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Tales from the travellers the diary of Team Marco Polo
Tour d'Indonesia, September 27 - October 6, 2004
1500 km of suffering - Part II (see Part I)
By Nathan Dahlberg
Stage 4: Semarang - Jogjakarta, 173km
Our position seemed super strong, a 20 minute lead on teams and I had a super solid individual GC position and I suspected both Amin and Derek would be more than content with their overall places, leaving any real dangers more than 7 - 8 minutes behind me. I can't say I've ever been on a team that was in such a good standing and after just three days racing! However that was also our weakness - having just 4 riders and defending team GC meant no-one could sacrifice working for individual GC and everyone had to work according to his own abilities from now till the end!
Straight out of town we did a stair step climb from sea level to 600 meters. The steepest part was first and Amin attacked immediately - I was happy for that - wasting his energy early but than he slipped back and all up the climb there were repeated attacks but from no-one dangerous.
I just rode at/on the front, making it very tough physically but that is the way to assume psychological dominance although it is hard realising that guys like Mizbani were getting a free ride to a super tough climb. Soon Stig than Ben joined me and we kept a small tempo just before descending into the main climb.
The base was at 400 meters and the road climbed steadily at first for 15 km before another super steep 10km to the summit at over 1600 meters. There were several attacks from the base of the climb and I countered them all fairly easily, although my legs were rather tired from the previous days and the morning's efforts. But about 8 km into the ascent, Giant rider Lai Kuan of Taiwan put in a big surge and at that moment I faltered and lost ground...10 riders passed me - then suddenly void!!! I turned - no one but a Filipino with me and no team-mates in sight. I lost contact with the group and wallowed around 30 - 40 meters behind but had to give everything not to lose ground as Amin was still there.
4 km later Lai Kuan attacked again than Mizbani launched like a rocket, Amin tried to follow and it was all over in 200 meters. Amin blew and the group passed him and I breathed a sigh of relief and concentrated on making it over the climb in good order. I caught Amin with the Filipino and just managed to make 8-9 km/h on the 25 sprocket for the last few km of the climb, which was just as steep but not as long or unforgiving as the first day.
The Philippines manager called out 35 seconds over the top (on the group of 8 but Mizbani was many minutes in front) and his riders began a blazing descent on the twisty roads. Amin was dropped immediately and things were looking good until my descending partner ended up lying upside down in the middle of the road. I was fine but shaken as he had crashed for no reason (later I found out his tyre had rolled) and I gave up the chase and cautiously waited for Amin. To my surprise, Stig who had been nowhere in sight on the climb, arrived too and we began a chase that would last all the way to the finish.
We had to ride flat out for teams now as individual was fairly safe despite all the riders in front. Mizbani won in epic style after 80km alone in front, but we caught a Polygon rider and then Ben and Anno regrouped with a mass of willing chasers including Derek and the HK team who were defending third individual and teams, and they arrived not long after us.
After an all day battle on the second hardest stage we had held our GC places in better order than we could've hoped for and we even had the luck of resting our shattered legs the next day as it was a rest day.
Stage 5: Yogyakarta - Maidun, 184km
The first two long stages we managed quite well although the second day Stig was very tired and we rested him until the end. On the whole, the possibility of a long all day break taking big time was the danger and it was matter of controlling to 20km to go. In the small breaks each day at the end, Wong Kam Po won his stage and the following day Ryan Ariehan from Indonesia won.
The third long stage was to prove much harder - a real battle. Stig said he felt bad again so we changed tactics with him allowed to follow a break up the road. Breaking team unity is never a clever thing and 10 guys rode away with Stig including Yakolev taking some 7 - 8 minutes. It still wasn't dangerous but if the time kept going up, things could get out of hand. Unfortunately Ben who had ridden very strongly the last few days said he was completely wasted and Anno wasn't feeling much better so for a long while I found myself fairly isolated pulling on the front.
Fortunately, the effects of an all day break, the crosswind along a dike motivating the peloton with some very big pulls by Kam Po and finally Stig marking Yakolev in front meant they came back very quickly after the 100km mark. They weren't quite caught with 40km to go and than everyone sat up and the break went back out to 3 minutes. Not for long though as the peloton turned up an impressive amount of speed and reeled all but 3 guys in during the last km - the stage been won by Giant rider Eddy Hollands of Australia.
I was absolutely exhausted afterwards and just sat in some shade pouring water on myself sitting opposite to Yakolev who was doing the same - shattered also. There was a sense of friendship there between rivals after an all day battle and I also felt that the race was over and the last serious threat to our team had ended.
As the other teams battled it out for the minor placings the last two days were indeed the easiest in the whole race for us. Up the last five steeper km of the 600 m high climb halfway through the shortest stage of the race, Mizbani let loose again with Yakolev chasing after him in search of final KOM points. Behind in the peloton, Ben who was back in form, set a great tempo and immediately after the descent a group of 25 formed. Only two HK riders were present but all four remaining Filipinos, and suddenly the third place on team classement was up in the air. The Philippine team had been growing stronger and more confident daily and wasted no time in setting an impressive tempo to the finish - indeed even with the headwind they maintained a steady 50 - 55k km/hand it was even difficult sitting on.
In the rather wild finish sprint first with a cross wind forcing us into the crowd, it was Hollands again who won the stage. That evening I wandered down the beach with Puspita and just a few kilometres away across the Sundra strait was our objective - the fabled Island of Bali.
The final day started with a ferry ride across those same straits and a cool 32 degrees for our 140km trip towards Denpasar. The day before Yakolev had taken a very deserved Mountain title after all his aggressive riding and the Filipinos were now third on teams. The race for classements was effectively over and most riders were calling for piano at the start. However some of the locals still were looking for a final stage win and took off up the road. Fortunately, most of the field was more than willing to set a little tempo behind, especially with the wind blowing off the sea making it easier to rotate at the front than sitting in.
Mizbani launched a few testers up the rolling stair step climb in the middle of the stage but otherwise it was a very easy day and over the final 50km the four of us got on the front and set a strong tempo into the finish. Although the small group stayed away with Indonesian Nugraha Rochmat winning the stage, we came in close behind, the most dangerous part of the race occurring in the last km when Kam Po leaned over to shake my hand and was almost taken out by someone sprinting for a minor placing!
The awards ceremony was held right on the famous Kuta beach front. For us it was a very relaxing time after ten days of stress and we all ended throwing each other in the pool at the prize giving. The racing was over and some of us stayed in Bali a couple more days savouring the victory which I think was one of the most complete I ever been involved in. It was really also a complete win in the sense of good team work, good tactics and great riding and that was a real sense of achievement.
For more information on the Marco Polo Cycling Club and its travels, visit: www.marcopolocycling.com