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3rd Subaru International Mountain Bike Race @ Sentosa

(Having retired from active racing, Sting discovers the other side of the fence - the job of the race volunteer. Ever been to a bike race? Ever wondered how much effort is put into it? Sting takes the plunge and "Gets Involved". )       

Every time I raced, I used to wonder about the manpower needed to run an event. The effort to tie down sponsors, get permits, do publicity, ensure rider safety, time-keeping, score-keeping, collection of stores, deployment of stores, return of stores. If you've never thought of it, I suggest that you do. Itís not easy to run a race and itís even harder to run a race well. Everybody wants to race and prepare seriously for the event. Racing is glamorous. But it won't be so glamorous if nobody does the hard work in holding the event.   Sandman, Fangio and Ling the Merciless have been some of local cycling's strongest supporters. These Absluts make me proud. They willingly gave up their cycling time to further the sport in Singapore and to try and improve the quality of racing. Their work and involvement in SACA has been very fundamental in getting clubs involved in racing and starting a race for the school children. If Singapore cycling is going to get stronger, school children must be accomodated; its the only way to grow and ensure that we have a supply of talent for the National Team. Currently, there is a gap between the youngest National Team rider and the next best Junior rider - this can be addressed by encouraging Schools participation.  Seeing all the good work that Sandman and co had put into SACA, I was motivated to chip in my time to see how a race is run, and what bigger bike race is there in Singapore if not the 3rd Subaru Bike Carnival? Hundreds of participants, a Schools Championship, 2 days of activities, thousands of dollars of prize money, Ministers and MPs visiting the race. TV crews crawling all over the place and thousands of visitors. If you weren't there those two days, then I'm afraid, you've missed the most prestigious bike race in Singapore in the past few years, cause this year, the race was bigger and better and more exciting than ever before.  

First, I must send a shout out to the Sluts who came down to chip in: Beef, Alicia, Gingerman, Stick and Oldman for helping out and Coach for bringing in his family to keep us company. Itís a family event, so bring the kids next time folks!  I attended meetings every Monday night for a month. Meetings that lasted till midnight and beyond, trying to tie things down. I've been to meetings before and even bike committee meetings but these meetings were different - things seemed to get done, often with Merciless cracking the whip. This lady is really super when it comes to organizing stuff - I can't think of a better assistant for Sandman actually. Things got pretty organized and the last meeting of all actually ended early - at 9pm! I got my job as International Liasons Officer - that means making sure the International teams got squared away. Its a job I never did before, but having been treated kindly overseas over the past few years, I figured it was payback time. 

Thursday, 4th June, the teams started arriving. With help from Zuyi (the big Cycleworx dude) and Ling and especially Ah Boon (this guy is a real help with his company van), we got the teams squared away. The Indonesian National Team, the West Java CC came in the morning - some more West Java riders came via Johor and found their way to the SACA meeting room. Now this meeting room is actually the office of Tchi Mun (SACA Treasurer) and even the most ardent bikers in Singapore don't really know where it is. These Indons can be resourceful, huh? The Thais and the Taiwanese team came in the afternoon and finally, (an admittedly last minute affair), Zuyi and I picked up the Filipino delegation - they had only a 17 yr old rider, Nino, who wanted to race in the Elite.   Friday was spent showing the internationals around the island and giving directions to the nearest MRT and the city and arranging for an interpreter for the Taiwanese team - one coach with 6 junior riders. My Mandarin is non-existent and SACA seems to be full of people like me - fortunately one of Merciless' friends could act as an interpreter and that solved all the problems during the Technical briefing. 

Saturday was the first race, the usual events of schools and veterans and ladies competitions. The day was spent filling gaps in the marshalling areas.  Sunday was spent marshalling too - long and hot hours but it was made up for by the the Junior race that was pretty fun - the winner, a Taiwanese kid, snapped his rear derailler hanger and still won by running his bike to the finish line. But the best show of the day, the Elites, was the best I had ever seen live. On lap 1, three riders, led by our very own Samuel Yang, came charging down the last slope onto the road. There was Sam, the Indon Nat'l champ and Nino, the Flying Filipino. The next lap, it was only Sam and the Indon with Nino nowhere to be seen, he came like in like 8 minutes down on Sam because of a flat tire.  Then I saw the most amazing thing in a mtb race ever. Every lap he came around, Nino would leapfrog up the rankings - he was pulling in a minute and a half on the leaders every lap. Stick who was marshalling at the same spot I was, pointed out that Nino was the only guy who locked out his front suspension fork the for short 800m gravel road section between the downhill and the Start/Finish. Nino was absolutely marvelous in his form and his strokes were fluid all the way to the finish. Needless to say, he overcame his time deficit and won by around 45 seconds. I had the chance to talk to him later and his coach told me that Nino had beaten the Filipino Nat'l Champ that won in Hanoi in December in a race a few weeks back. This kid is going around collecting scalps of all the regional MTB champions, and I can count 3 countries he's bested. I think his career will be one to watch in the future. Maybe Sandman can steal him over. He he he.   And that was that.

Subaru 04, 5 full days of running around and getting hot and tired and sweaty but being rewarded with making new friends and a front row seat of one of the most dominant displays in cycling ever in Singapore MTB. Now, its back to my regular schedule of lab and day dreaming on a road bike.

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