That is when I had to get out of bed for the Perak Century Ride 2016. Six of us had decided to drive to Ipoh on the morning of the ride, rather than spend Saturday night in a hotel there.
The ride started at 7:00am, and the start line was 210km / 130mi away.
Liang, Alvin and I were on the road in Liang’s MPV. There was plenty of room for three bicycles and us.
We rendezvoused with Marco and Mark at the Sungai Buloh R&R before hitting the North-South Expressway to Bandar Meru Raya, which is a new township in Ipoh, Perak. Marvin made it a three vehicle convoy when he caught up with us on the road.
We drove into rain, heavy at times. Not a good sign.
It was still raining. The other two cars stopped on Jalan Bandar Timah in the old town section of Ipoh. That street is the location of Sin Yoon Loong Restaurant, across the road from Nam Heong Restaurant. There is an ongoing debate as to which is the originator of the Ipoh White Coffee brand. Marco, Mark and Marvin wanted breakfast.
I didn’t have time to stop for breakfast. Leslie had collected my ride number, jersey and so on for me they day before. I had to get those from him before the 7:00am event start. And he was already parked and waiting at the official hotel for the event, the Casuarina @ Meru. Alvin and Liang were keen to start riding on time too.
Alvin, Leslie, Liang and I got onto the road after the event had started. We must have been among the last riders to get out onto the route. As none of us know the way to the start line, I was looking out for the timing gantry that would have been over the start line.
I didn’t see one. I found out later that there was no timing gantry at the start. So it made no difference that my timing chip fell off my helmet after thirty minutes of riding in the rain.
Not having found the start line, we were lucky to spot a group of riders and a motorbike race marshal ahead of us. They were our guides until we started passing direction signs for the ride. The signs were planted all along the route. There were also marshals directing riders. One of the things that the organisers got right on the day.
We rode anti-clockwise to Kuala Kangsar, and then south to Parit and Siputeh, before heading north back to Ipoh.
It wasn’t long before the feature that epitomises this event made itself felt. The rolling terrain.
Nothing too severe, apart from a couple of steep, but thankfully short, pitches south of Kuala Kangsar. Which might have been where the Rapha KOM section was. There were prizes on offer for the first in each category across the KOM line.
I have no idea where this was. We were so far behind that all traces of the KOM timing gantry had been cleared by the time we got up whichever hill this was.
The seemingless endless series of climbs, as shown on the route profile below, took their toll on many participants as the event progressed. I am sure that was one of the contributing factors to the high attrition rate at this event.
The rain took its toll too. Not only on my socks, which started the day pristinely white and ended the day a dingy grey. But on tires and inner tubes as well.
In wet conditions small stones, pieces of wire, shards of glass etc. have a greater tendency to stick to tires. Water on tires acts as a lubricant, making it easier for sharp objects to penetrate and puncture a tire.
This was a common sight.
The guys from Meng Thai Bicycle Centre were running a mobile repair service from the back of a car. They were in great demand.
As were the services of the lorries picking up riders and their bicycles along the route.
The four of us skipped the first rest stop at 35km / 22mi. It was still overcast and cool. I wasn’t sweating very much, so I still had a lot of fluid in my bidons. It was a good time to be out on a bike.
We did take a break at the second rest stop. We hadn’t had breakfast, and we were getting hungry after 65km / 40mi in the saddle.
We were out of luck. No bananas. Bananas are standard fare at the rest stops in Malaysian century rides. One of the knocks against the organisers was that the rest stops were poorly provisioned. Not enough cold water and food for all the participants.
Team AGRR did it right. They had their own support car, dispensing, amongst other things, dim sum. Talk about style.
It was the same at the third rest stop. No bananas. By that point we were 90km / 56mi or so into the ride, and starting to get the shakes from hunger. Perhaps the three who stopped for breakfast at 6:30am had the right idea.
Fortunately meters away from the rest stop was a roadside stall selling food. After a packet of nasi lemak and a fried egg, and some cans of 100 Plus courtesy of WH Lee and Meng Thai, we were feeling much better.
By this time the WhatsApp chatter confirmed what had happened to the breakfast gang of three. They had eventually gone to Bandar Meru Raya and gotten on their bicycles. But had started riding in the wrong direction. So after a short ride they gave up and went home.
The sun made its presence felt over the final 60km / 37mi. As you can tell by the shadows.
We had ridden 100km / 62mi. How things change once the temperature rises. The humidity rocketed, thanks to all the rain that had fallen. The sweat was streaming off me, my core temperature was rising, and I was drinking much more. We took advantage of the two remaining rest stops at 118km / 73mi and 141km / 88mi to get some water, both into and onto us.
The water at the last rest stop was warm, so it didn’t do much to cool us down. By then Liang and I were ahead of Alvin and Leslie. We decided to hit a petrol station between the last rest stop and the finish line. A Shell station conveniently appeared 5km / 3mi later. Air conditioning and cold chocolate milk are a winning combination!
We saw Alvin ride past as we were sitting inside the petrol station convenience store. But no sign of Leslie. We later found out that he had suffered a flat. His spare inner tube had a faulty valve, so he couldn’t inflate it properly. Fortunately he was rescued by a group of good samaritans bearing a floor pump.
Alvin, Liang and I finished safely and had regrouped at the MPV. My phone had buzzed a few times during the run in to the finish. I had a few missed calls from Leslie. I called him back, and found out that he had suffered a flat. His spare inner tube had a faulty valve, so he couldn’t inflate it properly.
He needed a floor pump, which we didn’t have. Fortunately he was rescued by a group of good samaritans bearing the required floor pump.
We had cleaned up as best we could, changed out of our cycling gear, and were getting hungry. Leslie had yet to finish, having been delayed by the problems with his inner tube. He was staying another night in Ipoh, so we left him to his own devices. Alvin, Liang and I went on a hunt for a late lunch.
We had an inadvertent scenic diversion to Kuala Kangsar on our way to the old town section of Ipoh. So our hunt for lunch started even later than originally anticipated. We found it anyway, at Restoran M Salim.
Not satisfied with just rice and chicken, we added this.
The signature dish at this restaurant. Fish head curry.
We then stopped at another small place for dessert. There could be only one choice for something cold and sweet. Cendol.
All that was left was to get home safely.
Which we did, after being delayed by the traffic on the North-South Expressway.