Ok, so if I didn’t labour the ‘Operation Marketgarden’ point enough in the preview, then I will today. Is that because it involved an audacious plan and a lot of bridges? Or perhaps it was due to us having a battle hardened enemy to contend with? Close, but no, its because of one thing:

It was an epic battle

To survive… As per usual, it would be possible to write a bad novel on all the ins and outs of today’s heat drenched and fixed bayonets encounter in Indonesia, so its probably best for you and my fucked hands that I stick to the highlights and where applicable, the lowest of lowlights. I could go on about team members forgetting helmets or others attempting to impersonate a German, but I shall jump straight to the chase… Chasing being a theme that will become a key part of today’s story.

I was still getting the sleep out of my eyes at the ferry terminal when out of the blue the COTD award amazingly fell straight into our lap… Not to throw too many obscure codes at it, but Frazzle did the honour giving the IBT the COTD award, while Principal Skinner pretends to read his ferry ticket to avoid the awkwardness:

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“Finally, you earn something on merit…”

No time for pleasantries (funny that), we had a ferry to catch and a race to attend to. Whilst we were missing our primary weapons of the Segment Bear and the V2 Programme, we more than made up for it with an enthusiastic bunch of Polish Paratroopers more than ready to jump into Landing Zones overrun by the enemy (fuck, if you don’t get these jokes then watch the movie). Frazzle Rock had his game face on early and refused to participate in shenanigans:

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“Noooo… I refuse to look at this cooonts photo!”

People should know by now that the DN is a patient hunter… Able to lay in wait if you don’t play ball to strike at the perfect moment. I knew eventually that Frazzle Rock had to make the transition from ‘Travel kit’ to ‘Race kit’ and I was perfectly poised to get my morning muffin break:

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“Does anyone want some free nipple? Don’t be shy, plenty to go around”

By now we are all well versed at the slick operation of the Cycosports race set up, which needs to be commended for not only creating a real race scene for the region, but doing so in other countries and making it so seamless for participants. Its an impressive set up and one we’re all grateful for. The forecast was for pissing rain and thunder, but we got perfect conditions, for exploding with cramp and dehydration that is:

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The bike mosh pit

I’ll be blunt, today’s strategy was pretty simple: Hide, drink, hide, drink some more and hide some more. Yes, not what I usually feel comfortable with, but with others having the numbers and looking back on the last outing, taking a Viet Cong tunnelling and ninja approach seemed like the best option. Jormey took the hiding strategy to the next level, vaporising before we could squeeze his lankiness into the team photo, we had to ask the security guard in the background to fill in:

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“Those Assos sunglasses are great, do they make a mens version as well?”

Ahead of us lay 134km’s of sweltering rollers, the first 17km’s or so neutral of course and then into the main course of Bridges, attacks, counter attacks and cramp management activity. I’m afraid at this point that pictures take a break and words take over.

Have to get this out of the way early today – My legs felt fucking great… To the point that I was surprised. It was night and day difference to the disastrous Bintan campaign (DH Tapering clearly not the way to go) and as we marched along the highway ticking off bridge after bridge, confidence grew. This was helped by the way the troops were battling, the boys sticking to the race plan and doing a great job of making sure we were represented when we needed to be. Without your team mates you’re nothing in these races, so massive respect to the lads for getting stuck in, some in their Cat 1 debut as well.

Breaks came and went as they do in amateur cycle racing, which also provided the opportunity for new team kit and one piece skin suits to be debuted by some, its hard to top this item, probably a bit warm for the occasion however:

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Representing

It took a while before 3 riders finally got away and it eased up a little. The gap grew and with a main contender in there, it was the perfect opportunity for cunt riders to display a total inability to pace the pursuit of a break. The tactic of coming to the front and launching one man attacks 30 or 40 meters up the road before exploding one of the odder things I’ve seen in a race, like watching drunk gerbils trying to shag a Doberman. Even with some massive throwing down by the Mavs as we approached the turn around point, I was able to hold on and feel like it was going to be all good. As we turned for home, our regiment had been reduced to 3. Not to worry, we still had plenty of ammo and surely 30 Corp wasn’t that far away? Soon the break was snubbed out and it became a game of jab and thrust, as you do.

And then, just when it was all flowing beautifully to the battle plan, there was a massive unglued moment, in the vein of a Concorde type chain reaction of events… Out of the blue I was hit with an epic cramp in my right leg. It took me by such surprise that I dropped out of the line up from 5th wheel and had to try and hang on as I worked out what had gone wrong. I hit the cramp stop, it still fired… I poured water on it, still going. Oddly, the only way to get rid of it was to loosen my shoe…. Yes, massively random, but it subsided after I eased off the tension. Worth noting it had hit around 38 degs at this point, so I was impersonating a deep fried snickers bar.

However, unbeknown to me, I was now stuck in a bad position at the very moment a major selection was about to be made. The hammer went down, two fuckers in front of me dropped the wheel and next thing I know I’m on the front doing 50kph, cramping and trying to chase back on. Then it happened…

No… NOT again…. It CAN’T be happening again! It can’t! 

It was… Rider after rider streamed past me, I cramped and couldn’t get on any wheels and quicker than you can slap me in an S&M role play, I was going out the back, drowning in an ocean of failure, terror and panic.

And finally, there it was… I was alone… It was Bintan all over again. The only difference this time being my disbelief at this situation being twice as large as last time. I began totalling up how much I could get for selling both road bikes, thought about the best way to burn my Champsys kit and who I would invite to watch or who I would give my Rapha kit to… For some strange reason I kept pedalling, even though all hope was clearly lost. Even when a recovering eclectic rider blasted past me I couldn’t get on his wheel, the final condemnation of my performance.

And then a strange thing happened… I stayed semi calm, mixed in with a firm dose of self loathing and started trying to get a rhythm going again. Thanks to my additional 5kg’s and the sweet goodness of Chris King/Enve wheels, I managed to get some momentum going on one of the downhills. Still, the main group was out of reach. But, what would happen if I could make it to the caravan of courage (a whole bunch of shitty cars following the race), could I PRO it through back on? I chased… and I chased… KM after KM went by… I inched closer to the cars and after what seemed like a pain filled eternity I finally entered that sweet draft. I had never been more desperate or determined to get back on in my life.

I then became a fat frog jumping from highly suspect lillypad to lillypad… Until there it was, the motherfucking BUS. Usually I hate buses, but I was pleased to see this one, as on the other side was the RACE! Yes, some 6 or 7km’s later, I was closing in on turning around not only my race, but quite possible staving off a mid-life crisis at the same time. With a final push that could have easily delivered a baby, I was around the bus and back in the fold, I could taste the relief and whilst I was busy rewriting this blog post in my mind to a happier ending (maybe), all I got from the Goat was a “Where have you been?”

The cramp was still pinging me, and with 20km’s or so to go, I was on borrowed time. I was smashing the Cramp stop spray like a shaking junkie, but it was winning the battle. Then, the only thing that could save me (aside from a blood transfusion) came along: Rain. Its odd to hope for rain in a race, but thank fuck it arrived when it did… Temp dropped to a far more manageable 27 or so, which gave me some respite from both legs exploding like hand grenades in a pig pen.

At some stage in the last 10km’s one of the Indonesian riders jumped off the front and took off. I was just focused on holding on at this stage, so it was up to the big teams to chase, and chase they did… The thing was strung out into a single file and as we finally saw the last bridge around the corner. At this stage I was slightly pleased and more than a bit surprised to still be here, but one had to focus on the task to hand – the final KM sprint up the bridge to the finish.

inside the last pain ridden kilometre and I was on the wheel I wanted to be on, Youcef from the mavs, for about 30 seconds, he went left, someone cut right and it was seconds from disaster and a few fucks went flying. True to his word, the Goat then went from about 800m out, a valiant attack across the guts of the bridge that would have made monty proud. Unfortunately he was mowed down by the rampant remnants of the lead group, now sprinting for second. Ahead of me was a wall of orange jerseys and my legs screamed as each up and down pedal stroke brought thermonuclear cramp to which ever leg was extended. Usually I would get off my bike and attempt to cry with cramp like this, but I simply had to sprint through it as I tried to stay with the tsunami that was surging to the line.

I am sure that if I saw a video of that excruciating last ‘sprint’ to the line it would look ridiculous, but the relief of getting across the line so I could stop pedalling was overwhelming. I can’t recall ever sprinting or riding through cramp like that, I almost felt like Roberto for a moment there, as he loves that shit. Stopping pedalling though only made it worse, I locked up totally on the way down the other side, with the end result of me screaming like a lunatic as the cramp consumed me. I think I finished just outside the top 10, official results still pending of course. All I knew was that I was exceedingly pleased to get to the end and collapse:

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The goat visualises how he wanted his final attack to really go, I work out how many Magnums I could now eat and the boys are more than chuffed with a big day out, even if someone infringed with helmet on the table

As fucked as we may look here, nothing can compare to the look on Jormey’s face when he rolled in… I can’t recall ever seeing someone come off the bike looking so ruined… He really did leave a part of his soul on the roads of Batam, forget the 1000 yard stare, he was like a fucking telescope today. I tried to lift him off the bike, but with my T Rex arms and him being 7 feet tall it was a bit awkward, not to mention weird.

Frazzle rock was determined to get a happy ending coke, so went off in search of a bartering opportunity, as well as a recruitment drive for the next race:

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“I don’t pay that much in Singapore I’ll fooking have you know! How many Watts per Kilo are you by the way?”

The one issue with these travel away races is that after you’ve been fingered silly, you just want to get the fuck out of there ASAP and get home to ice your balls. Alas, no luck here, especially when a good ole tropical rain fisting rolls in and smashes the whole joint up. You can see the finish line bridge in the background here, it totally slipped my mind to take a photo of it, fail, so this will have to do:

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Nothing beats a good flood and an 85% chance of being killed by lightening while listening to Karaoke at the end of a race

Kudos to the storm though, it meant we could skip prize giving and punch it chewie back to the ferry terminal for more Indonesian junk food. And, just because I know you like useless trivia, this is how you get the bikes home Asian racing styles, wreaks of carbon in this room:

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Giants and Treks don’t get blankets…

Race quotes:

Its only fair that I throw it open to the boys to finish things off, I managed to extract a succinct quote from each of them on the day about how they felt things panned out, granted they were more interested in smashing hot soggy chips at the ferry terminal, but there are some poignant points here that we could all learn from:

“It was like doing shuttle sprints for an hour and then being expected to do a marathon” – Jormey

“The shout of “Go Zebra” to get into the break was like being slapped by a dildo” – Zebra

“I’m proud of the boys for sticking to the race plan, impressed with the commitment of the team and I’ll be getting everyone black turtlenecks soon” – Goat

“When I’m good I’m great, today I was just ok” – Principal skinner

“What do you mean the first 17km’s wasn’t part of the race?” – Frazzle

And with that, the sun sets on another Asian getting violated in an oven racing experience, cue cheesy pic, what a fucking tie in huh?

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The sun almost set on my road racing career today, narrowly avoided in the end…

Somewhere in this post is a lesson about not giving up, or just hoping there is a long race caravan to hide in… As well as working out I should really only race in a temperature window of 18 to 25 degrees if I want to get through without cramping to death.

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