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PCC INTERSTATE RIDE

This has been a torrid year. My cycling career has nothing to show for it. Life has rampaged its way through my entire year; the worse part was being destroyed by a woman. To paraphrase Austin Powers "My mojo has been stolen!". After three months of living through a stupor, my brain chemistry finally re-achieved equilibrium; I re-grew a mojo and I daresay, Sting is back! So when Sandman talked about a club ride in the Pen (that's Peninsular Malaysia for those of you not in the know) that covered 420km in 3 days, I jumped at it. I love cycling up in the Pen.

This was the annual Pedalphiles Cycling Club Interstate Ride. PCC is a club up in Kuala Lumpur that is very big on promoting cycling. And this was an annual event for cyclists of all ages and abilities to get together and ride. There was an official package of RM200 and everything but Sandman and I did not use that. We were "cowboys" tagging along with the cool people from Quick Release Adventures . Although we felt a bit embarrassed to be brazenly gate-crashing an organized club ride, we were glad too that we didn't have to follow their accomodations for reasons that will be revealed later.

The people from Quick Release were Sandman's pals from all his adventure and mountain biking craziness. There was Geoffrey, Shi Fun, Daniel, Melody, Adele and Chee Khoon. And not to forget Josh, the wordmeister who could come up with the best quotes at the most oppurtune times that would get everyone spilling their insides. It was wild. Two other guys from Singapore joined us, Bruce, whom I know from the Action For Aids ride of 2001 and his colleague Andy.

We spent the first night in Petaling Jaya, at the offices of Quick Release. Man, that is some spread. I am jealous, I tell you, they have a house and garden for an office! They have bedrooms and even cable tv! How come, we don't have that where I work? And they say Singapore is a Tech Republic. But on the first night, I didn't quite enjoy the facilities. My stomach felt really queasy - from some chives that was put in the "hor fun" that I had right after we hit PJ. I must have thrown up 2 litres of liquid/chives/grime later that night. What a way to start a ride; exhausted and dehydrated. Crap like this always happens to me when I'm about to embark on a grand adventure. Needless to say, I felt so much better after purging the toxin from my system and managed to grab about two hours sleep before we had to wake up and pull on our tights.

PETALING JAYA TO TELUK INTAN 160KM

I am born to ride bike I tell you. As I was pulling on my tights I was wondering how in hell was I going to finish a ride in such a dehydrated state. But as soon as I climbed aboard my good ole Litespeed, all uneasiness faded and I felt great. Yeeha, just put Sting on his bike and all will be right with the world. But when we stopped for breaks, that crappy sensation crawled back into my body. We started up at 6am from the CentrePoint mall, met up with some more PCC riders and set off. The main pack of PCC had set off at 4am! Riding in the dark like that, takes guts I tell you. While we were in the city limits, the roads were still pretty fine and smooth, but once we reached the outskirts, the road turned bumpy real quick. It was like 120km of continuous, unlit, rough paved roads. Lets just say it was the longest stretch of bumps I have ever encountered. The pace was never so fast that I couldn't handle and so I could tuck in the draft comfortably, spinning away. Enjoying the countryside. Malaysians are always so friendly and patient. They would drive slowly behind the peloton and then overtake when the road is clear. In Singapore, they'd tailgate your arse and honk till you're deaf. Buggers.

We were so fast, we reached our lunch point at 1000. Bah Kut Teh for lunch was ordered, but I could only eat the rice as the queasiness really took my appetite away. 100 Plus and Hammer Gel sustained me for the whole day. After brunch, the pace quickened and soon we were shedding riders. This ride had a real competitive streak. Although it wasn't a race, I could sense an unspoken tension and competitive spirit in the air. Everyday, a bunch of fast guys would hammer all the way to the lunch point and if the distance is short, they might even skip it altogether and head straight to the destination. Oh, well, they could do it, they had all those cheerleaders (more on the cheerleaders later) driving for them, giving them food and drinks. Cowboys like us would have to tough it out. Now I never made it to the end with the fast guys on any day but I was told that in the last 10k or so, they go straight up to racing speed.

So there I was tucked in the draft, enjoying the increased velocity when my rear tire develops a slow leak! Craps. Just as I was starting to enjoy a turn of speed! Stopped for support and Josh and Chee Khoon kindly popped in a new wheel for me. They tried to draft me back up to the peloton but heck, the car was too low, the roads were too bumpy, so I never made it. Bye-bye, peloton. I fell in with a bunch of older dudes. We rode slowly and steadily, but the wind started to pick up and soon, it was a full on gale as such that you hardly get in Singapore. It was the blast of wind that one gets before a tropical thunderstorm. Soon, the rain was falling in buckets. Totally drenched.At one point, the wind was blowing so strong, it made my jersey blow up like a balloon! I felt like a yellow colored Michelin Man. We were misdirected as we headed into the town of Kuala Kangsar, so we made a turn and finally reached our destination - the Hotel Anson. I happily got off my bike and clomped into the hotel lobby and approached the nice lady in the hot pants and clipboard who was checking off names and handing out keys. Only to find out that since I was a cowboy, I was to be banished outside the hotel to wait for someone from Quick Release to pick me up! Two of the older guys, Boon Fu and Jack, (whom I fell in with in the ride to town) kindly offered me a shower in their rooms, but I didn't have any dry clothes. I stumbled out into the "gerai" outside the hotel, got the only drink available (ice chandol!!! what kind of gerai doesn't serve hot drinks?!) and waited with Bruce. About two hours later, Geoff and Chee Khoon did show up! Hah! By then we were totally dry.

Thankfully, the lodge we went to more than made up for the hours of misery in the rain and wind. The beds were soft and comfy, the shower was hot! And there was air conditioning. Later, we found out that official PCC riders were squeezed five to a room with bikes and bags! They also didn't have enough food. Their accomodations weren't exactly very comfortable but it was the best that could be done for the two hundred members I guess. The best part was that on the last day, they had to squeeze 20+ people into one conference room with mattresses on the floor and all had to share two toilets/showers! Talk about roughing it.

We went to an ice-cream parlor for dinner; I was so tired, I was falling into my fried rice and was glad to go back and snooze for 12 hours. I wished I could hang out and socialize a bit more with the others but my body demanded its dose of HGH.

TELUK INTAN TO KUALA KANGSAR 120KM

I woke up feeling totally refreshed. Finally, my body got back to normal. The peloton rolled out of the hotel at 7am and took its time for the first few km, chatting and all. Bruce and I wanted to stretch our legs a bit so we cycled off slightly faster and soon we were out of sight. We then reached a T-junction. Left or straight? Let's wait I thought. A guy in a "kopi tiam" beside the road gestured to us to head left. But we elected to wait. Then a support car came up and the driver got out with a map. "Straight on", he said. Oh, ok. Straight it is. So we pedalled off. I was really curious why after 5 km, we hadn't yet been picked up by the pack. Then Adele drove up in her car and yelled "You're going the wrong way!".

Fer crissakes, we can't even trust the support vehicles. Well I should have expected it. Same thing happened at AFA last year, as the support vehicle directed us right into the sea! Hah! Adele kindly offered to give us some draft in her car, but it was so low, I didn't think there was any draft! I think a scooter would have given us more shelter. Anyways, after about half an hour of chasing, we finally latched on to the second peloton that was doing a steady clip of 33-35 kph. After we caught our breath we managed to enjoy the ride. It was very fun riding in a double pace-line. Another thing that I've never experienced in Singapore. In Singapore, its always either single paceline or an unruly mob with attacks going left,right and center.

We were travelling on winding kampung roads that had little heavy traffic. Furthermore, it was Merdeka Day, and so most people would be spending a quiet day at home. The roads were open and smooth. The scent of the forest permeated the smell of the peloton and you could listen serenely to the idle chatter of the riders with the whirring of the machines. I noticed that Malaysian club rides were very raucuos. In Singapore, we're very quiet and its everybody pretending to be Darth Vader. Cultural differences I guess. When we reached a small town, half the pack rolled straight through, while another half elected to stay for food. I spied Melody and Andy sitting at a gerai and so Bruce and I pulled over for some tasty roti canai. This roti canai thing has some interesting background I tell you. In South-east Asia, its almost always sold by Indian Muslims, and is called by many names. Murtabak in Brunei, Roti Prata in Singapore and Roti Canai in Malaysia. Now murtabak in Singapore and Malaysia is canai/prata with fillings; in Brunei it is murtabak special. This particular canai we had was cut into many small bite-size strips. Yummy.

After the town, we rolled off and I found myself facing a barrage of rolling hills reminiscent of the sharp hills in the Johor race. I think, however, these hills were really power hills, short and sharp at 10%. You would use the downhill from the previous one to punch your way up and over the next one. A real roller coaster. The kampung kids would stand at the road side screaming "Merdeka", running around, waving flags. They were genuinely excited and happy to see a large colorful peloton rolling through their kampung. Dozens of them would line up at the roadside, and hold up their hands for you to slap as you ride past. We were glad to give them some fun.

The stop of the day was at a Safari Resort in the town of Kuala Kangsar. Just before the town is this really huge bridge that looks amazingly grand and so out of place in the rustic surroundings. At night, it was lit like a birthday cake. Misplaced sight for a place that is so rustic.

MOUNTAIN FINISH. KUALA KANGSAR
 TO BANDING 140KM

The last day and we rolled out of Kuala Kangsar at 6:45 at a brisk pace. Imagine maintaining 33kph on those long climbs towards Grik. I've been to Grik and Banding before with AFA so I kinda knew what was coming up. The double pace line was on again with the fast club riders trying to up the pace at the front. Everytime I reached the front, the guy next to me would want to play "Whose your daddy?!" and push the speed up to 40+ or so. I'm not interested and I'd peel off. The view was great and the peloton was a long snake winding its way through kampungs and around lakes. Fog was still hanging mistily along the tree-tops. A very cool, romantic feel to it. Just lovely.

Speaking of loveliness, there were a bunch of girls driving support for one of the clubs that could get one hot under the collar. They'd all be wearing skimpy clothes like podium girls. And I thought the Pen was a Muslim nation. So where do they dig up girls like that? Women down in the Lion City don't dig cycling. Actually, I don't think they like anything other than shopping and eating. Anyways, as the pack rolled out of town, Sandman ran out of water (or did he pour it away?!) and held up his bottle and waved it. And this chick just rolled up in her car and asked Sandman to throw in his bottle. She then refilled it and passed it back to him. Geoff couldn't believe it cause when it was his turn to ask for water from one of the lovelies, she refused to give it to him! Sandman is really DA MAN. The rest of the guys gave him no rest after that. Hahaha!

Another really fun part was when we were rolling into a town, we came across large crowds on the side of the road. Policemen at the intersections and cones along the road. We were waving and thought "Whoah, all this for us?!!!". And then right out of the corner came a military band carrying flags and marching down the road. Talk about gate-crashing a parade and stealing the limelight!

I still need to learn to some things about fast pack riding like ... where to find a proper toilet break. I was enjoying the ride so far but then had to go answer the call of nature so I thought I'd drift off the back and take a quick leak. The pack was slowing down some I tot. Uh-huh, it seems that once I got off the bike they picked it up again! By the time I was back on my bike I would never see them ever again. Bye-bye peloton, for the second time!!!! What a trip, sick and flat on the first day, mis-directed on the second day and dropped during a toilet break on the third day. Such is life.

I rolled into Grik not so happy about being dropped but glad to see the guys and food. I tell you, Grik is a perfect place to run a cycling training camp. On one side, you have flat to rolling country for about 200 kms of road. On the other side, you can climb about another 200 kms of mountain terrain towards Jeli. Nice place for a cycling holiday I would think. A quick gobble on a Ramli burger, a swig of 100 Plus and it was off sans helmet to see the great mountain view. I was amazed at my utter pig-headedness of not changing my rear casseette into something bigger than a 23. It wasn't as if I didn't know of all those long 10% grade climbs around Grik. I guess macho-pigheadedness coupled with a high-strung attitude towards money prevented me from upgrading to a 14/27. Well, you gets what you pays for - and so I endured those 40rpm grinds in the 39/23. You stand up and stomp, and when you're tired, you sit and grind; repeat ad infinitum. All the while, you keep seeing these signs marking elephant crossings and then you spy road barriers that were trampled over by these huge beasts. We were in bandit territory, wild and secluded. We even drove past a jungle patrol coming out of the boonies.

Finally, after a sharp turn, the lake and resort of Banding come into full view. You breath it all in a quick swoop at 70kph and then it disappears as you keep rushing down the hill, sprint across the bridge and into the resort parking lot for ice-cream, cold drinks and a proper chair to occupy. Glorious. After that it was a quick shower, and a long drive back to PJ for dinner and a snooze.

The PCC ride was great. Sandman and I really enjoyed it. We stayed rubber side down, gatecrashed a parade, viewed road-kill and got a close up of podium girls, we enjoyed the company of our very, very wacky Malaysian friends, we got to eat great food (and get KL Belly) and most importantly, we got to turn our wheels through some beautiful country. I'm just not sure how to repay the kind people of Quick Release when they ever visit Singapore because there isn't anything here to match what's up in the Pen! But we'll definitely return for the next PCC trip if we are in the region. Till next time, ride, ride, ride!

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