During a R@SKLs ride in November last year we met a group from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) who were doing a recce for a planned 280km / 1,200km cycling event. They invited us to take part. “Not a chance,” we all thought to ourselves.
Never say “never.” Fast forward to this weekend and Johan S, Kenneth, Mokhtar and I had signed up for the 280 km / 174 mi ride from the IIUM campus in Kuantan to the IIUM campus in Gombak via the IIUM campus in Gambang. We had 26.5 hours to complete the ride.
The 1,200 km / 746 mi Ultra-ride event includes a visit to the IIUM campus in Pagoh. That event (going on as I write this) is many kilometres too far and many hours too long (105 hours) for us.
The logistics were painless thanks to Mokhtar. He has an apartment in Kuantan where we stayed on Friday night and a pickup truck that transported our bikes. He even drove us from KL to Kuantan.
We got to Kuantan at about 1:00 pm. We had some time to burn before collecting our ride packs, so we got a head start on carbo-loading at lunch.
The ride pack collection and briefing went very well.
I don’t know why my name was the only one not in all capitals.
I’m not sure that we needed to carbo-load as much as we did at dinner.
We were ready to roll out of the IIUM campus in Kuantan as scheduled at 7:30 am. Fazwan was a great help driving the pickup and loading and unloading our bikes.
We had a detailed plan for the ride. Our strategy was to take short breaks every 25 km or so and to maintain a pace which would get us to the Suria Hot Spring Resort on Bentong by 6:15 pm. That was the plan anyway!
The route to the IIUM campus in Gombak from Bentong is via Genting Sempah. That road is unlit and in need of resurfacing. It would be a risky ride in the dark, so we chose to spend the night at the Hot Spring Resort.
The first checkpoint was at the IIUM campus in Gambang.
We got there on schedule but stayed much longer than planned. The organiser was serving cendol, and we had to have some after we got our MyPassports (akin to a brevet card) stamped.
The cendol was worth lingering for. From that point, we fell further and further behind our schedule as each five minute stop stretched to ten or fifteen minutes.
Our next stop was at Restoran Mak Lijah in Kampung Berkelah. We ran into Brian, who was doing the Ultra-ride.
I have driven to Kuantan and back along these roads many times. Passing through places like Kampung New Zealand. I don’t know why it is so named, but now I have cycled through it.
Our next scheduled stop was the just after we rode through Kampung New Zealand. The Two Brothers café was closed, but we made ourselves at home anyway.
About 10 km later we pulled over to chat with AiLin and Mark, who were on their way to Kuantan by scooter.
We got to Taman Jaya near Temerloh at about 1:45 pm. It was 36ºC / 97ºF, so we lingered at over lunch for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Despite it being even hotter at 3:00 pm – 38ºC / 100ºF – we had to get moving if we were to have any hope of getting to Bentong before nightfall.
We only made it about 20 km down the road before we needed to cool down at the Petron station in Mentakab. By which time we had resigned ourselves to getting into Bentong after dark.
We had 45 km to cover before the next checkpoint at Mempaga. Those kilometres happened to be some of the hilliest of the day, with gradients approaching 10%.
We got to the Mempaga checkpoint at about 6:30 pm.
We all needed fluid, and in some cases, food. It wasn’t until 7:15 pm before we turned on our front and rear lights and left the Petronas station in Mempaga.
The run into Bentong includes a nasty little climb which rises 125 metres over 5.8 km. Welcome to Bentong!
The last 10 km to the Suria Hot Spring Resort is along an unlit road. I would not like to be riding on that road alone at night. Which is what Johan did. He stopped to eat as soon as he got to Bentong town. We planned to eat dinner at the resort. Johan told us to proceed without him. He made it to the resort unscathed.
234 km in the bag.
We all slept like babies that night, despite the children carousing outside our rooms at 1:00 am.
We were ready to get going again at 6:20 am. We had to be at the IIUM campus in Gombak by 10:00 am to make the time cutoff. 46 km and 570 metres of climbing away. We couldn’t afford to dilly-dally today.
We stuck to our plan of short stops at the Bukit Tinggi and Janda Baik junctions. We made such good time to the McDonald’s at the Genting Sempah R&R that we were able to have breakfast there.
A McDonald’s scrambled egg sandwich always tastes better during a ride.
All that was left between us and the 19 km descent to Taman Permai Jaya was the 1 km 7.9% average gradient climb up what is known as Hamburger Hill.
There was a slight sting in the tail on the final 3 km to the finish at the IIUM Gombak Sport Complex. A small matter of a few 6.5% slopes to get over. We got a bit lost inside the campus too, but that didn’t dampen our sense of achievement as we got our MyPassports stamped at the finish.
Hamzah was of the guys who last November invited us to take part in this event. He was at the finish line.
46 km on the day.
280 km over the two days. Thumbs up all round!