Stage 2: Nothing ventured, nothing gained
After Stage 1's crampfest, I went into serious recovery mode. Depending on which theory [blogger.com] you subscribe to, cramping means you're pretty dehydrated. The last time I was severely dehydrated wasn't a pretty sight or song. I went to town on some ORS, had recovery shakes on shakes and ran train on the race dinner buffet. We spent the rest of Saturday night disagreeing on how many DirectAsia dudes were actually in the race, finally settling on a number between 13 and 30.
Going into stage 2, our goal was to work for Laxman, who was 2nd in the sprint competition and Loki, who was 3rd in the KOM competition. The points jersey's are hard to defend and if you want it, you have to go out and get it. The strategy for the guys was to shadow and try to come around the current jersey wearers -- Heksa and Mike Maiers (DA).
|Marking an early attack by Joel Penington (Cannasia). |
Image: Tour de Bintan Facebook page
I wasn't sure how my body had recovered after the first stage so my game plan was to stay up front and dig deep for the first rolling 14kms. I've never been one for plans though. After the 2km neutral section and a couple flurries, Joel Pennington (Cannasia) attacked on the ramp out of the resort. I marked him and I was swooped up the riser. While it may be categorically Cat6 to do so, if I have a 5 second gap on a bunch, I'll convince myself it's the winning break. I contributed, but mostly because I realized that the effort was going to be more steady and less painful than an accordioning peleton. On to lower ramp of the days first KOM at 8km, I throw it into my big ring and let Cannasia work, riding past the 1km to go marker. We have enough of a gap to play with. Then, Cannasia decides he's under-geared and Andy Schleck's his shifting [youtube.com]. For a fraction of a second, I considered waiting, but I quickly slap myself out of my stupor. My inner Pistolero took over, took out the KOM, and eased up for a counter.
At this point, all the protagonists of the play were up front -- Colin (DA), Tjarco (Fuji Asia), Heksa Priya (ISSI Tanjungpinang), and Takashi Miyazawa (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank-Bank Bank). I stayed behind yellow (DA) as Fuji Asia tried to get separation and were repeatedly shut down. The front was a good place to be as the roads narrowed around 14km. Riders started shooting off the front with only anyone in top-10 open to respond. Three riders get a gap and they begin to consolidate. Six more bridge-up with Heksa in tow. Heksa's presence in a move turns out to be a lithmus test for whether a break was going to succeed and I've always thought lithmus paper was cool. All I can do is sit and watch since some dude just doused a match I lit. At 30km, there's 9 guys up front with a veritable gap. This must be that breakaway thing people kept talking about!
We're 30kms into the race -- Angus Wippell (Specialized Shanghai) is next to decide he wants in and soon after, Jason Baran (DA) digs in. At this point it becomes evident that the party is up front, so I dig in to bridge up to Jason. Not convinced we can close the gap to the front, I unabashedly ride Jason's (DA) coattails for a bit. We're on the flat, exposed, Busung Highway; I look back and we've got a gap. Jason's hard work has converted me to a believer; I start to work double-time. We pick up Angus along the way and we work together for a breezy 6 clicks. With 500m to the group of 9, my impatience showed and I bridged the remaining gap solo.
At 38k, the group was 13 strong, with 3 Cannasian's, 2 DirectAsian's, 2 Trek APAC's, 2 Anza's, 1 Maverick, Heksa, Angus and me. The conductor on our train ended up being the teams with the most guys in the break. If you have 'n' guys in a break (where n >1), and I'm all alone, just get comfortable with the idea that I'm going to sit in a minimum of (n-1) times. Maybe I'll sit in less, if I'm feeling fabulous. The usual big break dynamics followed -- cussing out the passengers on board, the occasional monster pull from that one dude, pseudo pulls, dudes wiping out because of having too much room to corner, you name it.
With 40km to go, the gap ballooned to 3+ minutes and our group contained virtual yellow. Pretty virtual it ended up being as the gap plummeted at the rate of a minute every 10km. The break had whittled down to 7 guys by this point. About 2km out from the KOM at 73km, 3 riders rode away. I made the effort to close it down, reeled it in on the KOM line and took the scraps for 3rd. At this point, the only thing keeping the break from being swallowed up by the peleton were the incessant attacks and counter attacks of the remnants of the break. I tried a flier with 10km to go and then in a 2-man break with Heksa at 5km to go. I dug in again with 1km to go, but I found the road tilted the wrong way for my liking. I ended up 7th on the stage with the peleton hot on my heels.
|I brought in the rear end of the breakaway in 7th place. The field sprint was 5 seconds behind. |
Image: Adapted from Tour de Bintan Stage 2 official results
Stage 3: Flying the flag
The only thing left to take away from this race was a stage win. The goal was for Loki to save for the sprint and to reduce his race to coming around Heksa or Tjarco in the finish. While that was the end game, there were 38kms for rest of us to race our bikes and help take the pressure off Loki. Laxman, threw in the kitchen sink just as the race was flagged off. Throwing caution to the crosswinds, Laxman forged ahead, building up a 35 second lead on the DA led peleton, riding a brisk tempo. The only KOM on the stage, at 15km, was closing in. The pace started to lift under the wings of DA and Mike Maier's polka dot jersey. Laxman stuck it and took the only KOM on the stage by a whisker. At the 20km mark, I dug in, kept cruising for 10km solo and took out the intermediate sprint at 23km. Next, Sangamesh (Specialized Kynkyny) threw in an attack and then Naveen Raj (Specialized Kynkyny). On the run in to the finish, Loki had to grab a handful of brakes on the cobble section, but still managed to finish 5th in the bunch gallop [facebook.com].
|Lokesh (Specialized Kynkyny) finished 5th, to arguably, the best sprinters in the race. Takashi Miyazawa (Saxo Bank), who wasn't on the official results, finished slightly ahead of Loki. Image: Adapted from Tour de Bintan Stage 3 official results|
With a 9th, 7th and 5th in stage placings, I'd like to think that we could have made the podium if we had a couple more stages to fine tune our race craft. While our competition had the benefit of a race season to build fitness, we made do with countless hill repeats, innumerable 20:40's, and training by feel. The race savvy that our opposition had honed over multiple seasons, we had to learn in situ -- over 3 days of racing. Overall, a pretty good outing for only our 2nd race outside the sub-continent as a team!
|Lokesh and Naveen Raj (Specialized Kynkyny) finished in 17 and 18th on GC with a 1:30 deficit to yellow accounted for by the 12km Prologue. Image: Adapted from Tour de Bintan official GC results|
Also, kudos to DirectAsia.com, Fuji Asia, and Heksa Priya!