Return to racing

Cycling is a challenging sport, it requires perservence, consistency and a single minded focus that’s often hard to maintain while working. Late 2016, I embarked on a 100 day program to get my fitness back on track before the start of the 2017 season. I’d let myself go, dropping fitness and gaining a few kilograms. Add that to a return to full-time work, and I was facing an uphill battle.

At the conclusion of the 100 days on December 28th, I had managed to shed the majority of the excess weight, but struggled to get my FTP back up to a competitive level. But I enter 2017 with an optimistic outlook, keen to race and help drive more events in Singapore. 

The plan was to start the year with the Palau Indah 180, just outside Kuala Lumpur in mid-January. After renting a car to get myself up there, I made the tragic mistake of leaving my handing pump in the car. The course’s rough roads meant punctures we common and frequent. I couldn’t escape the odds, puncturing 15km into the race. Unaware at the time I had left my pump behind, I made a start to change the tube and waved through the support vehicles. Two minutes later I was stranded, unable to inflate my tyre. Race over at 15km.

The following weekend was a big event. The first ever URA CarFree Sunday Crit, around the 1.7km CBD circuit. I was like a kid in the weeks up to Christmas, excited at the though of Crit racing in the heart of Singapore. But with limited volunteers to help with official duties, I was faced with a tough choice. In the end, I opted to help out and took on commissiare duties for the race. I couldn’t help but be jealous as the field rolled off the start.

Next came a work trip to Las Vegas, where I’d carry my bike with the aim of racing in California. On the weekend, there’d be a Road Race and Criterium in Santa Cruz. The week in Vegas was full of less than healthy habits, as a frantic week of activity keep me away from any noticeable training sessions and leaving me exhausted at its conclusion. Poor weather in the San Fran Bay Area resulted in dozens of cancelled flights, and unfortunately for me, my races as well. The first four races I had planned for the year had resulted in DNS or DNF. 

I started the year planning for a strong Tour be Bintan on March 3-5, but with such a disastrous start to the year, my preparation was looking horrible. My last chance to push myself was the February edition of the URA CarFree Crit, in the masters category. A field that would closely resemble the Masters field for Bintan. While I never had hopes of matching the strength of guys like Dohling, Khoo, Hashim, I had hoped to hang onto the main bunch, eight laps it was looking likely. But a split second lapse of judgement saw me in the wrong position as the field separated. Leaving me stranded, and trying to compile a chase group. There was a significant advantage to riding in a smaller group, as you could take faster lines into the circuits two corners.

My goal for the race was to test my legs, see if I could push them to stay in pack. Cycling is full of surprises, but I should have known this was going to be a challenge. While I was still in the back of the field, the Specialized Mavericks, Bastian Döhling had put in a strong demonstration of his current fitness. Chasing down a breakaway, before opening a controlling lead.

I was now working in a group of five, we kept the pace up, with most of us likely clinging to the hope that we could get ourselves back into the main battle. We did well to organize ourselves, but with limited race experience in the Singapore community, it was less effective than it could have been. I found myself thinking back to the Wednesday night before, cloaking down gaps to Firoz Loh as he smashed the WCR SR field on his Time Trial bike. As lap after lap we chased the swarm of little red lights ahead, I lost track of the lap count. With only the timer on my Garmin to help me gauge the remaining laps. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t make out a lap count board at the finish line either. It’s likely it was there, but speeding through a abundant series of flashing lights, cow bells and cheers, I just couldn’t focus enough to find it.

Conceding that gap to the main field, I thought I’d save up some power for one final lap burst. See if I could shoot off from the bell and put a decent gap between myself and my fellow group members. But with the constant ring of cow bells at the finish line, I never could distinguish the bell signaling the final lap. So imagine my surprise when we come around to are told its the finish of the race. Dam, I had missed another opportunity. 

Racing a bike is an intense sport, it requires focus, attention to detail and punishes even a moments distraction. I’m by no means an experienced racer, but its’ lesson like those I’ve encountered during the start to 2017 that will only build on my knowledge and experience. Racing isn’t just about the legs, it’s also about the head. Smarter racers know when to attack, and when to rest. They pay attention in crucial moments. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy the growth curve as I build on past experiences. No an ideal start to the year, but I’ve learnt a tonne. I know I’m slower and fatter than I was in June 2016, my challenge is to get back to those levels.

Next up is Tour de Bintan, March 3-5, followed by Tour de Phuket, March 17-19. Can’t wait 🙂

Photo Credit: Rhys Cheng Photography

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