May distance: 1,240 km
Sat 27 May - Mon 29 May
To Mersing, Johore, Malaysia, 491 km. In this year's Charity Bike n Blade (in aid of St Andrew's Mission Hospital), I ride better than last year but behave more badly. I break away from the peloton and a girl brings tears to my eyes ...
Strategy? What strategy?
Day 2: Sun 28 May, Mersing - Desaru (Johore), 153 km. Like yesterday, I'm first off the starting line but the roadies catch up seconds later. But I've learnt not to draft RM when he passes by. The lead peloton (Group 1) surges past as well and I end up with SY for 77 km to the official rest stop. She gives us only 15 minutes break and then we're off moments after Group 1 arrives; they at least had stopped for an impromptu break before this stop.
I'm glad when J calls for a stop but barely had I stretched when I'm asked if i'm ready to ride. Well, just barely, unlike VN (which could stand for "Victory over Numbness". She drafts SY intently. Once in a while, I tell her "look left" when we pass scenic sights. Once, she peeled off the road but recovered magnificently. Inspiring as she was, I just couldn't stay on her tail and end up solo.
The headwind is so strong, I see a bird flying backwards. I also wonder about the roadkill. These creatures move faster than people; why does the former end up minced? I reckon it's because they're low on the ground and can't see the traffic bearing down fast enough to avoid death. Hence, the importance of different perspectives.
Abandoned and despondent, I stop, stretch and eat. The blader's support van stops. The blader's chief, JW, tops up my water and tells me Group 1 is coming. When they overtake me, I hang on to them grimly, like a stray dog looking for a home. Then, on what I think is the last of the interminable hills, I sprint ahead. We reach Desaru at 1 pm (six hours after flag-off), beaten by SY & Co and way behind the first cyclist B (his time: 12.07). This was my goal, to be with Group 1. What the strategy was, I didn't know but made it.
Key performance indicators
On my right, a support car appears. The water maiden hands out drinks. With her doe eyes and hair blowing in the wind, I guess whether a biker looks at her or the drink depends on how thirsty he is. I hand her my Orbea bottle to fill up and take an isotonic drink from her, which I guzzle. She takes my empty isotonic bottle with her left hand and hands me my Orbea bottle with the other. All this at over 30 km/h, yet I have to sprint to keep up with the pack after my aqua aerobics. When one of the cyclists says we can turn back if we want to, that's what I do. I drop out and ride solo until I meet VN and E. I keep them company, serving occasionally as windbreaker. Back at the hotel, I flash my radio frequency identity (RFID) to show I'm still alive. This is another ride where I've lost no blood.
For the grand finale, we cycle to Tanjong Belungkor for the ferry ride home. As usual, the roadies crank out a mean pace, at over 40 km/h even on the rolling hills. I wonder how long I can keep this up. As a key performance indicator, speed isn't quite appropriate, nor are its component indicators of distance and time. Ultimately, it's how good my heart beats and how bad my heart wants to stay in the pack. When someone has a problem with his pedals, we surge ahead until someone shouts "Come on guys, let's finish this together." At the end of the ride, so many photos are taken, it's as if one is taken for every km we've covered. Still, it's a ride worth remembering, thanks to the organisers and support crew from Avanade, many labouring unseen behind the scenes. Thanks also to the roadies who took pity and let this guy with short legs and small wheels draft them.