Langkawi Sweatshow

10 days on Langkawi Island racing turned into a stellar lead up to 24 hr Worlds in Australia next week.  The racing was short and intense, and not to stressful on the legs as the sauna we raced in governed the systems at about 90% so they wouldn’t overheat and shutoff.  Most days felt like snail races as we would trudge along sweating are nuts off through the jungle.   6 of the top 15 ranked mountain bikers in the World along with all the top Asian teams were here all vying for the $ 125 000 in prize money so it was a very fast paced snail race of suffering. The mud was thick this year, slick, dirty and bike eating.  2 out of the  5stages turned into  duathlons with the majority of the uphills being bike pushing races through the mud.  The downhills were treacherous as we tried to keep our bikes upright while sliding uncontrollably over the slick ground, bouncing off trees and routes.

Recap:

2.4km Prologue:  A few of us misunderstood the race schedule and believed there was going to be a chance to pre-ride before the race.  This didn’t work out and thus we raced the prologue blind.  I over shot the first corner and got all tangled in the course tape, then the next corner slid out on a icy slick bit of mossy concrete.    All in all it was an eventful and forgettable 6 minute race

Stage 1- 60km Around the Island-  This stage I knew from racing here in 2011.  It was a flat fast course around jungle trails and dirt roads surrounding the mountain in the middle of Langkawi Island.  It rained the night before so the course was slick, but still not mud tire worthy due to all the road sections.  I raced cross marks which were great, the only problem was I didn’t know there limits on the muddy corners and found this out 5 km into the race while riding with the lead group.  Going down hard at 30 km’hr into a mud hole was a good wake up call and the perfect way to find the limits of the tires.  From this point on I slid around all the corners and made up some time, while also suffering like a polar bear in the desert during the long flat open sections in the sun.  At one point I though a vine got tangled up in my wheel so I reached back and tried to yank it out only to find out it was a piece of barb wire fence.  Ouch!  That left a bloody mark on both my hand and leg.  I rode around top 20 for most the day then picked it up towards the end and rolled in 9th.  An alright day to build off of..

Stage 2- 40 km Across the island-  This race was a gongshow.  I took the hole shot going into the single track then drifted back to 10th on the initial climb, about 20-30 seconds off the lead group.  At the top of the climb a very obvious course marker pointed left, I followed it 4 minutes and drifted back onto the course we had just ridden now riding it backwards.  I found this out as I nearly took an Indonesians head off on a blind corner.  From this point on it was a full on gongshow as 20-30 other racers behind me made the same turn and soon there was a hole pile of us standing at the trail junction scratching our heads.  Two riders ahead of me, in 8th and 9th, had re done the circuit we all got lost on and confirmed there were no correct course markings.  Luckily a Malaysian who raced here last yr new the way and at the junction where the arrow pointed left, we turned right and descended down to the 1st feed zone, now ages back from the lead group and in a group of 50 riders as we had neutralized the race and everyone from the backend had now joined us.  I figured they would call the race since the course wasn’t marked right and riders had now ridden various distances and on different trails to the first feed.  The lead group didn’t get lost as they had the lead motto to follow.

The rest of the race we made our way back up through the back end of the field, up a 25 minute hike a bike climb, down a sweet section of jungle singltrack and to the finish.   This little section of jungle riding was awesome and put a smile on our faces before we arrived at the finish, the first of the lost group and came in over 24 minutes down in just a 1hr and 55 minute race.     We all figured with it being a UCI sanctioned race they would be pro and nullify the stage and re-start the race properly the next day.  To0 our surprise they kept the race results but gave everyone a 5 minute time bonus.  A couple of the riders affected were sitting in the top 5 overall gc and were now over 20 minute back.   Instead of having a shot at the $15 000 overall title, we were now all fighting for $900 and an 9th overall in GC.  This wasn’t right but such is life somedays.

Stage 3- 58 km Duathlon-  Stage 3 they shortened from 87km to 58 due to the downpour conditions which were turning the race course into a mud slide.   The course was 3 laps x 19km.  It started with a 20 minute hike a bike, then a 5 minute slide a bike, followed with a 1 minute fix yer bike and then 40 minutes of riding flat muddy jungle trails back to the start line.  If they added in a small swim section it would make for a great triathlon course.  I didn’t have the punch to go with the lead group thus settled into cruise mode to hold onto 11th overall in GC and make sure there’s some fireworks left for the 24 hr World Champs in Australia.    All in all it was a fun ride through the jungle, horrible on the bikes but definitely a good little adventure.

Stage 4- 28 km XC-  This was a short 1.5 hr racing day through some alright trails.  The majority of the track was flat but there was one 2 minute wall of a climb on pavement, a sweet descent to some waterfalls and then another hike a bike climb out of there to another steep decent.  The weather was nice so most of us put on our slick tires and were cruising, until lap 3 of 7.  Riding through the forest I could hear a thundering sound slowly closing in as a massive monsoon moved across the island and was ponding off the canopy above.  Within 5 minutes the perfectly good track turned into a full on luge track.  I had been killing the descents, but hit the first one a bit to hard in the wet and was unable to make the hard right corner at the bottom of a steep shoot and went straight over the edge embankment, through the course tape and landing on top of a cameraman.   Luckily he was a big guy and made for a comfy landing.

The next lap I made that corner but missed the next one, going over the bars again and landing on my feet running, straight into a waist high broken off tree.  If I was going any faster I would’ve been de-nutted and could’ve then fit right in with some of the “he” girls at the massage studios over here.  I think I squealed, 3 fans nearby ooohdd and aweddd, then I struggled back onto the bike to continue on.

Eventually I got my wind back and was starting to real in 12th place when a UCI official waved me down going through the finish line on the last lap.  Huhh?  I knew they were pulling riders about to get lapped but once your on the last lap you can’t get lapped.  Bummer, but I would still hold onto 11th as I figured they’d do the usual protocol and give all the lapped riders calculated “slow” last lap time.  *Instead they did this and tacked on a 15 minute penalty.  Instead of finishing a couple minutes behind 12th place, I finished 22 minutes with the imaginary time addition.  Apparantly this rule was just made up on this day for this race.  Wow.   After the 18 minute “getting lost penalty” on stage 2 and the 20 minute “getting pulled penalty on stage 4”  it was turning into more of a training block then bike race.  After the race I road back across the island for a little cool down and to start and re-focus on the racing still ahead this year.

*At the start of the Short track race an UCI official came up to me and apologized for the “imaginary time penalty for getting lapped” and said they had made a mistake and that there was no such rule.  He thanked me for arguing this the night before and had thus changed the results for the 65 riders in the field this affected. Instead of being in 13th overall, I was up in 12th, just 1 second behind 11th with money and UCI points on the line.   The short track was split into 3 races for the Open men (A, B & C) to prevent congestion and let similar ranked riders r

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