Tour de Bintan – Race Reports

Tour de Bintan – Race Reports

The Tour de Bintan has had patronage from the Dome Coffees Cycle Team for a few years now and was familiar to those familiar with Toby Brown. You may well have been bombarded with social media updates about the event and results over the Labor Day Long Weekend, so you too may be up to speed.

So it was that a contingent of SPR members – and full disclosure from me here – and my training crew, Strive Cycle Training, fielded a team of SPR Chicks (known henceforth as the Strivettes) and a token Dude (Andrew Williams aka Big Willy) with the Dome Coffees Cycle Team also making a return to the Island of Bintan.

These are their stories (Law & Order sound effect here).


Tour de Bintan – Stage 1 ITT. Andrew Williams. Red Helmet Owner. Token Dude.

All aboard the 6:10 to Bintab Island.

The first stage of the Tour de Bintan was a 17km individual time trial, however, unlike most TTs, the stage had to be completed on a standard road bike.  This was my first race outside Australia and the nerves were on high alert. I felt very well prepared thanks to Toby Brown and the many practice runs back in Perth, but I always struggle with nerves on race day.

Race day came and I was desperate to do a recon ride.  We had done one the day before when we arrived on the Island, but best to say it was confused with people lost and/or taking different routes.

The Strive ladies were starting early in proceedings with Kathryn Buckley the second rider on the road at 12.30ish.  I was the last of the Strive/Dome group and not off till 4.32.30.

Andrew Ballam and I rode out with the ladies and managed to get in a quick recon in before they closed the course.  That settled the nerves considerable and by the time I got back to the start line and the Dome/Strive tent I was starting to think this might be OK.  After wishing the ladies good luck it was back to the resort and sitting around trying not to get nervous.

Mid-afternoon saw me trying to wriggle into my new skin suit and head off for the start line, warming up as I went.  In the tent I was given some ice for cooling (How the ever resourceful Travis Keen has procured kilos of ice in the middle of an Indonesia island with no apparent shops is worthy of its own story!).

A quick last minute warm up, a bike check by the commissaries and I was on the start ramp.  I will mention this was the first time I had started from a ramp and was terrified of starting (and finishing) my TT by falling off the edge of the ramp (and going viral on YouTube!). Despite my concerns the start was good and I was off.

The first section was flat and I was pushing hard but felt OK.  I got through the right hand turn OK and the climbing started and I was up and over the first hill before I knew what had happened.

I would love to describe what happened next, but to be honest it is a blur of climb, descend, pedal, turn, climb again.  The middle section of the course was a series of small lumps.  Then before I had chance to think too much I was back on the main road and knew I only had one climb to go.  It was a bit steeper than the rest and I was determined not to overcook myself.

I hit the top of the hill and found the biggest gear and just pedalled.  Past a couple of riders on their way out from the start, round the last left hand corner and I remember thinking “just a few minutes of pain”. The sight of the finish line lifted the output a little, across the line then suddenly realised I had to turn left or run into the barrier!

The Andrew’s. Or what was left.

Just over 28 minutes for 17.1kms was a little slower than I thought I could do, but turned out it put me in 12th place out of the 26 starters in the TT which was much higher than I expected. Back to the tent and once again Travis was there with ice and a coke.  I think oxygen might also have been a good idea!

The whole experience felt like it was over in a flash but I had just completed my first overseas stage.  Pretty cool and I’ll be back to take some more time off.

Tour de Bintan – Stage 2. Vanessa Johnson. Ex-Golfer. Podium Girl.

V. Johnson, #59.

Day 2 dawned with clouds as heavy as my thoughts. My goal for the tour had been to improve my race craft, and if lucky perhaps snag a podium. Here I was, through a series of serendipitous events (and no small amount of sweat and grit), wearing yellow in the 45-49 category. Don’t stuff it up.

Yellow Baby!

While we breakfasted the skies opened, easing to a light drizzle by the time we arrived at the race start. The women were first off, yellow jerseys congregated beneath the start gantry, the performance of the traditional dancers not enough to distract minds anxiously focused on the 140km ahead. We rolled out into the undulating countryside at a pleasant pace and the Strive women (all SPR members) found good positions near the front of the peloton. Laurensia Rosana in particular worked selflessly, protecting the yellow worn by myself and Amanda Nabi.

As we approached the first significant corner of the ride I heard the sirens of the 18-34 men’s convoy approaching. Keen to clear the corner ahead of the men I moved to the front, looking for an unobstructed line. Unobstructed – yes; correct – no. Dropping in to salvage an exit from the wet, 90 degree left-hander my wheels went from under me and I slid across the road as if it was an ice rink. Jump up fast-I’m OK-bike’s OK- bar tape plug, quick shove it in-OMG my prescription glasses are under the peloton-put the chain on-get my glasses-dodge the convoy-find a flat spot-get on-RIDE!! I had lost 60 seconds on the group. It’s OK don’t panic, pedal.

I set off, capping my effort at 80% power as I knew the men were not far behind. Soon they were with me and I gratefully eased into their peloton. We steadily collected the tail of the women’s group, but I did not catch sight of Nabi’s yellow jersey before the men ramped up for the first sprint point, and I was shed from the group, losing my tube of electrolytes & food tablets in the process. It’s OK don’t panic, you packed extra.

Along the coast the breeze was persistent. I was fortunate to catch a small group of women and  organised them into a nicely echeloned pace line (taking liberty whilst wearing yellow). Groups came by; I jumped on, dropped off, then rode mostly solo between 95-110km after falling into a nutrition-hydration hole. Why are all the sprint points at the top of freakin’ hills! I recovered after making a concerted effort to eat and drink and joined another passing group. I shook my head ruefully when they asked if I was in the breakaway. I could only hope that Anke Hoskins-Bergmann was riding strong. It will be OK if Anke can keep yellow for us.

The rain was torrential at times, like riding up a river but with less visibility. I was counting down – that’s a Saturday ride, that’s a river loop, that’s to work & back – and very glad to catch Katheryn Dines and her group at a little over 10km to go. No sprint finish for me. I was straight to the medical room to have my wounds tended and then out of my saturated kit, glad to have a towel and change of clothes.

Watching the presentations it was clear that it had been a great day for Strive and Dome. Plenty of podiums and Jarred Anderson, Amanda & Anke will ride in yellow. As my category is presented I sit and watch, wearing my shirt and towel (leg too cut up for shorts), feeling glum about my Zoolander moment (can’t turn left). Third place is announced – well I didn’t see her – then oh horror and joy- ‘2nd Vanessa Johnson’ – OMG I am in a towel – I can’t go up there- how embarrassing, oh well…

“The Podium Towel” incident, with the winner, Anke Hoskins!!!


Tour de Bintan – Stage 3, Amanda Nabi. The Queen. Full Stop.

Charlie Sheen, winning all over this.

The challenge of a tour is being able to back up your performance from day to day.  The Tour de Bintan was three days of hard work!  Whilst I had personal success in Stages #1 and #2 I got the most satisfaction from Stage #3.

As others have probably already describe­­d, we experienced varying conditions on day 1 and 2 – from hot and windy to monsoonal rain – but Stage #3 was the weather we had been expecting…hot and oppressively humid.  Motivation was probably pretty low after days of force-feeding yourself, aching legs, and the nervous exhaustion that comes from trying to do your best day after day.

Going into Stage #3 the Strivettes were top on the Team’s Classification and I was leading my age group and was also the fastest woman overall.  The challenge was keeping it like that.  For the Team’s Classification the focus was for us all to try and win the two sprint points from our age groups and for the GC I had to basically stick with the two girls immediately behind me on overall time, a couple of younger girls on the Singapore national team who were 12 and 17 seconds respectively behind me.

The girls’ peloton was the first to take off.  The first 25kms were cruisey as just like in the previous two stages it wouldn’t be long before the 18 – 34 year old boy group would catch us and boom, the girls’ peloton would split and the strongest of the girls would jump on the back.

At the 30km mark the boys had caught us.  Anke, Louise and I managed to jump on and as expected the pace was on.  All three of us managed to win points at both sprint points on course but following the second sprint point at the 77km mark (which was more like a KOM) a few of the boys attacked over and down the crest of the hill and the peloton was in pursuit.   I managed to hold on by the skin of my teeth, sometimes literally, for another 20kms but at the 99km mark, 6kms from the finish the hilly course and high pace just became too much and I popped…and with that went my hope of being the fastest woman overall.

It was relief as I rolled across the line.  I was understandably disappointed that I wasn’t able to take the Tour win, but as I watched my team mates come across the line that disappointment was replaced by the joy of taking the Team Classification…I soon forgot those last heart-breaking 6kms.

Bring up the Coach, we’re too tired to lift the Teams Cup.

Standing on the stage with such a wonderful bunch of girls as the Strivettes, and our coach Toby Brown, spraying champagne was definitely the highlight or the tour!!

Tour de Bintan – The Struggle is Real, Laurensia Rosana. Tenacious.

The Tour de Bintan was a well-run event which you all should know about. I think it should be part of your “to do list”. I decided to sign up for this event late last year as my personal goal after a back surgery I had mid last year. It has not been easy to train again while I need to be mindful with my injury. There are few people I know in the club going through similar situations. This story is to tell you my riding journey post-surgery. What I have achieved in this race is something I would like to share with you. If I could do it, so could you.


In preparation for the race, my awesome coach Mr Toby Brown designed a training program suited to my recovery process. On top of my time on the bike (approximately 10-20 hours per week), I also had gym and yoga sessions. Strength work and flexibility was as equally important as training efforts I was doing on the bike. All these really paid off based on the fact that I experienced improvement in my performance until we were due to fly to Bintan.

Bromo: Lean on me.

Day 1 of the Tour was an individual time trial over undulation course of 17 kms. Time trialling is the riding style that I always enjoy. I prepared myself on the day expecting to give my best performance by far. It unfortunately turned out not be so great after all. With the heat, humidity and wind, I struggled to maintain my pace throughout the ride. Although I went as hard as I could do, it was not enough getting me qualified to be a time trial qualifier. I ended the day with so much disappointment.

Day 2 was a big day, 140 kms grand fondo. Going to day 2, I made rookie mistakes: mentally talking myself down from day 1 outcome and sitting in front of women peloton for approximately 30 kms. Yup you read it right, 30 kms. When 18-34 men group passed us, I did not manage to hang on and got dropped. Although I managed to ride in a small group for the next 70 kms, at 100 km I was hit by reality. 40 kms to go, my lower back was sore, which forced me to drop off from the group I was riding with. It sucks to ride on your own in discomfort and wet from the rain. I crossed the finish line close to 5 hours on the bike.

Many things went through my mind at that time and I almost gave up right then. I asked myself “could I do this again tomorrow?”, I bit my lip hard and swallowed my disappointment for the second time. You know what guys, I would really hate myself if I didn’t give it a go on day 3. All tears and sweats would have gone down the drain if I was not on the start line on day 3. Day 3 was another big day with 111 kms course. The first 3 kms was not great with me getting mechanical difficulties. Wait, it was not as bad as you would think! I managed to get back on to the women peloton and rode with them until 18-34 men group caught us. I got dropped and I rode with the same ladies I met on day 2 (yes an odd way to make friends hey!) for most of the race course until the last 10 kms. This time, I crossed the finish line with so much relieve and satisfaction. I did it – a 3 day racing tour is complete!

Looking back, lessons learnt which I would like to share with you all especially riders with injuries:

  1. Be patient and follow the recovery process as advised by your experts
  2. Have your coach involved in your recovery process
  3. Celebrate and cherish small wins. I think completing day 1 and day 2 despite of my disappointment was significant wins, which I did not realise at the time.
  4. Injury should not prevent you from doing what you would like to do. Your determination and commitment will supersede your body limitation.

Here, I end my story with this fact:

“I might not win anything on this tour, I however walk away as a winner of my own battle. “

The calm before the tropical storm.
SPR Chicks – Winners, one and all.
The Queen.
SPR Chicks, Post-Stage 1 ITT.
What evah?
Probably my (Greg’s) favourite photo. It’s been a while coming, but so, so, so hard earnt. Love your work Anke!
20km from home, Jared Anderson attacks, solos and………………..
……………TAKES THE STAGE WIN! Well done, Young Man.
Jubilation. Fist pump!
Because, Champagne.
Andrew Ballam. The bloke has had some awful luck in crashes, but is one of the most positive and generous people SPR has. And over 140km Stage 2 he placed 3rd in a hotly contested age division. Boss, all over.
Recce ride. Good times.
Stage 3 start line. Awaiting fireworks.
SPR. Strive. Remember those names, Bintan-ers.
Fruits of labour. The Jersey. ‘Nuff said.

All photos courtesy of the SPR competitors. There are many more on their FaceBook pages and on the official  Tour de Bintan website.

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