The first ever UCI World Marathon Series race in Asia was held yesterday on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia. It was an outright death march from the gun as 87 of us from 30 different countries tackled the 3 lap x 27km course through the sweltering Jungle. Each lap had two very steep hike/bike 20 minute climbs, followed by some slick single track descending through the mud. The rest of the course was really cool as it meandered through the dense jungle, crossing streams and through open fields.
On the first lap there was some confusion with the course markings causing us to miss 8 km of the course and cutting out the 2nd climb. This was a blessing as the race was going to be longer then expected anyways due to the heat and slick mud. It was also a curse as a few of us didn’t realize just how hard lap 2 was going to be with the 2nd climb in there. A fair number of riders ran out of water half way up the 2nd climb and all of a sudden the race turned into a a full on survival mission. I dropped from top 5 to out of the top 10 and was getting delirious and barely able to push my bike uphill. It was hilarious as the majority of the riders around me were having serious meltdowns as well. Most of these guys are usually some of the top riders in the World but at this moment we were all walking like a bunch of hungover drunks trying to get home from the bar.
Once in a while a normal rider would blow by us, usually an acclimatized Asian, but there wasn’t a lot of impressive riding going on. Eventually the death march ended and we could ride our bikes back down the hill. Halfway down I came upon 3 riders ducking under the tape trying to cut the course and get the hell out of there. I shook my head and slowed down to call them out on it. They tried to play innocence, but it was pretty ridiculous as there was a course direction marker right in front of them and there was no reason to be cutting under the well marked course tape. They made the right chose and went back on course, which was really smart as there was a course marshall on top of the climb taking numbers.
Continuing on my painfully slow way I finally came to a feed zone and stopped there for a while to drink litres of water and eat bananas. Eventually the system failure lights turned off and I would continue on my trip through the jungle. At one point I was following a Japanese rider and he seemed to crash for no reason. I road cautiously by where he crashed and got taken out as well by something in the grass. We both cracked a smile as we picked ourselves out of the mud in a confused state and back on our bikes. Whatever took us out in unknown and still has us scratching our heads.
All in all the race was a battle. I can’t remember such a hard one day race since Stage 1 of La Ruta a few years back in Costa Rica. There’s something about the hot humid jungle which is the perfect recipe for full on meltdowns.
The day after the race I arose from a 10 hr coma, ate some food, slept some more, ate some more, then headed down to the opening ceremonies with my travel partner Yuki Ikeda for the 6 day Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC). This race has $ 125 000 on the line, somewhere around $20 000 for the winner. 4 of the top 10 ranked Mountain bikers in the World are here. It is going to be a good time. Time to go to work and bring home some bacon!