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Tales from the travellers — the diary of Team Marco Polo

East Java Tour, June 27 - July 1 2005

Mt Bromo, monster volcano

By Nathan Dahlberg


Hanging out before the start
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
Click for larger image

Surabaya - population of 3 to 6 million people (no one really knows) and the second biggest city on the island of Java, the most densely populated island on earth. That was our base camp for the Tour of East Java, another new five-day stage race on the Indonesian and UCI calendar. Eddy Hollands and I (Nathan Dahlberg) have had previous experience in Indonesia, but for Rhys Pollock, Robin Reid and Jamsran Ulzii-Orshikh (Oggi) this was an all-new country and very different race conditions than most countries, with steep large mountains to be climbed in stifling heat and humidity. With two mountain finishes in five days of racing and two of the other days being short criteriums this was not an opportunist or strong man's tour but rather one for the super climber. From the start the Giant Asia team were the guys to beat, with Iranian super climber Mizibani and his cohort Ahat obviously the strongest mountain men of the race.


With that in mind we launched aggressively into the first stage, which was flat over 197 kilometres with the idea of taking time where we could. After numerous attacks Oggi broke away with a handful of riders and spent 160 kilometres pulling furiously. But with Giant's Irish rider Paul Griffin playing the Giant watch dog and his breakaway companions tiring, the maximum lead of four minutes was reduced to just 20 seconds by the chasing Giant riders.
Oggi still finished second behind Griffin in the sprint but the effort was to tell in the second day which climbed a 1300 metre pass before a twisting descent into Batu during the final 15 kilometres.

Riding through glue

Robin Reid suffering
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
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Again at the start there were numerous attacks and this time it was Robin Reid playing watchdog over Mizibani and Polygon's Kazak rider Yevgeniy Yakolev as they rode away to a seven minute lead.
The really hot humid conditions made the race feel like riding through glue and after 160 kilometres, as the climb was beginning, the lead collapsed - except for Mizbani, who had ridden off to a two minute lead alone! The climb suited our team though, 30 kilometres long in two sections and a grade of only about 7%. Eddy and Rob, who had rejoined us after taking a quick 'comfort' stop set great tempo up the first 10 kilometres and then in the rolling middle portions Rhys and I took over and suddenly Mizbani reappeared just in front of us, completely blown. As the second harder part of the climb started Rob set a wicked tempo again and I disappeared out the back with Mizbani. Eventually, on the upper portions of the climb, Ahat launched away solo and despite crashing on the downhill managed to hold off Chris Bradford of Wismilak and Rhys by a handful of seconds, with Robin and Eddy close behind.
Oggi came in with me after suffering bad cramp some seven minutes behind, but Mizbani was there as well, so one climber less.

Attack the yellow jersey in the criterium

Rhys Pollock (left)
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
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The following day was a 56km crit on an L shaped circuit and really the final chance for us to take time from the climbers before the Mt Bromo mountain finish the following day. Rob and I started attacking from the word go, and after several laps a break formed up with the majority of the better teams involved, including both Poloygon Kazaks, Casino Philippine riders, Wismilaks Samai, Malaysian National team riders and both Robin and myself. Robin and the Kazak Yakolev were riding for the jersey. The lead got up to almost 50 seconds however Giant finally managed to rally a chase behind which reduced the lead to just 15 seconds by the finish - Samai easily wasted us all in the sprint and Robin got fourth which meant missing the time bonus and yellow jersey. It now went to Yakolev. However, the first 10 places overall were all separated by seconds and we were still awaiting the following days 'big climb'.

Mount Bromo - monster Volcano

The monster that is Mt Bromo...
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
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Mt Bromo - this is hard to describe as I've never seen a climb like it. Rising 2300 metres out of the sea, someone had hung a road straight up this monster Volcano. When I looked at Yakolev's back wheel and saw a 32 sprocket on there (he had previously trained up Mt Bromo) I was more than happy that I was no longer in GC contention. If one took the hardest Tour de France pass and added another 700 metres of climbing at the end in just five kilometres it would be something like Mt Bromo.

Again we attacked from the start and again Oggi got away, this time getting a 12 minute lead which seemed pretty substantial with just 30 kilometres of a 136 kilometre stage to go. Behind him constant attacks saw another group with Eddy and Robin go, but also Yakolev and Ahat!
Behind them the peloton crawled along, everyone to scared to put an effort in as the lower slopes of the climb were beginning. For most riders it was now 2 hours of all-out suffering on the 23/25 and 27 sprockets if they had them. However, Mizbani showed his true talent, riding out of the peloton and past everyone in the race to win by minutes alone from Ahat and a surprising Paul Griffin, who finished third. Robin also did a great ride to finish fifth and Eddy was 10th to put them into third and seventh overall. With gaps of minutes between just about everyone the GC seemed over. There was one reward for the effort of getting up to the top - the torrid crowded atmosphere of the plains below had been replaced by clean mountain air and a surreal volcanic landscape above the clouds.

43 minute stage

Robin Reid on the final podium
Photo ©: Francis Cerny
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We still had plans to attack on the last day but with an almost circular circuit and being only 34 kilometres long the final criterium was more a circus than a race, with a 48km/h average - Samai of Wismilak again won easily. It was a little disappointing for us all after the hard battles the days before but credit must go to the Giant guys who dominated us pretty much throughout. On our side it was also a very satisfactory performance as we are basically a road race team with no specialists either for the mountains or criteriums and this was very much a specialist's race. Also we were practically the only ones who challenged the lead (although the Poloygon Kazaks did their best) which made it extra difficult, but left us with second in teams and third overall on individual GC.

As for Tour of East Java, they are already planning for next year and the dreaded Mt Bromo will be back!

Ok, ciao!


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Francis Cerny Cycling Photography/Francis Cerny

More information:

Gudo Kramer

Marco Polo Cycling Team

Semmelinkstraat 69
6512 JS Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Tel/fax +31 24 3606301; email:

For more information on the Marco Polo Cycling Club and its travels, visit: