After 8 hours and 6117km
The air was now thick
& sweat covered my entire body.
I had finally made it.
Made it to the land of boat topped skyscrapers
Gondola ride filled shopping centers.
ON ARRIVALConfused faces and their eyes followed us as we wheeled our bike bags and luggage through the massive Singapore Airport. It's often a common reaction, that of a turned head and an awkward stare, when travelling though an airport with a cycling team. There was time when I thought this was weird, I mean surely we just look normal, right? But then I remember a very important fact.
THE IMPORTANT FACT:
I'm a cyclist and what I consider normal is highly unlikely to be considered the same by others.
Once I come to this realisation I can see how the same thing could quite easily seem different to others.
I see: A group of cyclist's (in a cycling team as exemplified by their matching team casual 'kit'), clearly on their way to a race, or training camp. Along their sides they carry and/or wheel what is obviously their expensive bikes (packed away with much care to avoid any breakage) and luggage that is sure to contain numerous pairs of knicks and jerseys. The high 2XU compression socks are clearly their help stop their legs from feeling like dead wood after the long flight. Nothing weird to see here.
They see: A group of oddly shaped, shaved legged and tan lined guys. Looking almost like a weird soccer team wearing matching clothes they carry with them funny shaped bags and box's... And WTH are those overly tight and disgustingly high socks- do they really think that looks good?
On reflection a confused stare is understandable.
Singapore City (unrelated I know, but its a cool picture!)
Once we collected our bikes at oversized baggage (or oddsize as they prefer to call it), we made our way outside and to a bus already waiting to take us to the accommodation. It might have been humid out side in Singapore, but it is an entirely different story once you enter any building, car or train. They love their airconditioning over there. I mean really love it. I constantly found my self sweating uncontrollably outside or shivering in the cold air once I went indoors. This lead to a 'strategic clothing wearing procedure', that was dependant on the location of where we were eating. Breakfast was outside by the pool so shorts and shirt would suffice, whereas lunch and dinner where inside. This meant the tracksuit pants and jumper were essential. But apart from the eating (and the clothing needed at the certain meal times) we were in Singapore for a slightly more important thing. Racing!
The 2011 OCBC Cycle Pro Crit was upon us and the following night at 8pm we were to race under the lights on a fairly hard and winding course that included a figure 8, were you ride through a short tunnel underneath the earlier bits of the course.
There was four of us Drapac riders. Myself and three others.
The afternoon before the race it rained.
This made it more humid. I did not like this.
Waiting on the start line the race official called out the names to be lined up; I was already drenched with sweat. I took a large, prolonged sip from my bottle; the Shotz Electrolyte Tablets fizzing in the water. Hydration is going to be half the battle. I managed to sneak up into the second row of riders on the start line and before I knew it Phil Ligget had counted down and the painfully loud siren blasted in my hear signalling the start.
The race started fast. It was sketchy. Sprinting off the line, the first left hand corner came quick. Some riders flung out to the right, then back into the left- seemingly not having a clue of how the corner went. Apparently a significant number riders had not actually seen any part of the course. This would make for a interesting first lap.
Coming through to the the start line to complete the first lap, I had managed to squeeze through the swamp of riders to move up into the top 5 or 6 riders. It's a constant mental and physical effort to stay near the front. Every corner three of four riders push up on the either side of you. Corners that of course don't fit 3 or 4 riders. You bump, you brake and your either stay ahead or are pushed further back where more and more riders coming 'chopping' by. I was to go with the early attacks and breakaway attempts. Easy enough surely. Or so I thought. 15 minutes in I was hurting. This is going to be hard crit.
Attack after attack was launched, and it wasn't until about half way did a breakaway properly form. Floris made the break which consisted of Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo), Dean Windsor (Rapha Condor), Ben King (Team Type 1) and Cameron Peterson among a few other riders to make 9 men out in front. I saw the red ahead. Thankfully we didn't miss the move.
The bunch still pressed hard, with teams like Kelly Benefits (USA) who missed the move, desperate to bring the break back. The bunch began to shatter. Nearing the end, only 30 or so riders were left. Head down, legs burning.
One of the corners on the course (riding around the day before the race)
Back up front it was 5 laps to go and Floris attacked the group. He kicked hard, gaping the others, he soloed of the front. He just needed to hang on for 5 more laps. If anyone could do it, Floris was the man.
Unfortunately coming into the final lap the breakaway group reeled in Floris in after very hard chase. The Dutchman's effort would see him win Most Aggressive Rider for the crit.
The bell rang, Meyer attacked hard. He was hungry for a solo win.
330 meteres to go however his chance evaporated as he got caught; around the same time Italian Omar Bertazzo had some how managed to bridge from the peloton to the break. Dean Windsor opened up the sprint, he looked to win, until in the final moments when the fast Omar snuck past to take the victory, his arms raised punching through thick humid Singaporean air.
In the final laps the bunch was splitting everywhere. Gaps suddenly appeared as riders legs gave way. Around the time Floris attacked, Tom had punctured so I moved back through to bunch to help him come up to the front for the minor places, or victory if the break was to come back. The final lap approached and I shot up the left of the bunch moving towards the front with Pelly and Tom on my wheel. Pelly, who had been in one of the early breaks and strong all race then drove the front of the bunch heading into the tunnel, that ducked under the road to complete the figure 8. Miscommunication and bit of confusion however would lead to Tommy not having perfect position for the sprint for the lower positions, however he still ended up 23rd (his transponder had other ideas deciding not to work, resulting in Tom being recorded as last on the computer system).
Floris ended up 10th after his powerful attempt at the win, and also came 4th in the sprint comp. I finished just at the back of the main bunch, tired and VERY sweaty.
All in all a fun and successful trip, where I learnt of the Singaporeans love of airconditioning and some lessons for racing too. I was happy to get my first Asian race under my belt for the year, as I head to Taiwan this week for long, hilly 10 stage race.
Watch the video below to see some photo's and video from the trip, including the worlds largest infinity pool on top of a skyscaper! Which we got to check out as tourists on the Sunday.