Last week I travelled to Lombok, Indonesia to compete in my first UCI race. Tour de Lombok is a 4 stage, UCI 2.2 tour. The climate is tropical; high average temperatures with extreme humidity. Stages in the range of 100-130km. The trip was to prove unforgettable and a great learning experience. I travelled and raced with Cade, Leighton and Justin from Veris Racing Team, under the auspices of Lombok Bike Community – Veris Racing. Thanks to the guys for inviting me.
First up, I may as well get it out of the way. I had some extraordinarily rotten luck that would make Stage 1 my last. Riding under neutral was a great way for me to loosen my nerves, though I understand for others it heightens them. As soon as I’m riding a bike, I feel at home. Once the flag dropped, attacks flew constantly for the first 30km but with none sticking. I felt quite at home in the large peloton, marking the sketchier riders to avoid, occasionally bumping shoulders and tapping hips; generally surfing wheels and holding forward position without spending any matches. I spent a lot of effort dodging the almost invisible cats eyes on the major roads. Chatted with a couple of Australians from St George. Life was good. I was saving my energy to move with a split or break should a cross wind hit or the hammer fall on the first KoM.
I suffered a flat almost at the base of the first categorised climb. I didn’t want to believe my front tyre was going flat but it proved true when I came through a tight turn and nearly rolled the tyre off. I drifted back through the peloton trying to maintain some speed and control while signalling with one hand for the team car for a spare. The team car had lost it’s prized first place in convoy so it was a longer journey than hoped. The car had decided of it’s own volition to lock the mechanic in the back seat and my wheel in the boot, so there was some shuffling before finding and installing it with my dodgy quick release fouling on the fork. I’d then chase for 30m, through two categorised climbs, never getting a decent draft in the convoy due to the climbing, twisting and narrow roads. On the second climb I could see the tail of the bunch around 30 metres away. I chanced some more gas, heart rate reaching into the 190s, only to turn a bend and be faced with a wall I’ve just blown myself up heading into. It broke me. My Garmin was clocking 36 degrees with no shade on the extreme gradient, my kit completely saturated and dripping with sweat.
Now that’s out of the way, let it be said I still had a great experience. Above all else, I felt so incredibly welcomed by the people of Lombok and the organisers. Arriving at the airport, there was actually a crowd waiting for riders! The race organisers had sent race vehicles and helpers to pick us and our luggage up, then escort us to the tour hotel, the Lombok Raya. We found our rooms, built our bikes in the storage area and then went in search of dinner. After our arrival in Indonesia, we had all of one day to acclimatise ourselves with the tropical climate. To do this, we set out with a support vehicle and pointed ourselves up the first available hill for some efforts. I can’t say I’ve ever been that drenched after a 30km spin before and it was all sweat! We returned to the hotel, did some shopping and settled in, later heading to team presentations.
The local culture on display at team presentations was fantastic. We were greeted near the guest book by two groups of traditional drum players, thumping out an amazing rhythm. We signed and were shown to our table. The governor of the island gave a speech of welcome, dancers performed on stage and we had more traditional live music. The buffet was a site of animalistic conflict, with the hunger of a hundred elite cyclists pitted against each other. We survived and made it to the stage for the most enthusiastic introduction I’ve been given in my life.
Before stage 1 began we had an opportunity to watch the organisation in action. Police blocks setting up, crowd management, temporary pavilions for spectators. A bank of marquees was set up for teams to congregate around as well as the usual, heavily used toilet facilities. Cade and I got ourselves turned about, ended up passing a marching band and hogging all the crowd attention possible. The announcers called attention to us and uncountable members of the public came up asking for photos, high fives and handshakes. We signed on, to much applause.
After my exit from the Tour de Lombok on day one, I had to fill my time with exploration and training. Our friend, Julius, arranged for a mate of his to show me around on his motorcycle. An undulating and climbing, motorpaced smashfest ensued, covering 135km and a half a mountain at 35km/h. Exactly the prescription to fix me up after the day before. Hard kilometres are always satisfying. The countryside is unlike anything in Perth. Communication was largely non verbal but we exchanged what little Bahasa I know and his English. I’ve learned a new word, too late, “MANTAP” (steady). We travelled through traffic no different than any other motorcycle would there, aside from my friend looking back to make sure I was still with him or occasionally moving behind for protection and to allow me to pace myself. This taught me that on Lombok, I can be one of the fastest travellers on the road and not to fear the apparent chaos. While there’s a lot going on in traffic, it’s slower moving and more care is paid to what is occurring in front. While visually terrifying, it’s a surprisingly fun environment on a bicycle to duck and weave with abandon. Traffic is effectively a peloton .
The previous day’s motorpace emboldened me to set out and explore on my own. I spent a lot of time around Sengiggi, Pamenang and Pusuk which are all fairly close together in the North West of the island. The roads connecting take you through some incredible coast line and winding jungle climbs. My best photo of the trip was taken a little North of Sengiggi.
I regret that I didn’t pay extreme attention to the tour as I lurched into training and touristing mode. Nathan Earle (UKYO) won stage 1 after taking maximum KoM points, he repeated with Stage 2’s summit finish and a third on Stage 3’s post mountain top finish to seal the deal. Cade, Justin and Leighton all rode out of their skins to weather out the tour. Each of them picked up intermediate sprint prizes.
- Check how the locks work on a team vehicle
- Never travel with a dodgy QR skewer in your spares
- When someone says you need a compact for Indonesian climbs, listen
- Staminade/Gatorade/Powerade is impossible to find in Indonesia, Pocari Sweat is the way to go
- Be afraid of what you can’t see on a course when you’re isolated
- You are not a big fish but you can swim