Keat, Hans and I were in the state of Pahang over the weekend for the Kuantan Century Ride. I named us Team 165, which is the sum of our ages. For the mathematically inclined amongst you, I am a year older than Hans and a year younger than Keat.
The sun in the promotional banner turned out to be a hint of things to come.
I took my traveling bike with me. The Ritchey Break-Away. The bike case and two other bags fit nicely in the trunk of my biker chick’s car.
We spent the weekend at the Swiss Garden Resort. Keat’s wife convinced the management to let us have breakfast at 5.30am on the day of the ride. The coffee house normally opens at 6.30am. We were expecting a few slices of bread and some butter and jam. We were pleasantly surprised by the spread that the staff had laid out.
Our hotel was about 18km / 11mi from the start at the International Islamic University Malaysia. We discussed riding to the start but decided against it. We would have been riding in the dark along a busy road. Even less appealing was the thought of having to cycle back to the hotel after a long event. So we loaded our bikes into Keat’s pickup truck and drove to the start.
Some 2,000 people had registered for the event. It looked like most of them turned up on the day.
As is always the case at cycling events in Malaysia, all types of bicycles were represented. These guys were braver than I to attempt 160km on knobby-tired mountain bikes.
Here we are at the start in our “before” photograph.
The organizers impressed everyone by managing to start the event bang on time at 7.30am. We even had a two minute warning. We were led out by a string of police motorbikes. The police and marshals did a good job of controlling traffic at intersections to allow us to cycle through without having to stop.
A fleet of road crew on motorbikes and in cars and trucks, and an army of volunteers at the start/finish line and rest stops, made this a very well organized and supported event.
The route took us through Kuantan town and south along the coast for the first 40km / 25mi. After the first rest stop we headed inland for a bit before turning right onto Federal Route 3. The next 80km / 50mi were north or north-east into the state of Terengganu before heading east toward the coast at Cherating.
That stretch included the second rest stop at the 83 km / 51.5mi mark. By then the sun was out in full force. It got to 34°C / 93°F. With the humidity at 90% the heat index was about 40°C / 104°F. I was emptying my two bidons in double-quick time. The good news was we got to the second rest stop just in time to grab the last of the water. The heat made the demand for water far greater than the organizers had anticipated. The riders after us had to wait for stocks to be replenished.
The bad news was all the 750 meters / 2,460 feet of climbing came in the second half of the course. Mercifully there was another rest stop just after the big hill of the day. There was still plenty of water at that rest stop.
From that point the heat became more and more of a factor. The descent after the third rest stop took us to the Gebeng Bypass. We had an out-and-back along the highway. The 28km / 17.5 mi along that stretch of rolling highway seemed interminable. The sun was beating down and the headwind on the outward leg made it even more unpleasant. The sight of the final rest stop on the other side of the highway with the turnaround point still 3km / 1.8mi away was the final straw for some riders. They chose to skip the electronic checkpoint at the end of the bypass and cut across the highway to the rest stop.
I was hyperthermic and was sorely tempted to take a shortcut as well. I persevered but it was a very close call at the time. So I was not happy to finally get to the rest stop only to find that all the water was gone. Fortunately they had lots of ice. I tossed my last Nuun tablet into one bidon and filled both with ice cubes. More water was on the way but I was too hot to wait.
Hans, and that ice, saved my ride. Han pulled me the last 28km / 17.4mi. I was chewing on ice cubes all the way to the finish, desperate to stay cool enough and cramp-free to make it to the end. This is Hans at the finish.
I was happy to be just behind Hans.
At the halfway point Keat had told us to push on without him. The heat got to him even before it got to me. So it was great to see Keat smiling at the finish.
Can you spot the difference between this “after” photograph and the one of us at the start?
Apart from having these in our literally hot hands.
Team 165 is already talking about doing a 120km / 74.5mi ride in the southern state of Johor next month. Hopefully by then I will have figured out how to keep my core temperature in check.