Lack of training aside, I set off for Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at around 5am, hoping to get a good parking lot (cost me $22 for parking from 530am to 8pm). Getting the boarding pass and completing the registration formalities were a breeze despite the constant flow of participants coming to the terminal. Organiser was generous this year as we were given a free T-shirt, cap and gloves. The best thing about travelling by ferry is that the bike doesn't need to be disassembled. Simply check in and it's good to go.
At 7.30am, I boarded the ferry which was almost full, with more non-Asians than Singaporeans. Although it was only a 45 minute ride, the choppy waters almost made me puked! I suspected the ferry was going faster than usual as it departed late. The weather didn't look good either with dark clouds aplenty.
Immigration was smooth and we boarded the bus to the race location which was 15 minutes away. The bus ride gave me a preview of what to expect as we went up and down the hilly roads...
We arrived at a circus junction near the start point and waited for our bikes to arrive. Unfortunately, mine was on the last truck and i ended up being the last few to reach the start point... worse, I couldn't fix my GoPro Session on my bike so no video (argh!)... not a good prep thus far. Fortunately, I managed to settle down with about 5 minutes to spare before the start of the race.
We were flagged off at 9.30am with the cheers of the local crowd and fanfare! It was a wonderful feeling.
Almost half of the 200 strong riders disappeared after the first turn (mostly non-Asians...). It started to drizzle about 10 minutes into the ride but nothing to worry about. I was going at a decent pace for the first 20km but started to feel the effects of the lack of training once the hills started to appear. I struggled a bit between 30-45km but recovered briefly from 45 to 60km where the roads were flatter. Then the hills showed itself again (and again x infinity), becoming more intimidating each time, with angles of 8-12% tearing into my legs and stamina.
At 70km, the rain poured down and I could barely see a thing with my sunglasses on. The last 5km was a torture and cramps started to set in my legs. Somehow, I managed to drag myself to the finish line without stopping, crossing at 120th place (out of 187) riders, 3 hours 27 minutes or 1 hour 10 minutes behind the winner... short of finishing below 100 place. There were 3 feed(rest) zones at 19km/35km/60km but I didn't stop at any so as to avoid losing time (which was a mistake). Anyway, I didn't feel too bad considering this is my first ride but I vowed to be better prepared and come back stronger for 2018 edition.
To cut my story short, here's a point form summary for the post-race (Bintan time - 1 hr ahead of Singapore):
4.00pm: Take bus to Nirwana Gardens to shower (didn't know there were buses going hourly)
4.45pm: Take bus to Ferry Terminal
5.30pm: Take Ferry back to Singapore
6.30pm: Reach Singapore (7.30pm SG time)
8.30pm: Home Sweet Home
For those who wants to know how it feels like riding in a sportive (UCI-sanction), you know, like Tour de France (lol), then Tour de Bintan is the best place to test your cycling prowess especially for riders who want to do something harder than the OCBC Cycle. It cost me about $250 for the registration fees and transportation. More if you take up the full Tour. Overall, the event was well organised (logistics/transport) and the local crowd was welcoming and supportive. Now I'm seriously thinking of replacing my 2011 road bike but training more often would be a cheaper option for enthusiast cyclists like myself. Hoping to get my butt kicked again next year!