24-26 Aug, Kuantan, Malaysia, 327 km
|View from inside the peloton|
Day 1, Fri 24 Aug, Singapore-Kuantan, non-cycling day. I'm trying to do a good thing, burning calories to raise funds for a hospital and eldercare centre. That's no guarantee that good things will happen. I checked my tyres a few days ago and decide to discard one. A big bicycle shop I go to doesn't have 1.25" tyres. As there's no assurance other shops would have them (not that I have time to shop), I go with 1.5" ie mismatched tyres. I pump it up, only to find the front tyre deflated overnight. Old tube. I replace it with a new tube. The tyre deflates again overnight. How can new tube be punctured indoors? I check the tyre, it seems to be in order, no debris found. I put in another tube, sprint the 10 km in the dark to the rendezvous point and am among the last to arrive.
DHL volunteers cheerily and quickly cling-wrap my frame. The bus cargo hold is full of bicycles. The president of the organising committee kindly shifts some bicycles for me. Somehow, I board the wrong bus. On the bus, I see the zip of my pouch has failed and my keys almost fall out. I endure the 8-hour journey to Kuantan. As I help unload the bicycles at the hotel, I see a name tag: a name similar to someone I massively miss. What are the odds of that, this name on this bicycle on my bus, with me unloading it?
|Attention to detail; lots marked out according to bus numbers|
In need of cheer, I turn on the TV in my hotel room. Spongebob Squarepants is on, but it isn't in English. What's going on? Perhaps, the events of today and reminder of someone aren't meant to taunt. Perhaps it's God's way of saying, "Bad things happened, but you didn't miss the bus, you didn't lose your keys and you're still functioning."
And it is a nice hotel room, the best ever to date in the Bike n Blade series. The hotel is so fancy, bicycles are not allowed in the rooms. We park them in the exhibition hall instead. It is so big, we cycle in it to test our machines.
Night stop: Zenith Hotel
Seconds from disaster
Day 2, Sat 25 Aug, Kuantan to Lanjut, 134 km. I have a big breakfast, not the McDonalds kind. Judging from their t-shirts, some cyclists are marathoners and there's an ultramarathoner.
Some super bikes overtake me. Their throaty roar spooks some cows, which charge cross the road - just seconds ahead of me. One cow tries to jump over a bike, which veers off the road in a cloud of brown dust, hits a metal pole and falls to bits on the grass. The pillion rider is able to sit up but the rider lies still. One of our support crew, a family, springs into action. I cycle to a fire station and ask for help.
I was just seconds away, perhaps 50m away, from the mad cows. I've had nine pieces of bad news in eight months. Being tenderized by cows isn't the 10th piece of bad news. I've been spared this time. I'm grateful. If I didn't see the crash, I would've taken for granted my road safety. As for those in my life who have moved on, the pain of saying goodbye is directly proportional to how precious they are. Better to have known and lament, than to not know them - or worse, to know them and not care.
So I had a painless ride on the road. At the hotel, staff serve cold drinks with cold towels. Posh eh? Little did I know that's to prepare me for the three-storey climb with bicycle up to my room.
Night stop: Lanjut Beach Resort
Day 3, 26 Aug, Lanjut-Kota Tinggi, 173 km. Flag off at 6 am. The road is dark, with potholes aplenty. Bicycle lights front and rear are ablaze. We move off in batches. I start with Group 3, who ride cautiously in the dark. Carbon wheelsets perhaps? On my mountain bike, I cycle ahead. When I look back, the lights are far behind, twinkling like distant stars.
|Cardboard care, bubble wrap|
So I press on. For the first time ever, I skip a proper lunch. Instead, I subsist on bananas, 100plus, energy powder (which I've not tried before) and gels. Thank you, guts, for putting up with the abuse. The stuff works; despite the calories burnt, I don't feel hungry. A few km from the end point, it starts to pour. It's the first time in Bike n Blade that it's poured like this. I later hear that cyclists are picked by safety cars.up as it's not safe to ride. So I'm doubly-blessed; I avoid the sweeper bus and the safety cars. I've been on the road almost eight hours. By the time I get in, the lead riders have showered and lunched. As before at the start of the ride, DHL clingwraps our wheels and frames for the trip home by bus (and unloads them at our destination).
It's anti-climactic as our buses arrive and we head home separately: some by taxi, some by personal transport. I cycle home.