Dome Coffees Cycling Team
Tour of East Java 2013
Disembarking off the plane in Surabaya, East Java, was in itself the culmination of many months of hard work, organisation and training. All of team had been training hard for months to prepare for this event, doing endless kilometres on the bike, hundreds of interval efforts and hours of bikram yoga in an effort to acclimatise for the racing conditions.
The team members selected to race were Mathew Upton, Luke Ellis, Stuart Passmore, myself and Jonathan Bolton who was guest riding from Giant-Satalyst.
The warm embrace of the humidity signalled both a welcome and warning the team as we looked for our driver to start loading our bikes onto the truck to the hotel where we would be based for the entire tour.
Hotel Sinar 1 was home base for all of the teams competing in the tour. The hotel is pretty simple, with modest rooms, patchy wifi and surprisingly large showers. Coffee was hard to come by, but the was to be expected so I had packed a plunger of Dome coffee. Be prepared.
After arriving on our first day the team quickly built up the bikes, and we headed off for a gentle ride to get the legs moving again. We quickly discovered that getting in a decent training ride was going to be difficult as the roads are generally of poor quality, the traffic very heavy and the temperature high. We did manage to ride to a small area where the seemed to be some kind of aquaculture going on, and which gave us our first good view of Mt Bromo – the climb that we would be taking on later in the tour.
Dinner, chicken and rice.
On day two we tried to head off into a different direction in a vain attempt to find somewhere good to ride and be able to stretch the legs. What we found instead was more traffic, heat and a collection of potholes arranged in a long line surrounded by the occasion squirt of bitumen. Training ride done after about 25kms and 3 hours, we headed back to the hotel.
Dinner, chicken and rice.
The first stage of the tour kicked off Wednesday morning. We were about to take on a 180km stage in hot conditions. We all did our best to hydrate as much as possible before we got to the start line. Unfortunately we didn’t factor in the 1 hour bus transfer to the start which meant there was a lot of full bladders being relived shortly after arrival.
We milled around at the start for about an hour before we had the opportunity to sign on. Signing on for my first international race was a bit of thrill and came with a bit of rock star kind of feel about it.
We lined up on the start line as the pre-race ceremonies continued and waited for the race to start. At this point it was all questions. “How fast will we go?”, “How will my legs feel after 180km?”… All answers were coming – would just have to wait for another 4 hours.
The balloons were cut free signalling the race start, there may have been a gun fired, and we rolled out under heavy police escort through the street of Surabaya. A neutral zone of 20km allowed plenty of time to relax, stop for a final pee, and have a chat with some of the other competitors. We struck up a friendship with Pat from team Synergy Baku Cycling Project who was happy to provide us with some last minute tips for the day ahead.
The racing proper started at kilometre zero as the commaisiare pulled in the flag and stamped on the pedal. Immediately the action began with the Kazaks, OCBC and Asian teams launching attacks. I was happy to find my legs were great and I had plenty of power to be able to respond to the moves. Jonno and I rode near the front, no more than about 15 bikes back for the first 20kms as we were trying to stay safe and in a spot where we could see the road coming. The start of stage one completely changed my perspective regarding what is possible on a road bike. Much of the time it felt like we were in the air more than we were on the ground as went over pot hole after pot hole after pot hole. Passmore appeared as we hit the outskirts of the town and seemed to be taking everything in his stride as the Pro Asian peloton continued to move along in super aggressive mode.
50km after we started things started to settled down. There was brief pause in the craziness as guys started to feed. This of course meant things were going mental back in the convoy and I’m sure the first flurry of feeding activity was something our new team manager Travis won’t forget in a long time.
The lull lasted for about 30 minutes before guys started to hit it again. Unfortunately as I had decided to go back to the car I had a rather dramatic chase to get back to the group. This included car surfing back through the convoy, and then nearly getting run off the road by the chief commaisaire before reaching the back of the peloton.
The pace stayed pretty constant for the next 50km or so before the chase to bring back the breakaway really got going. As we turned for home we picked up a strong tailwind and the speed went up to 50km/h. I was happy to realize that with only 50km left to go this meant we would be back at the finish in an hour. When we got the gap back to about 1 minute all of the impetus went out of the chase. Guys started looking at each other and then started attacking the group. Move after went up the road and the Dome boys were covering them all. As luck would have it though the one move that didn’t get covered was Anuar Manan from Baku who would ultimately go on to catch the leaders and win the stage. This is probably one of the mistakes we made on day one – not knowing who was worth going with. Jonno had burnt matches helping the peloton chase and didn’t have legs left to go with Awang.
The team took control of what was left of the peloton and started to roll through to make the last few kms a bit easier. I took a final trip to the car for drinks and Travis cooled me down pouring cold water all over me which was simply amazing. It was unfortunately at this point that I saw Uppers was in the back seat having succumbed to the heat. It was a same to be losing him early as he would have been handy to have later in the tour. Still, in his words he felt like he was going to end up in hospital if continued, so it was a wise decision to stop. A decision I would e reflecting on later in the night.
Once we got back to the hotel we had some dinner, chicken and rice, and I started to feel really bad. I was nauseas and cold. I have some experience with dehydration so I knew what I was dealing with. I started pushing in the fluids as much as I could. I managed to relax for a while thanks to a good massage, but then started going down hill again. I just couldn’t get warm and had urinated since we got back. I kept drinking, but it wasn’t long before I started vomiting. Needless to say I thought at this point my race was over. There is no point in riding oneself into the hospital. I decided to decide in the morning.
When the morning came I had managed to get some sleep, but still felt nauseas and tired. The worst part about being sick was I had not been able to refuel for the next day. I did feel a bit better however so I decided I would start, ride to the first sprint and then get in the car. I would do what I could for Jonno without killing myself.
Stage two started much the same as stage 1. We had a 10km neutral and then all hell broke loose. Most of bunch stayed together as Baku controlled the race by setting a high tempo. Their plan was obviously to get Manan up for the sprint point. I was feeling good so I wanted to constest the sprint. My inexperience however meant that I never got close. I couldn’t really move up fast enough and by the time I knew it we were over the sprint point and I was only about 15th on the road. Lesson learnt.
I was still feeling good though so I decided to push on. My new plan was to get Jonno to the bottom of the volcano and then get in the car. I went back to the car and got some drinks. Fed Jonno, made sure he ok then decided it was time to have an impact on the race. I knew I only had about 10km left of my tour so I got on the front of the peloton and started swapping off turns with Buku. We chased the breakaway hard in an attempt to close the gap before the climb started. I must admit that swapping off turns at about 50km/h wasn’t easy, but was awesome fun pulling the pelo through the villages with school kids lining the sides of the road.
As we approached the bottom of climb it was job done and tour over. I handed off my bottles and signalled the team car to pull over. I got in knowing I had done what I had come to do and didn’t kill myself in the process. I was satisfied with that.
The stage continued to the top of Mt Bromo, which is a hell of a climb and one which would take its toll on the team. Luke pulled out after 10km of climbing simply unable to continue. Passmore battled all the way to the finish, which in itself it an achievement, but unfortunately he just missed the time cut. This left Jonno as the only rider left to continue on the final day.
Stage three, Sidoarjo – Mojokerto was the shortest stage of the tour and had the latest start time. Jonno sat in the bunch for whole day until the climb and then put the bit between his teeth and went with leaders. The climb was savage towards the finish and the actual finish line was on top of a section that would have to be around 20% gradient. Jonno pushed it to the limited, and I yelled out of the car window as much as possible, and we ended up with a result of 15th on the stage and 16th overall for the tour.
As we start to reflect on what has been it’s pretty easy to see where we could have done things differently. However we all survived our first tour in Asia and have had a pretty amazing time doing it.
The list of people to thank is endless, but I owe a few people a shout out. Firstly, Mathew Upton, without whom this never would have happened. Our thanks to Dome Coffees, and particularly Troy Blizard for the support and opportunity to showcase the Dome brand overseas, Derrin from Vayda Sports for supplying our kit which has been great, and Travis Keen for exceptional job looking after us over here on the tour.
Dinner, chicken and rice. Maybe a beer.