Sunday, October 23, 2011

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2011, 16 Oct 2011

This was my second cycling event this year, experienced my first with OCBC in Singapore earlier this year and following suit, its Malaysia edition. I enjoyed the Singapore edition and was certainly keen to partake in the Malaysia one which was a first by OCBC. I managed to convince my running mate, Chua to join me though Chua is not as avid as me when it comes to cycling.

The event was scheduled on 16 Oct, Sunday. We planned to be in KL one day prior; to check out the venue and to collect our kits, among others. I had booked DoubleTree by Hilton, the official hotel of the event but to our dismay, it was 'official in name' as not much of publicity could be found at the hotel premises, save for a lone pull-out banner displayed at one corner of the lift lobby. It is a nice and comfy hotel, no doubt.

I picked up Chua at his place in Bukit Panjang before 7am on Saturday as we had to cross the Woodlands causeway before 8am if we wanted to avoid the heavy jam later. We managed to place our two roadies with two front wheels taken out inside the car. After crossing the Woodlands causeway, we headed to Taman Sentosa to patronise the famous Ah Koon 'Bak Kut Tei' stall but we were too early, it was still not opened yet. We settled for a quickie one at a coffeeshop nearby.

Chua is familiar with the place, directed me to the shortest route leading to the highway and soon we were on the way to KL. Enroute and at Chua's recommendation, we stopped over at Tangkak to have mee hoon beef soup at a popular stall. No wrong, the beef soup is simply fantastic. Knowing the rouge traffic cops on the highway especially on the weekends, I kept to the 110km/hr speed limit throughout unless overtaking. We reached KL around 12 noon but took us a while looking for our hotel which is along Tun Razak and Ampang Road. Traffic in KL was smooth sailing being a Saturday, phew!

After we did our check-in, we were off to Avenue K to pick up our kits. We planned to take a short LRT ride from our hotel to Avenue K, just one stop away according to the map shown. A nice Caucasian man advised us to walk pointing to the right direction as it is definitely faster than taking LRT. Thanks to him, he was right, indeed. I even joked to Chua who is a Malaysian but have to rely on an 'ang moh' to show us the right way.

Admittedly,I was expecting throngs of people from participants to visitors at the mall but I was somewhat disappointed to see not so much of a fanfare there. There were few booths selling related cycling wares & apparels, it took a glance to see all. Prior to that, I had received an email from the event organisers that some 1,000 French-made cycling shorts and jerseys will be sold but almost everything was not available. I cannot pick up a ladies cycling pants for Dora as there was no L size left, of any brands. However, I only managed to pick up an OCBC Malaysia edition cycling pants for RM90 for myself.

After picking up our kits, Chua and I went separate way. He was meeting his brother & sister and later his old friends for dinner while I headed to Chooi Nee's work place to pass her some of her things.

It always happens to me before and again, I suffered insomnia. I fought very hard to go to sleep despite retiring to bed early. I was kept awake, sleeping intermittently. We woke up by 4.45am and by 5am, we were already down at the concierge to pick up our bikes. We met a couple from Singapore and they later joined us cycling to the start venue at Dataran Merdeka which is about 5km away.

Soon, we met more cyclists along Ampang Road and we then formed a convoy. I was in front and a car just sped past. It made a abrupt stop some 100 metres in front and then, turned a full 180 degree circle. I can smell the burnt of tyres. It then turned back and sped off, damn...bunch of drunken fellas and if they had escaped this time, they won't be lucky next time and may God bless them.

We arrived at Dataran Merdeka before 5.30am, some one hour to the flag-off at 6.30am. It was still pitched dark and Chua and I just hang around. A short while later, we could hear the MC trying to make his announcement but most of time, I couldn't hear what he said. The sound system was too soft and also the MC was just too boring. Bikes of different made and brands, mostly roadies, some foldies and some mountain bikes were streaming in.

We were at the start line, somewhere in the mid section and by 6.30am, we were not flagged off yet. It was only around 6.45am when the first horn sounded. We moved out batch by batch and by the time we were flagged off, it was around 7am by my reckoning (I didn't really check the time and I didn't have my watch with me either). Chua was just behind me, he was quiet throughout and when we sped off, we simply could not stick together. I later learnt he was very nervous on seeing so many cyclists. We had to watch out for other cyclists and be safe. Anyway, we had chosen a waiting spot after we have finished the race.

After the first turn, we headed to Kenny Heights and this is the toughest route I soon learnt. It is quite a steep slope which we had to ascend for quite a distance. I know I am not good when it comes to steep slope. Speed was reduced to lesser than 20km, dropping to 12km (at last 2 laps) but on the downhill, I can hit beyond 50km. Already on the first lap, I saw a casualty who was sitting by the side of the road and head bloodied.

We had to do five laps (each lap was about 10.5km) for a total of 52km in all. We cycled into the heart of KL. The first two laps were generally alright where traffic was kept at bay. I was doing about 30km on average, had to slow down at each turn and from time to time, watch out for charging cyclists from behind. Chua was nowhere in sight, he was either in front or behind. On the third lap, some cars and motorcylists were allowed in. It was a tight space and we really had to cycle with great care, knowing too well the notorious traffic in KL.

On my fourth lap, I had to stop for traffic to pass. Some impatient cyclists shouted at the traffic policemen to allow us through but to no avail, we had to wait for a good few minutes. Again, on my fifth and last lap which I had accelerated faster than the last four laps, we were stopped at the traffic junction. This time, longer than expected. In the last two stops, I reckon more than 5 minutes were wasted.

While I was heading to the finishing line, about 30 metres away and just in front of me, I saw one cyclist who just fell without anyone crashing on him and it was face down on him. Boy, it must be a bad fall for him. I cannot stop as more cyclists were zooming home on the final stretch, just shouted so that the medics could hear me.

After dismounting from the bike, I headed to the exit as directed by the organising personnel. A finishing medal was placed on me (actually, I cheekyly asked the lady to hang on me instead of passing to me). Another surprise awaits...more medals were left on two tables were left unattended and some were seen helping themselves to more medals. If there were not medals to be given out, this is likely the cause.

A short while later, Chua emerged. He was just some 20 or 30 seconds behind me, great effort by him. We later chanced upon the same couple and together, we cycled back to our hotel. The whole organisation was not perfectly executed, probably it was the first time for OCBC organisers. I can understand and accept some lapses but the biggest letdown is to allow cars and motorcyclists in and this is where cyclist safety is compromised. If the venue in the heart of KL is not ideal for such event, it is better to change to another place where traffic is manageable or not have it at all - this is my take.

On the same day, we checked out and drove back. Again, while enroute, we detoured to Tangkak for our beef mee hoon soup and I think this is the highlight of our trip, not the cycling. For the experience, yes but to cycle next year, a likely no.

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