Cycling is like life. Cycling with no goal is meaningless. What meaning is there cycling in circles? Or living aimlessly? Meaning comes from direction and destination. Join me in my life's journey on a mountain bike :)

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Monday, May 29, 2006

No loss of blood, just some loss of face

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 ...

Mid-air refuelling
Day 1: Sat 27 May, Singapore - Mersing (Johore), 171 km. This year's charity ride (the second in as many years) is harder than last year's, as the number of official rest stops has halved to one per day. Today's stop is 66 km away. I run low on water. A support vehicle pulls up on my right and the passenger hands me a bottle, which I uncap and gulp (the fluid, not the cap). I'm already burnt out less than halfway through today's ride, as I'd failed to pace myself. Instead, I chase any roadie that comes along. The funniest sight is of nuclear-powered SY pulling six guys along (the guys are going forward with reverse sexism). I drop out and cycle alone, arriving around 4.30 pm. Instead of being the first mountain biker, I'm second to J. I'm even second to newbie VN. Still, I reckon I'm in the first quartile of 70. The highest "hill" for today is the three stories I have to climb to the hotel room. I avail myself of a massage (my first by a lady). Her kneading brings yelps and tears to my eyes but I feel better later.

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
Day 3: Mon 29 May, Desaru - Sedili (Johore) - Singapore, 167 km. I'm a bad boy today. When a support car passes, I break away from the peloton to draft the former as it surges ahead. Today is also the first time in my life I've been so hydrated on a long ride. A support car passes Group 1. Out comes a bottle, which gets passed down the line. As the last man, I pick up the least water and the most saliva. When the peloton of roadies crank up the pace, my sweat pours and my Orbea bottle empties fast.

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.

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