It pays to have friends with connections. In this case, Heng Keng, who got some VIP parking passes for the R@SKLs driving to Puncak Alam for the NST C-Cycle Challenge century ride. We all car-pooled, two people and two bikes to a vehicle, and got parking spots just meters from the start line.
Once everyone was ready, i.e. after last minute visits to the loo, we joined the 1,000 or so other participants behind the start gantry. There were two events: a 160km / 100mi race, and a 35km / 22mi Fun Ride. We combined the two events, and planned to have a 160km Fun Ride.
The horn sounded and the starting flag fell at about 7.50am. Only twenty minutes late, which is par for the course at Malaysian cycling events.
The organizers had made some late changes to the course that had been initially announced. They took about 15km / 9mi off the total distance, including 6km / 4mi of climbing. Which significantly increased the odds that we would all have a fun ride.
The course followed a rough figure-of-eight path. We headed south from Puncak Alam over a few of the Dragon’s Back climbs before heading west and then north around the clockwise lower loop.
The temperature was in the mid to high 20s C / 70s F. We had a support vehicle loaded with ice chests packed with water and 100-Plus isotonic drink. Everything was lined up for an excellent ride.
But you know that saying about the best laid plans? Kelin and Thomas, together with about twenty other riders, didn’t see the admittedly poorly-placed directional arrow, and sailed past the 90° right hand turn at 43km / 27mi, where the route around the lower loop turned inland.
It was 15km / 9mi before they realised their mistake. Which perhaps wasn’t a mistake after all, as they found a cendol stall, while the rest of us didn’t.
We made our first stop just after that right turn. It makes such a nice change to have a support vehicle on our rides, instead of depending upon the official rest stops. Being guaranteed cold drinks and bananas is a massive plus. Thank you Heng Keng for loaning your driver and vehicle to the R@SKL cause.
The weather had been closing in from the time we started pedalling again. By the time we started the climb to the Department of Civil Aviation site at the top of the hill on Jalan Batu Arang, the rain had started. It rained, heavily in places, along the entire 22km / 14mi hilly stretch which made up the middle section of the ride. The rain kept us cool, but care was needed on the steeper descents.
Stop number two came after 87km / 54mi. It had stopped raining, but roads were still wet.
Leonard didn’t get the memo about which camera to look at.
Despite the rain, everyone was having a good time. That came to a crashing halt, literally, when Danial and Ray went down just shy of the 100km / 62mi mark. It was a high speed crash precipitated by a depression in the road surface. Ray came out of it with just some scrapes and bruises. Danial was not so lucky. He will be off his bike for some time with a fractured cheekbone and the after-effects of a mild concussion.
The official paramedic who arrived on the scene was very good. He checked Danial out for broken bones and internal injuries, cleaned up his cuts and scrapes, and got him off the road. Forty minutes after the crash, Ray and Danial were in an ambulance to the Sungai Buloh hospital, accompanied by Luanne.
We were shaken and a bit shocked by what had happened. We debated whether to continue the ride or not. The group decision was to ride on, but at a slower speed.
We had more rain to contend with over the 15km / 9mi to Kuala Selangor. The McDonald’s at Kuala Selangor was a good place to stop for some shelter and some food.
After burgers and chocolate sundaes, we realised that we would miss the cutoff time for the event. We would all officially DNF. Never mind. In the bigger scheme of things, that was not the worst thing to happen that day.
Our last 40km / 25mi were made easier for us by three marshals on motorbikes, who accompanied us all the way back to Puncak Alam. They kept traffic at a safe distance, pointed out potholes and other hazards, and blocked off junctions so we didn’t have to stop for any traffic lights. That added some fun back into what had become a bit of a somber day.
The sun was out as we negotiated Jalan Kuala Selangor and Jalan Bukit Cerakah toward the finish. The day had warmed up considerably by the time we crossed the line.
Thomas and Kelin were already at the finish, medals in hand, after their unexpected detour cut short their ride.
The rest of the R@SKLs joined them at the finish area while we waited for TH and the support car to get back from the Sungai Buloh hospital with Luanne.
I suppose we could have let ourselves be entertained by these superheroes while we were there.
It had been a day of mixed emotions, and we were all more concerned to get an update on Danial’s condition than anything else.
Even the lucky draw held no attraction for us, despite the attractive prizes.
Upon reflection, it was a fun ride. It was just such a shame that Danial and Ray had that bad crash. All the R@SKLs are very relieved that the outcome was not worse, and we wish the both of them speedy recoveries.