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6th April, 2003, Changi Business Park Criterium
Last Corrected 15th April, 2003

Round Two for the Singaporean Roadies. The event had much fewer crashes this time - unfortunately, this was marred by the crash of National Rider (and great t@ hope), Teo Woon Lip, aka Lippy. Lippy crashed in the Open Cat Race and was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with an open fracture of the left arm bones. We wish him the best for a speedy recovery! Samuel Yang went on to win the Open Cat Race. A new face in Singapore (literally), Cas Brentjens, won the mountain bike race. The Ladies was taken by ANZASCG's Kerrie Crisp. In the Veterans Peter Sharman (an Independent) stole victory from under the noses of ANZASCG's numerical superiority, but Bernard Chua of Schroder (aka Boh Gey), maintained his yellow jersey position. In Sports, Melvin Seow of Liquid Elements took first prize and Jeffrey Lee lost his GC standing to Kale Buonerba (who was called the Airborne Guy by some of his rivals because of his shiny Airborne Titanium bike).

A CHANGE OF VENUE

The Singaporean Roadie had the opportunity to test his mettle once again on a sunny Sunday, 6th April, 2003. The original criterium course was supposed to be at the rolling roads of eastern Sentosa. However, due to construction work in the vicinity, the location was rendered unsuitable for racing. Fortunately, the Changi Business Park was available for the local wheelers to settle their racing scores.

THE RACE COURSE AND FORMAT
 

The format was a timed criterium - each category rode for N minutes. At the end of N minutes, extra laps were added. During those N minutes, the field can either hammer each other into jelly, or cooperate and cruise around. Due to the short nature of the course, however, no cruising was going to be expected.

This time, SACA managed to close the roads off entirely - no outside traffic was seen on the roads. Furthermore, a rolling enclosure complete with motorcycle outriders were present - one in the front and one in the back! (I say, maybe SACA does read my reports and rants). Well done! Hope we can get this level of organization in the future.

Like most Business Parks, the road was a loop. The loop is best described as a round-bottomed flask with curvy walls. In the center was a puddle of water which the Developer probably calls a lake (for feng shui?). The Park is still in the early stages of development - the land was mostly leveled and barren - allowing a persistent wind onto the course.

At the start line, one proceeds on a twisty course to a 180-degree turn, back on another twisty course to a bridge that had two lane. We were to take the outer lane, leading to wide corners (and confusion amongst heat-exhausted riders who took the inner lane sometimes!). Once the racer makes it past the bridge, it was about 200m to jump to the finish line. This bridge corner was KEY to winning the sprint.

RACER COMMENTS

There were mixed feelings about the nature of the course and the difficulty of the race. Since the course was flat and smooth, it was going to be easy for the peloton to stick together. It fell upon the stronger riders to try and force the pace. Many teams wanted to start fast and get a group away.

Samuel Yang (1st, Open, Liquid Elements):" I didn't like the part where Lippy fell. It was not as attention grabbing as the sharp right bends where everyone would take caution and slow down. This particular section was an S bend where one won't foresee any danger. ... After the crash the speed dropped to 30kph."

Although not really a sprinter, Samuel still managed to win the mass sprint. About his sprint victory, he had this to say:" It was a mass sprint in the end. Cruising speed upped to 56kph. Nick came by from the right pretty fast. I jumped onto his wheel. He was first into the last turn. Coming out of it, Nick continued to accelerate. I was behind his wheel. With around 50-100m to go, I stood up and came by him. I won the sprint. I was in the right position at the right time. "

After Lippy's crash, it was obvious to spectators that Samuel was feeling quite horrible. He was drifting off the back. However, with encouragement from Per Stromblad (trek), he pulled himself together for the win. Samuel said he would give Lippy the yellow jersey that he won in this race as well as prize money. His final statement: "I dedicate my win to Woon Lip. I wish him a speedy recovery. Watching your own team mate fall is a depressing thought, to be involved in the crash just makes it worse."

Nick Swallow (2nd, Open, Cycleworx): "The course I felt was very safe, the surface was good, a couple of fairly fast corners to add some interest, no traffic. Too flat for my liking but I guess we'll make up for that later at NTU and Sentosa."

Nick is well known for some very aggressive racing. This time, his plans were no different. "My plan was to start fast and try to get a group away...", he said. When Nick attacks, the other riders had better respond. On the major break of the day, Nick had this to say:" The best break of the day I think was around midway when I attacked on the back straight and managed to get a good gap rigth away. Seah Teck Wee and Scot Kor bridged up and we worked well together for several laps. But with strong riders left in the group and still half an hour left we were brought back."

About his missed victory, Nick was philosophical. This is how he remembered his finishing meters: "Coming into the last 200m I was in front but could see a rider was on my wheel. I put my head down and drove to the line but was running out of steam. Samuel Yang came off my wheel with 50m to go and just edged past me. He was perfectly placed and I guess I gave him a great lead out! I've always disliked crits and have never been any good at them so I am quite pleased with this result."

Kale Buonerba (2nd, Sports, Independent): "I actually really enjoyed the course. With only 3 real turns it was a bit relaxed as far as crit courses go, but I certainly felt much safer the way it was. It may have been a bit more fun and interesting if the turn over the bridge was tighter (using the inside lane)... For a crit though, it could have use more turns, tighter turns, or both."

Kale is an animator of the Sports Peloton. In the last race at LCK, he was one of the constant attackers and drivers of the peloton. In this race, he was up to his old tricks. Kale said this about his breakaway:" I saw Jeffrey Lee lead the parade around for a lap or so... around 25 minutes or so I got into a break with 5 others and the pace came up nicely. Very soon we had a decent gap on the main field.".

The breakaway was so successful that they could play chess in the last kilometers. Kale's recollection of it:" The last two laps were very slow as people were maneuvering for position. On the back straight Melvin Seow got out front about 100m or so from the bridge and pushed real nicely. He led over the bridge, then me. After the bridge he just kept charging and took it. Nice job. Despite how much the bridge played into the end of the race, I still have to say he definitely deserved the win, awesome ride!"

Ben Tang (Veterans, Liquid Elements): Ben is part of the establishment in local veteran racing. At this race, he felt that his fellow racers did not conduct themselves in a manner worthy of their age." Generally riders got their heads hit, their jerseys pulled and vulgarities were shouted - this happened to Bernard Chua, whose jersey was pulled and his head hit and I received lots of verbal abuse when i got to the front."

Ben was quite put off by the "tactics" employed by his opposition. He recalls:" There was also a lot of dangerous riding - riders would like deliberate cut into another rider's path in order to prevent riders from bridging to the runaways as well as to control the front. Vulgarities like 4 letter words shouted to those to tried to go to the front and attempt to pull away."

Ben's final judgement: "I think this is contrary to the principle of winning on one's own strength or on using clean tactic."

Porky (6th, Sports, t@):"I found the circuit quite easy to ride being flat and all. The race was up b4 I knew it. The only problem i had was that being a left **** heavy guy, I found turning right problematic and almost ran off a few times. When the Airborne Guy set off, chased by Jeffery Lee and others. Managed to stay with them at average 46-47kph. 6 of us in the break away." (NOTE: There was a bit of confusion here. John Clark remembers that it was Fadzli who made the first move. Hmmm, Porky must have been watching Kale too closely!)

Porky is your typical t@ flat-lander. Like a 20000 tonne train on the flat but still finding his way in the sprint. He recalls his finish:" The final sprint was abit of a cock up for me. Was blocked into 6th place by aggressive position holding into the final 2 corners. in retrospect should have jostled for position b4 the corners. I'm not aggressive enough."

Kerrie Crisp (1st, Ladies, ANZASCG):"The course was good and not too technical for experienced racers. I personally like a highly technical course as bike handling through corners is a strength. My tactics were to stay up front and out of trouble. I am confident in my skills in a crit so thought I would just stay ahead of the other girls and sprint out of the last corner which is what happened."

Riding in the Veterans bunch, Kerrie still managed to finish high. " I think I came around 6th overall but was taking it easy in the last corner...I just had to stay ahead of the other girls."

Teo Woon Lip(Crash Victim, Open, t@):"I don't like criteriums. The lines kept changing and many times I had to yell out to those in front to watch out... I think this calls for an early retirement." Say it ain't so!!!

THE OPEN CAT RACE

Here, there was some surprises. The timing of the Sports and Open Cat races were swapped at the last minute - this time Open Cat riders started first, relegating the Sports peloton to the hottest time of the day (at 11am). The second surprise was an increase in racing time by 15 minutes. Not that the increase in time was ever going to make a difference. (NOTE John Clark pointed out to me later that the details had been changed on the website and posters two weeks earlier. Well maybe, but the originals I received had me and some others thinking the timings had been fixed. Grrr. Someone's not sending out their corrected timings).

The number of Open Cat racers were smaller this time - about 20 guys. Geylang-Cannondale, Trek/t@/Liquid Elements, Schroder and Cycleworx were there as teams. Plus a host of Independent riders.

The racing started hard at speeds of 42-44 kph immediately. Lippy, Per and Samuel took turns to keep the speeds high, stringing out the peloton. The first few corners were taken gingerly by the racers, as they tried to identify the depressions and best lines around the course. Because of the curvy nature of the course, the lines kept switching and required the handler of the machines to be constantly alert. After a few laps the turns were taken at speeds of about 40kph!

Lippy was very aggressive in the start. After about 6 minutes, he got into a little break of about 6-7 seconds with Scott Kor of Geylang-Cannondale. They could not work very smoothly and soon enough were brought back. By this time a couple of riders were already left floundering off the back.

The best break of the day actually came from Nick Swallow(Cyleworx), Seah Teck Wee and Scott (both Geylang-Cannondale). With three strong riders, this breakaway had the potential to stay away or even lap the field. However, trek/t@/LE immediately sensed trouble and put all their horses on the front to reel the breakaway back. Samuel, Lippy and Per worked smoothly together until the break was absorbed.

It was shortly after the absorption that the unfortunate crash occurred. On one of the wavy lanes, the lines switched to the right. Samuel in the lead kept his head down to maintain tempo and keep straight. In doing so, he inadvertently squeezed into Lippy's line. Lippy said he remembered brushing Samuel's front wheel and in the heat and speed of the moment, hit the pavement, bringing down Evan Kwek (Cycleworx). Evan managed to make it up and ride off but Lippy was warded at Changi General Hospital.

At this point, the race became a bit steady as riders lost interest in taking risks. Some weaker riders made opportunistic attacks but could not get away. The field resigned itself to a mass sprint. On the back straight, Per led Samuel out at about 58kph. Sitting behind the big Swede was like sitting behind a truck. He was rapidly overcoming the field with Samuel in tow when coming into the last corner, Nick Swallow shot around Per and Samuel. Samuel reacted in time to grab Nick's wheel. Nick took the corner bridge at speed and was on the leading edge of the field. However, he faded in the last few meters and Samuel managed to come off his wheel for the win. Teck Wee, Colin Pearson (ANZASCG) and Per took the remaining honors.

THE SPORTS RACE

t@ had far fewer riders in this race. Illness, job, family, and pet koi commitments took a lot of t@ riders away. Beef, Stick, Bruce and Porky were there to wave the jersey.

A typical Sports Race with a slow start. A few failed attacks occurred in the first half Halfway through, Mohammad Fadzli (Rodalink), attacked and was bridged by Jeffrey Lee (Cycleworx), Melvin Seow (Liquid Elements), John Clark (Cycleworx), Kale Buonerba, and Porky. This was the race and it went up the road when the breakaway members gave it some stick. Although they never lapped the field, the y were never caught either.

They had such a good gap on the field, they could take the last two laps to play cat and mouse with each other. Melvin Seow proved to be the strongest with a late charging attack into the bridge corner. He came out of it at full steam and kept it up to the end. Kale came in 2nd. followed by Jeffrey, Fadzli and John Clark.

Porky rounded off the finishing group. Is this the Pork's last race? (His pregnant wife is about to "pop" a new piglet into the world.... and when that happens he's going to have to take time off biking again.)

THE VETERANS RACE

We had only one representative in this race, Diesel. He was off the back for most of the race, but I think t@ is still proud of this geezer because when he started riding with us he could not ride that long or that far. It takes guts to go line up with guys who have been riding for years.

The Singaporean veterans were taken by surprise by ANZASCG. The ANZAs had the numerical superiority, numbering almost half the field, and they were not shy about imposing their presence. At the start line, they dominated the front row while local racers queued at the back, hoping for a slower start. The hammer fell immediately at the start and the racing began in earnest.

When the ANZAs had got their men in the front, their following riders satup. This release strategy worked like a charm, squashing the chances for the rest of the peloton. The breakaway formed very quickly which included Holmes, Kratz, Robinson and Coghlan (all ANZASCG), Bernard Chua (Schroder), and Sharman (Independent). When the break formed, the ANZA vets literally formed a wall slowing down the field. The pace in the front remained high until only Sharman and Holmes were left in the front.

Richard Tan(Cycleworx) and Ben Tang(Liquid Elements) both tried to individually bridge up to the breakaway, but were shadowed each time by different ANZAs. Later, they admitted that the tactic was very demoralizing. Bernard was at this time, content to sit in the bunch and capture the sprint. Meanwhile, Robinson was watching him to ensure that Schroder did not attempt to bring Bernard up again.

In the final run-up, Sharman attacked Holmes into the bridge. Although Holmes managed to catch Sharman after the bridge, Sharman proved the better sprinter. In the bunch sprint, Holden was leading the pack after the bridge until he pulled his foot off the pedal allowing Bernard Chua to get 3rd and maintain his GC position.

The veterans race was an educational race with the ANZA formation using their numerical superiority to smother the opposition. Although they lost out in the final two-up sprint, it was generally agreed that they played their cards well. Watch out for the next few races and see if the local riders can come up with a counter strategy.

Conclusions

Overall, most riders felt that the course was a good one. I generally enjoyed taking the corners at speed after having been working on coming down South Buona Vista and Mt Faber in recent weeks. It was damned bad luck that Lippy had his crash.

There were small scenes of unpleasantness reported. Apparently certain SACA officials have taken it upon themselves to shout at participants of road races. This type of behavior is not going to go down well with the peloton and the next SACA Annual General Meeting is going to see some fireworks. Stay tuned.

So what's next for the local peloton? A large number of riders are currently preparing for the ADD Tour of Thailand scheduled for next month. But with the current outbreak of SARS, it probably is not prudent for Singaporeans to travel around the region. It would be such a waste to peak in a "barren" period! But such is life.

STING'S RANT!

I was a bit irritated before the race - that was because when I woke up I found that HALF my pre-race fuel had been consumed by my brother for a late night snack!!!! Next time, I'm going to have to keep my food under my bed. I rode slowly from Ghim Moh to Changi and felt really good. My legs were feeling strange - not much feeling in them, but they felt they could turn on the gas. This was going to be my downfall, because it led to a "break-through". I feel like I'm peaking now, after 6 months of clean-living and high pain tolerance. I recover very quickly from hammer-fests on the local training rides. Still, I think this higher level of fitness led to a classic case of over-reaching.

At around minute 15, I noticed a general slowing down of the peloton. No serious attacks had materialised at this point. I took the chance and jumped. I gave it a lot of gas this time. Actually I gave it too much gas. I ruptured my engine. I saw a new maximum heart-rate: 198 bpm. The highest I had ever seen in two years of riding is 192 while doing intervals on Mt Faber. This was virgin territory!

And like a virgin, I flopped it in my very first major attack in an Open Cat race. I actually got a pretty decent gap of over 10 seconds according to Porky. I rounded the bridge solo, and kept hammering. I actually thought I could shut down and pace against the peloton and was taking a drink when the pack came up. The field roared up like a multi-wheeled behemoth hunting for crazy breakaway riders. Hmmm, Yummy t@ breakaway morsel. chomp! chomp! Swallowed me whole and spat my remains out the back! My sprint for the draft was so weak, it was not even funny. Recovery from 188 yes. 192 maybe. 198?! Like I said. Virgin territory. Till next time, thanks for reading.

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