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Shimano Highway Challenge – LEKAS 2014

SHIMANO_HighwayChallenge_2014 website logo

Thirteen Flipsiders lined up for the second Shimano Highway Challenge.  Eric is missing from the picture below.

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

The route was very similar to last year’s edition.  But instead of a rolling mass start, this year’s event had a self-seeding start sequence.  We had to estimate our finishing time; less than 2 hours, 2-3 hours, 3-4 hours, and greater than 4 hours.  If you thought you could finish the ride in under two hours, you set off first.

We all decided which start pen we wanted to be in.  But by the time we finished taking photographs and catching up with friends, the riders in the first pen had started.  So we scrambled to the start, and squeezed in where we could.  I ended up in pen three.


Not that it made a difference.  Those pen 1 people averaged better than 40kph / 25mph.  A tad faster than I am capable of.  In spite of the excellent riding conditions.  A multi-lane toll road all to ourselves, under overcast skies.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

Photograph courtesy of Cyclinghappy

The event logistics and organisation were superb.  As they were last year.  From the guides with torches steering us to the parking lots in the pre-dawn darkness, to the smiling volunteers manning the massage booths and the food and drink service at the finish, the support for the riders was outstanding.

One of the things a few volunteers had to do was divert riders around some broken glass in the middle of the highway.  Unfortunately not before at least a dozen riders suffered flats.  Including Marco, who had a cut rear tire into the bargain.  Danny stopped to help, and Shahfiq and I stopped to provide moral support.

Once we got going again I was thankful for the cool weather, as I am sure the other 2,137 participants were.  Especially as we dropped into the small ring / largest cog combination on the KOM Challenge.  A 2.4km / 1.5mi climb that rose 165 meters / 540 feet.  It was a relief to see the arch marking the end of the timed climb.

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

Not that we were done with climbing.  There were a few more hills to conquer before we got to the opening in the ARMCO barrier that marked the turnaround point.

Around the halfway point I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while.  She was in a Flipside jersey to boot.  To top it all off, Sharon’s is the best action photograph of any of the Flipsiders I could find.

Photograph courtesy of Happycycling

Photograph courtesy of Happycycling

It was just starting to warm up when I got to the finish.  I needed a few cups of ice-cold Milo from the green truck in the lower left of the photograph below.

Photograph courtesy of Shimano Highway Challenge

Photograph courtesy of Shimano Highway Challenge

Then we hung out, discussing the ride, while we waited for the rest of the Flipsiders to finish.  Chon, Chris, Griffin and I stood out in the sun.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We should have done what Liang and Kai did.  Take advantage of the shade afforded by a pickup truck.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

I didn’t see Eric at all.  Late to the start, and then one of the first to finish.  He had already gone home by the time I rolled over the finish line.

Photograph courtesy or Eric Seow

Photograph courtesy or Eric Seow

While we were waiting, Keat ran into an old friend from Singapore, whom he hadn’t seen in years.  Cycling events are good places to bump into old friends.

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

I headed home after the last of the Flipsiders finished.  Medal in hand.



Most of the others went to a post-ride carbo-loading session at a favourite curry mee stall in Broga.

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

I must say that iced coffee and ais kacang looks good.

(You didn’t think I would write an entire post without at least one photograph of food, did you?)

Yin and Yang

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My riding buddies and I try to do two rides on weekends.  Usually the intent is to make the Sunday ride a slower, more relaxed ride.  Usually the Sunday ride ends up being as hard or harder than the Saturday ride.

In most cases we alternate between a route that includes the Guthrie Corridor Expressway to Kampung Sri Kundang, and a jaunt up Jalan Gombak Lama to Genting Sempah and back.  This time we did a variation of the Kampung Sri Kundang ride on Saturday, and a new loop from Semenyih to Lenggeng and Broga on Sunday.

Weekend Routes

Our Saturday ride started as it usually does, with a relatively quick run to Kampung Sri Kundang for roti canai and teh tarik.  Liang, Marco, Mark, Marvin and I made short work of breakfast.  There were no table scraps for the cat.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We then decided to tackle the Dragon’s Back on the way back.  Despite the rising temperature.  We had an 18km run to the PETRONAS Puncak Alam petrol station, where we stopped for cold drinks and the bathroom.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was on to the main event.  I’ve shown this profile before.  The Dragon’s Back starts at the 47km point with a wall that hits 12%.  Then it is up and down the rest of the way back to Bukit Jelutong.

Saturday Profile

This is Marco, happy to see the end of the first half of the Dragon’s Back.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Needless to say we were all toasted by the time we got back to D’Bayu.

So it made a very nice change to have a true recovery ride on Sunday.  About fifteen of us made the drive south from Kuala Lumpur to Semenyih.  After a pit stop at the toll plaza we rode onto the LEKAS Highway.  The same highway we rode during the Shimano Highway Challenge.

Lenggeng Toll Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

This was a very relaxed ride.  VERY relaxed.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

After 25km we exited the highway.  Not long afterwards we came to the only serious climb of the day.  100 meters up in about 2km.  In keeping with our 16kph average speed to that point, we took it very easy up the hill.



The view at the top is spectacular.


We had quiet back roads all to ourselves.


And the leisurely pace meant we had time to explore.  There was a time when rubber was the number one agricultural export of Malaysia.  There aren’t many rubber estates left now.  Most have been replaced by oil palm , or housing estates.


The goal of the ride was the Broga ABC Pan Mee shop.

The best place to be is around the back, sitting at a marble table, eating curry mee.  This was Mark’s order.  With roast pork and cockles.  I had the no-meat option.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And drinking iced coffee.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Now this is the kind of recovery ride that I want more of.

Grow Your Jersey Collection One Ride at a Time – 2013

I found that the registration fee for an organized ride in the United States, the Netherlands and Belgium does not include an event jersey.  Most events had jerseys that you had to buy separately.

The registration fee for organised rides in Malaysia generally does include an event jersey.  My cycling kit storage box is starting to overflow with jerseys.  Some nicer than others, as you will see.

My first Malaysian event jersey was courtesy of the Bike X ride.  That ride was in November 2012.  I had been home for a month and a half.  I was struggling to get used to the heat and humidity.  A short-sleeved jersey seemed like a good idea.  A clean design with not a sponsor logo to be seen.

Bike X

The next jersey came for the Broga Reverse 116 ride, in December 2012.  I must not have enjoyed that ride at all.  I didn’t blog about it.  The jersey has lots of color though.

Broga 116

The first jersey of 2013 came from the OCBC Cycle Malaysia ride in January.  No fancy graphics for this bank, but lots of sponsor logos.


Team 165 rode the Kuantan Century in June.  I like this color combination.

Kuantan Century

There were an unlucky few who did not get a jersey at the Iskandar Johor ride in July.  This ride was notable for its poor organization.  Everything about the ride was a bit messy.  Like the jersey.

Iskandar Johor

In September we did the Terengganu Century.  I like this jersey.  The turtle logo for the “Visit Terengganu 2013” campaign is clever.  I also like the graphic of the cyclist.

Terengganu Century

We were supposed to do the Merdeka – 2nd Penang Bridge ride in September.  That ride was postponed to November, and then postponed again to a date to be announced.  I got the jersey anyway.  Is it just me or do the rides with the poorest organization also have the most “graphics gone wild” jerseys?

Penang Bridge

November saw our trip to Thailand for the Samila Century.  Not of course a Malaysian ride, but it came with a jersey just the same.

Samila Century

The next addition was from the Shimano Highway Challenge.  “E21” is the designation for the LEKAS Highway, where the event was run.

Shimano Highway Challenge

The last jersey for the year came from the Cycle for Life ride in December.  It is quite a smart design.

Ride For Life 2013

Eleven new jerseys for the year!

Shimano Highway Challenge – LEKAS 2013

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Banner

My riding buddies and I had been looking forward to this ride ever since it was announced.  The full length of the Kajang – Seremban Highway (LEKAS Highway) would be closed for the morning so that 1,500 cyclists could ride from the Kajang South toll plaza to the Ampangan toll plaza and back again.  As far as I know this was the first time in Malaysia that an entire expressway has been closed for a cycling event.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Route

We drove to the Kajang South toll plaza on Saturday, after our usual morning ride, to pick up our race packs.  You could tell that there were some major sponsors involved.  Apart from a jersey and bib and bike numbers, our race packs were loaded with goodies.

We got a Tacx bottle.  We also got a personalized Touch ‘n Go card.  This is a prepaid smart card that can be used as a mode of payment for highway tolls, public transport fares and parking charges.  Shimano provided a medical identification card.  Ford contributed an annual planner.  That Rudy Project 25% discount voucher is already burning a hole in my pocket.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Goodies

One sign of a well-organized event is the quality of information provided to participants.  It was very clear what you could ride in the event, and what you could not.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Allowed

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Not Allowed

I’m not sure if it was purely coincidental that Shimano were displaying some of these yellow Di2 demonstration bikes.  Perhaps just in case someone thought that only yellow bikes would be allowed.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Demo Bike

We were very impressed that the organizers expected to see the winning riders at the finish ninety minutes after that event started.  That would require an average speed of a mere 49.3 kph / 30.6 mph.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Race Info

We started gathering at the parking area behind the Kajang South toll plaza at 5.30am on Sunday morning.  Takeaway breakfasts and coffee were consumed while we pulled on jerseys and cycling shoes.  At 6.30am we rolled down to the start.  Shahfiq, Chris and Mark made up a third of our group.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Start 01

Shahfiq, Marco (behind Chris’ right shoulder, Chris, Mark (behind Chris’ left shoulder, Raj and I rolling under the start gantry and out on to the course.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

We headed north from the start at the Kajang South toll plaza to the Kajang South interchange.  We looped around the cloverleaf to get to the southbound lanes for the first half of the course.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Interchange

We had the entire highway to ourselves, but I suppose force of habit kept riders largely on the left side of the road.

Photograph courtesy of Shimano Highway Challenge

Photograph courtesy of Shimano Highway Challenge

We positioned ourselves at the back of the pack to stay out of the way of the elite riders and anyone else who was in the event to race.  Once we had a few kilometers under our wheels the pack had thinned out and we had plenty of space.  It helps to have three lanes of roadway to play with.  It was a gently rolling course, so we were able to keep our speed fairly high.

Except for on the King of the Mountain section, which was a three kilometer climb with about 120 meters / 394 feet of elevation.  The payoff was a near 70 kph / 43 mph blast down the other side of the hill.

There was a water stop on the northbound side of the Ampangan toll plaza, just after the midpoint U-turn.  We ran into Chean Kye at the stop.  He is more of a runner than a cyclist.  As you can probably tell by his shoes.

Photograph courtesy of Kean Chye

Photograph courtesy of Chean Kye

After regrouping and catching our breath we headed back up the Gunung Mantin-Seremban hill to the Setul toll plaza, which is the highest toll plaza in Malaysia.

From the Setul toll plaza it was another dash down the hill and then over the rolling terrain of the last 20 km / 12 mi or so to the finish.

The weather had been kind to us for most of the morning, staying overcast and relatively cool.  The sun did come out toward the end of the ride, raising the temperature.  So I was very glad to see this van amongst the tents in the finishing area.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Milo Van

Photo courtesy of Openskies

This brought back memories of my primary and secondary school days, when the Milo van was a fixture at school sports meets.  The Milo served this morning was as cold, sweet and thick as I remember.  And it still comes in small paper cups.  I had ten of them.

Which meant that I was then too full to sample the satay, ice cream and whatever else was on offer in the finishing area.

After guzzling down all that Milo I made my way to the shade of the toll plaza, where the early finishers amongst us waited for the rest of the group.  I took advantage of the closed highway and had a bit of a rest on one of the concrete barriers that protects the toll booths from being run into by wayward vehicles.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Finish 02 (Mark)

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Here is the full crew at the toll plaza after the finish, minus one.  Griffin, Chris, Marco, Mark, Raj, Gary, Shahfiq and I.

Photograph courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photograph courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

We were missing Azlan, whom we didn’t connect with until after all the photographs had been taken.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia Magazine

Shimano, the other sponsors and the organizer, High Velocity Events Sdn. Bhd., put on a fabulous Highway Challenge.  Everything from the start to the finish of the event was well thought through and flawlessly executed.  A new standard has been set for other cycling event sponsors and organizers.

We all hope that there will be a 2014 edition of the Highway Challenge.

Shimano Highway Challenge LEKAS Medal