Team 165 drove to Johor, the southernmost state in peninsular Malaysia, for the Iskandar Johor Mega Ride. A 120 km / 75 mi loop that started and ended at Kota Iskandar, the new administrative center for the state government of Johor.
I had never been to Kota Iskandar, which is part of the larger Nusajaya development. The arch at the entrance to the complex gives visitors some hint of what is to come.
This is the Dato’ Jaafar Muhammad building. Named after the first Chief Minister of Johor, this building houses the Office of the Chief Minister and State Secretariat.
The Sultan Ismail building is the home of the State Parliament.
Keat, Hans and I took our customary positions towards the back of the peloton. As it turned out the first 30 km / 19 mi or so were at a controlled speed behind a group of police motorbikes. The route started through the relative quiet of Nusajaya. We rode past Malaysia’s first international theme park. Legoland Malaysia opened less than a year ago.
Then it was along the Lebuhraya Pesisir Pantai (Coast Highway) and through the west edge of Johor Bahru, the capital city of Johor. Johor Bahru is the third-largest city in Malaysia, and it has the morning rush hour traffic to prove it.
The motorbike police stopped traffic from entering the highway as we rode past. Despite having the police marshals we had to do some defensive riding, especially along Jalan Skudai, where the traffic was particularly heavy.
Once we got through Skudai there was a lot less traffic on the road with us. Unbeknownst to us there were fewer cyclists as well. A group of about thirty riders, including Keat, fell behind the marshals and got lost. They ended up being directed back to the start and having their ride cut short.
The rest of us were pleasantly surprised to come upon a water stop after 40 km / 25 mi. The route map showed the first water stop at 65 km / 40 mi. Even better was the fact that the water being handed out was chilled.
I put my revised hyperthermia control strategy into action. I poured a couple of bottles of cold water over my head, soaking my hair, jersey and arm coolers. I did the same at the next water stop at the 80 km / 50 mi point. That worked so well at keeping my core body temperature down that I didn’t bother to stop at petrol stations to buy ice cream.
It helped that there wasn’t much climbing on this ride. There was a lump to get over between 30 km / 19 mi and 46 km / 29 mi but the gradients were gentle. The steepest bits were on the bridges and overpasses along the Pesisir Pantai Highway.
When Hans and I got back to the Lebuhraya Pesisir Pantai for the second time we realised that the route had been changed. About 20 km / 12 mi had been taken out of the early stages of the route. That explained why we got to the first water stop so quickly. We hit the finish line after just under 100 km / 62 mi of riding.
Hans and I rode the course at a reasonably fast pace (for us oldies anyway). We averaged 30.8 kph / 19.2 mph for the ride. So we didn’t complain that the route had been shortened. Our relief was short-lived though.
After we were given our medals I saw the message on my mobile phone from Keat saying that he got lost and had to truncate his ride. Just after I sent him a reply asking him where he was, my mobile phone battery died.
Keat wasn’t at the finish area. Hans and I rode to where we had parked. No sign of Keat or his truck. So we kept riding toward our hotel.
15 km / 9 mi of the route back to our hotel in Bukit Indah was along the 2nd Link Malaysia – Singapore Highway. Where bicycles are not allowed. Of course a pair of highway patrolmen pulled up behind us on that section. Fortunately they bought my woeful tale of being abandoned in Kota Iskandar, and let us ride the last 5 km / 3 mi along the highway to our exit. Hans and I covered 120 km / 75 mi and a bit more on the day after all.
Keat had driven back to the finish area to look for us. He caught up with us on the road just after our encounter with the highway patrol, and escorted us back to the hotel.
More Team 165 adventures to come in August and September.