One week ago I completed the 2018 edition of the Tour de Bintan (TdB). A stage race that is incorporating a time trial (Friday) and a Gran Fondo (Saturday), that both individually serve as qualifying events for the UCI amateur world championships in Varese, Italy, in September of this year. The stage race is completed with a third stage on Sunday. Bintan Island is in Indonesia, easily accessible by a short ferry-trip from Singapore, and hence is drawing participants from all over Asia (Hong Kong, Shanghai for example), as well as Australia. Until two years ago, the categories were divided into the usual three categories, which are customary for Singaporean road racing, but the change towards a qualifying event last year required categories to be divided by age groups instead. Hence I started with other 18-34-year-olds, with a strong representation from Singaporean teams. To name a few:
• Greyhounds – for which I guest rode –
• Specialized Roval Mavericks
• TWC, who brought the biggest contingent of riders to the race, all supporting Firoz Loh and Teoh Yi Peng, who both participated in the pro world championships in Norway last September, representing Singapore.
In addition, the Shanghai-based Specialized Roval Racing team also had a solid number of people participating in our age group.
Having never raced in Asia (besides the Taiwan KOM Challenge, in which pros and amateurs start together), I was curious to see the level of competition in the TdB. My minimum goal for the stage race was to qualify for the road race amateur world championships.
Jacques and I specifically targeted this race weekend, as my first-half season highlight. Preparation began in October of last year, after a short break/off-season in September. Jacques adjusted the workouts taking into account what we had learned last year, in particular during the summer, in which we were able to improve my 20-min power by more than 10%.
For the base phase (October, November, December) of the pre-season, I mostly focused on the two workouts per week with Jacques, complementing it with longer rides on weekends. Typically a fast group ride on Saturdays for some (I call it ‘externally’ induced) intensity, and then a long tempo-pace ride on Sunday (Jacques’ recommendation). It worked like a charm: without even doing any specific on-bike intervals, I was able to significantly build a solid base for short-duration efforts (less than 2 minutes). This was key, as the Tour de Bintan does not have any sustained climbs – it’s rolling terrain, with lots of short kickers instead.
In January, I added on-bike intervals to the training schedule, however, a busy work-schedule, and the flu in February wouldn’t let me stick to my schedule as much as I hoped for. This made the workouts with Jacques even more important. Knowing what we had accomplished last year, I was confident that even with a sub-par on-bike training my fitness would improve. The two weeks of tapering, or form-building, before flying out to Singapore proved it: last year I could hold 9.2 w/kg for 30 seconds (you will recognize that it’s the numbers for the pathetic ‘sprint’ of a climber), I was now able to hold this for 1-min. Likewise, my 2-min power went from 6.9w/kg to 7.7w/kg. Further out, I was now also getting closer to being able to hold 400w for 4 mins. To me a magic number. To keep a long story short, and before we get lost in numbers – they gave me confidence I would arrive on Bintan Island ready to perform.
The time trial as the first stage was the big unknown, as I really didn’t train for it. In the end, I finished it in 6th place, which I considered a success at it was a mostly flat (with a few kickers as well) and windy course that suits the heavier guys a lot better. More importantly, the result also meant I qualified for the time trial world championships. A good start to the weekend.
The second stage, the qualifier for the road race amateur world championships ended successfully as well. With too much respect for the very hot and very humid tropical weather, I didn’t risk any attacks on the 144km stage. The plan was to jump within the second to last km, but the course didn’t offer any opportunity. When I did jump with 800m to go, I didn’t really get anywhere, however lead the field into the final 300m and held on to 5th place in the bunch sprint.
With my goals achieved, and having gotten a sense for the competition, I was ready to take risks on stage 3, a 112km road race. I had a feeling that I was one of the strongest guys out there, and wanted to reap the benefits of Jacques and my training so far. Within the first 35km of racing I attacked probably 5-6 times, once going solo for a few kms, and in a small group of five, but a crash reduced us to three, and eventually the field caught us again. I was sitting in 4th G, just 8 secs off the podium, and no-one wanted to let me go. Frustrated with the unsuccessful attempts I did the sensible thing and settled into the field, which then kept rolling along with no further serious attacks form other riders for the next 35km.
Then we entered into a one-lane, twisty forest road, where I knew I had to be at the front to stay out of trouble (it was and had been raining on and off the entire stage). About 5 guys of us, actually pushed the pace. Partly to strain the field, and partly to stay at the front. After a sharp right turn, Yi Peng (from TWC) and I found ourselves with a tiny gap to the rest of the field which didn’t take the turn as fast as we did. Conveniently the road kicked up a little so that I ride up next to him and point out that we have a gap. Without properly attacking, we increased the pace and quickly got out of sight on the twisty roads. Once we were we settled into a decent pace, working well together. We had 40km to go, but ‘only’ 20k until the last sprint for the day, which offered time-bonuses. Yi Peng was sitting 1 sec behind the yellow jersey in GC, so I knew he had an interest in getting the bonus seconds. I also considered him to be probably the fasted rider in the peloton, being able to out-sprint anyone in a sprint-finish. And yes, needless to say he was motivated to stay away until the sprint.
Unfortunately we never received any time-gaps but we didn’t see the field at the intermediate sprint, and therefore kept going. With 5k to go, two riders, one of which was my teammate Willie, bridged up to us with the field now in sight as well. My initial plan of attacking with 2km to go, when it started going uphill, and trying to take advantage of my short-term fitness I mentioned earlier, went out the door with the 40k breakaway I initiated. Willie did attack with 2k to go, but the other two followed and one of them responded by an attack himself, but we all stuck together and kept the pace high with the field chasing behind us. I positioned myself on Yi Peng’s wheel, and when we started his sprint with 300m I was on his wheel, but unfortunately didn’t have the kick to beat him to the line. Regardless, 2nd place was still a success. Ultimately, I was awarded the first place as Yi Peng was handed a time-penalty for the stage due to a feed-zone infraction.
Either way, the training with Jacques gave me the confidence in my sustainable power for attacking early on in the race, even though it didn’t work out, and with 40k to go, when it did work out.
Without as much on-bike training as I planned, I can only credit my performance to the efficiency and effectiveness of Jacques’ Maximum Overload training. With only two hours a week in the gym, even with a busy work schedule I was able to consistently work out with him, which is key if you want to consistently improve.
Anyway, I’m writing this on my way back from Asia, and I can’t wait to start the training with Jacques for the amateur world championships later this year! Did I mentioned it’s in the foothill of the Alps in Italy, and more suited for the climbing all-rounder?! ;)