger 4 laps before the finish.

At least we wuz thereabouts!
Anyway I got a few seconds time bonus for coming 3rd and the race was a helluva lot of fun (aside from the fall) – fortunately Matt got back up and finished in the top half so stayed in Cat 2 for the rest of the race.

APS post race debrief - there was a dude up the road see the times here

Post-crit APS team shot.

Day 2 150km road race

The APS crew was in a buoyant mood Friday night as we all felt we had asserted ourselves enough in the Crit and the opposition was not as strong as we thought they might have been. We had turned a few heads and a few of the teams had a close eye on the “multi-sport athletes” in the cool grey and yellow kit. About one hour and 35kms into the race and one of the Mavs decided he needed to pee and just in front of me asked his team mate what he should do. “Just farken hold it or piss on yourself I was thinking”. But his mate said “just go the front and tell someone to make an announcement to the peloton to slow down and we all will”, which some self appointed peloton leader/ Maverick team mate dude duly did.

You talkin to me?

Now as I mentioned I’m not an expert on the etiquette of the peloton but it just did not make sense to me that we’d all slow after an hour in a 4-hour race. And as triathletes, we wanted a strong pace all day, so I shouted straight back “You should have gone before we left, we’ve only been going for an hour, we are not farking slowing down”. And a ruffle of controversy went through the peloton. So there was a bit of a divide and no one really knew the correct way to deal with it. Still, I thought “fuck these Mavs – they are the US Postal of the peloton" and like most Aussies, I have a problem with authority and there’s no way anyone from another team would dare to ask for the peloton to slow after an hour so, just so some nervous dude could pee. So I went to the front and put the hammer down a bit and flipped the bird to those behind.

I told you to go before we left home!

Then I was painted as the bad guy with a few Mavs coming up to me saying “we’d do the same for you” and I barked back “fark off, we'd never ask you to” but I was the dastardly villain and even the odd peacekeeper from our team came up to tell me to calm down, tow the recently formed party-line of the peloton and slow down and. It reminded me of a some soccer player in the World Cup who had just had a light shoulder check and decided to roll around clutching his ankle. And if you are in an attacking position with the ball at your feet at that time, everyone thinks kicking it out is the 'fair thing' to do. And if you continue on with play until that phase has broken down his team mates play the guilt card so the pussy can receive 'emergency medical treatment' while a billion people are inconvenienced and the attack is stymied. And I would be just the type to go over to the player, pick him up and dump him on the other side of sideline while a bunch of his team mates surrounded me holding their hands in front of them in pincer grip like Italians, shrugging their shoulders and gesturing to their teammate as if to say “Aren’t you a good person? This poor guy he is a hurt”. Fark you guys, fark that guy, fark your guilt card and fark the Mavs and their toilet stop.


Still I ended up giving up as the whole peloton (apart from my homie from HK Clinton Leong, who was up for continuing to drive on and not buy the shit deal the Mavs were selling either) had slowed.  This combined with the Crit 'wheelgate' and a few other incidents of telling some bludging guys to have a go, and I had developed a reputation as the angry man of the peloton and probably deserved it.

Chill out man.

Soon after that we tried to get away after a points sprint, but partly due to headwind and partly due to the rest everyone had just had for the toilet stop it was futile. We then road along the coast into a long headwind for 30kms or so, which meant it neutralized things and the pace slowed a bit as it is impossible to get away into a head wind unless you are Cancellara and you've just dropped a BB and  can push 450watts for an hour.

Go Luigi, sorry, I mean Cance.
 About the 70km mark we headed inland and away from the headwind and the attacks started to come. One after one we went up the road and the yellow jersey (Dave Wilkins from the Mavs who had snuck away in the Crit) chased almost all of them down by himself with one of his team mates initially - who soon wore out, leaving the yellow jersey a bit isolated. His teammates were all struggling and the peloton was stringing out. In hindsight this was one of a few key moments that we blew with poor racing tactics, as I was making a few lame break away attempts too early in the day which were never going to succeed but drained my energy. In hindsight if I’d sat in and done nothing for another 10kms while other guys repeatedly attacked, I could have possibly made a meaningful breakaway attempt during that period when the yellow jersey guy was pretty knackered and isolated. But the repeated efforts meant I didn’t have the juice and just had to sit in and wait for the sprint finish, which I Jonny and I both timed terribly and ended up 7th and 20th.  Interestingly a Mav who had chased down no breaks and was not sighted all day (apart from his pee stop) suddenly appeared to win the sprint stage and take the yellow jersey from his teammate thanks to the time bonus. Methinks there might have been a bit of Sky - Froome/Wiggins or Astana Armstrong/Contador debating going on in the Mavs team dinner that evening!

Sprint finish Day 2 me and the poor yellow jersey dude side by side.

Day 3 108kms

108.9km Distance

2:55:09 Moving Time 

916m Elevation (?)
267W Weighted Avg Power 


The final day and our plan was to make the bastards work hard all day, but in hindsight we didn’t really go about it the right way. Our plan was to send lots of attacks up the road right from early on. From the gun I was on the front and got a nice draft of the Commisaire’s car and ramped it up to over 40 straight away. Then one after one the might of the APS boys took turns sending it up the road. The roadies from all teams did not quite know what to make of it, as they expected everyone to sit in and take it easy until the last 40kms, which was the normal way of racing this day apparently.

We got (probably correctly) criticised for our tactics a bit as we probably sent guys up the road on too many suicide missions that no one believed could possibly stick, so the peloton was not chasing them down as much as we thought they would. In hindsight a better plan would have been to put all 5 of us on the front of the peloton and just roll it through at 40+kph for the first 90 min rather than trying to breakaway. Still big props to all the APS guys for the way we rode that day: Tim Cosulich did a ton of pulling up front dragging the peloton and had some terrible luck dropping his chain and getting a puncture when he had an invite from a comrade to get in the key breakaway - and also for saying to the yellow jersey at the start "have you gone to the toilet" and that we would be calling the peloton over as soon as we felt tired as we might need to go do a widdle pee pee. Tim K, Jonny C, Gavin M, Matt W and Jeremy S all worked hard as a team going on attack after attack all day. Also props to Steve D who trained like a demon all year, but on the race weekend developed a bad sinus issue and could not ride and had to drop out early on day 2.

Who says triathletes are selfish? We can be team players.

Once again I had done too much work early on trying a few ‘doomed to fail’ breakaways in the first 40kms, but the real chance to break away was at the 75km mark after the long headwind finally ceased. The HK team ‘Project 852” did a pretty cool trick all flying up the outside and sending one guy on a solo breakaway and then all sitting up at the front of the peloton to slow everyone down. The guy got a long way up the road and was riding pretty strongly. So strong – that I started to think maybe if he had a comrade he could stay away. This was probably my next big tactical error of the tour. I spoke to our sprinter Matt and thought if he sling-shotted me, I could get away from the peloton solo and bridge up to the solo dude and there might be just two of us and we could stay away. Matt did a great job and set me up at around 50kph, but unfortunately one or two others grabbed onto my wheel and I just dragged a mini group up to him with the peloton just behind. Sorry dude! 

Be careful with that thing will ya!
Straight after that the real break was made with 3 guys making their move and they got away for quite a while: Conan from the Mavs, Jakob: a strong Danish triathlete rider new to Singapore and an Aussie from the Matador team. It was the only meaningful break of the weekend and APS had missed it. The Mavs were not chasing much as they had Conan in the group (who was not pulling) and I could not decide whether we should pull and try and chase the break or not. We ended up deciding to pull and chase it down and as ever the peloton was such an irresistible force, we ended up catching them at the final KOM hill, only 8kms from the finish – they had stayed away for about 35kms, so kudos to those guys if only they had one or two more guys from us and one of the other teams and not many in the peloton had been pulling it could have stuck. It ended up being a sprint finish again and I was 5th  which gave me an extra bonus second. I just do not have enough 1,000+ watts to get me there ahead of the sprinters. Some dude from the Joy Riders who I had not seen all weekend but was a good sprinter took the stage, and the yellow jersey from the Mavs on count back as he won the last day's race, and I stayed 4th overall.

You want to be on the podium, then you gotta...
In the end the change from the TT to a Crit was a logistic nightmare, but made the day 1 race more exciting and was a lot of fun, but really it made the Tour into more of a sprinters event and did not favour to the triathletes of APS as TT is our speciality (TT =  time trial with long sustained power rather the hide, do as little as possible, surge like a MOFO at the finish that Crits and these flatish road races reward). The road race courses at Bintan are tough to make breakaways stick, especially if the other teams have got your number and keeping an eye on your every move.

So I'm not going to be a sore loser and sit here and say after the fact that if they kept the first day as a TT instead of a Criterium that I would have been on the podium, but if stage 1 was a TT not a crit, I would have been on the podium.

APS has certainly made it’s mark on the roadie scene in Singapore and Asia now and we’ve already had a few new members join since the race, including Kathryn Haesner who has just turned pro in triathlon and was 3rd in the Women's race after doing all the work in front all day. Check out our Facebook page for more information if you're interested in joining. Arrivo Primo Singapore 

Thanks also to Treknology bikes in Singapore who supplied me with a sweet Trek Madone as pictured below fitted with fast-asBontrager deep rims  and a CycleOps power meter– it was a really great ride and did me proud all weekend. Next up a big crew from APS is headed to Phuket for the Laguna Triathlon - should be fun!

Job done.

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