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Tales from the travellers the diary of Team Marco Polo
Tour of Indonesia - 2.2, Indonesia, September 12-21, 2005
Two three four
By Michael Carter
Marco Polo - Greenfields Fresh Milk Cycling Team riders:
Nathan Dahlberg, New Zealand
Director: Puspita Mustika, Indonesia
Wednesday, September 7-9
Off to do my last race as a rider with Marco Polo, the Dji Sam Soe Tour d'Indonesia. To get there involves yet another long voyage - Denver to San Francisco (2 hours), San Francisco to Tokyo-Narita (10 hours and then a three hour layover), Narita to Singapore (6.5 hours and over night stay), Singapore to Jakarta (1.5 hours), Jakarta airport to the hotel, 30k, 2 hours! But I am racking up the miles. Need to look after my wife (who as I write this, is 7 months pregnant) and I flew Business Class over to Austria for Master World's. I burned all my miles for that trip so a trip like this helps restore those precious miles.
Singapore was wonderful. I stayed one night there in-bound to Jakarta. Singapore ranks right up there with Japan as a land of cleanliness and order. Jakarta, on the other hand, gives "third world" a whole new meaning. What a boondoggle of humanity! Traffic, pollution, poor little kids that have no shoes and are filthy, begging at every stoplight. Indonesia is definitely a land of contrast. New skyscrapers are everywhere and have people living at the foot of them in corrugated metal shacks. The air pollution is as bad if not worse, than Beijing or Shanghai (both of which are much worse than Mexico City).
After finally arriving at the hotel, I run into Eddy and Rhys in the lobby. They are just getting ready to walk over to the mall where we eat. We have coupons to Hartz Chicken, an all you can eat joint that costs about US$3.00, and that might be overpaying for what you get. (Not really that bad, but definitely worse than the dorm food I ate at Colorado State University).
After our "haute cuisine" of Indo all-you-can-eat fried chicken, we start to walk home but are caught in a downpour. I talk Eddy and Rhys into hailing a cab, and I offered to pay the fare. US$0.40 later (yes, forty cents - Indo is cheap), we arrive back at the hotel, safe, but most importantly, dry.
In my room I receive a "Welcome Letter" from Dutchie Matthijs (Matt). Very professional, I might add. He has in the letter an itinerary of what the next few days hold for us, as well as a synopsis of the stages and distances. Matt is in the marketing business, Greenfields Fresh Milk company is one of his clients. Evidently, fresh milk here in Indo is tough to come by so a couple of Kiwis and Aussies saw an opportunity to import diary cows, set in fields of green and produce milk. The only thing they did not think of was getting the word out to the folks of Indonesia which makes for good work for Matt.
Saturday, September 11
We are riding this race as "Greenfields Fresh Milk" due to a conflict of the "Marco Polo" name with the main sponsor of the race, Dji Sam Soe. Marco Polo happens to be a cigarette brand in Indonesia, like Dji Sam Soe. Therefore Marco Polo is not welcome, but with our Indonesian sponsor Greenfields we can participate.
Matt was as you might guess by now behind that and has done a crack job at procuring not only the money needed to have us here, but also at providing us with jerseys, T-shirts, caps etc. and an excellent support staff. Matt is also responsible for the sponsorship for the Marco Polo Adventure Team and they will race in TelKOMselkits, a cellular phone company that includes Dutchies Anno Pedersen, Franck Terwel (I rode Tour of Puerto Rico this last April with both Franck and Anno), Remko Kramer, Amin Suryana of Indonesia who placed 2nd on G.C. here last year and his compatriot Dwi Haryonto. Matt will act as D.S. for that team.
A meeting scheduled at 9:00 for the morning finally gets underway at 9:45 (I had to go wake the Aussies out of their slumber). Afterwards, we head out for a ride in the city of Jakarta. Craziness abounds with cars not respecting lanes, bumper to bumper traffic, motorcycles and moped by the thousands zipping between cars and buses and then us, trying to negotiate all that as well as trying not to breathe! End up with nearly three hours, and it turned out OK. Just happy to get some exercise and out of the hotel room.
Sunday, September 12
The organizers have planned a "tour of Jakarta" parade for us. Starts at 7:30am which is OK with me due to the 13-hour time change; my body does not care what it does at what time. Sundays in Jakarta are relatively quiet with not as much traffic, and the ride through the central part of this massive city of 13 million is enjoyable. We end the ride at a park where the opening ceremony takes place. Impressive actually. The Asian races always have big dos at these events, save the Koreans.
After the tour ride we returned to the hotel and load up, drive en masse 3.5 hours along the route that was the first stage last year. 195km on narrow winding roads that change from the flats to rollers to a stair-step climb that is brutal! The climbs feature grades that easily surpass 10% in places and after 160km, that would hurt. The route offered a spectacular landscape. As we start up the climb, we pass through rubber tree plantations and then tea orchards. Beautiful and green and the temperatures drop from the 99 degrees with 80% humidity that greeted us in Jakarta, down to low 80s. Nathan ended up in a break here last year and finished 3rd on the stage but had some crazy time gap like 20 minutes in the end and ended up winning the overall. So we have our work cut out for us - defending champs. Giant is here in force, and the other Dutchie team here also has a good climber. Anno gave me the scouting report on him, so I am sure I will be mentioning him here again soon.
Stage 1 - September 12: Bandung - Cirebon, 134 km
Craziness! Never seen anything like today. The first 30 to 35km were through narrow streets with cars everywhere! We had to ride nearly single file through the streets due to the trucks, buses and cars clogging the road. Amazing no one was killed. I heard that there was one crash, but unbelievably, that was it for crashes.
The course had a slight downhill, then two climbs of what I have discovered are classic Indonesian style - gradual climbs with wicked sections that go straight up. These "walla" are short, so they are power climbs. The heat and humidity was affecting everyone, it seemed. There were a lot of attacks, but nothing was able to stay away. That is until after the two climbs and we hit the flat for the last 50km or so. I thought that this would be a good time to attack, so I did - and a rider from Vietnam and one from the Philippine Casino team came along. The Philippine rider was good, taking pulls that matched mine. The Vietnamese rider was OK, but hurting a bit. We built a nice break, then a group of 8 that included notables Remko Kramer (MPCC) and Paul Griffin from Giant had escaped the field and were closing in on us. Just when I could see that group coming, I sat up. No sense in driving it - better to wait for the group to join us. Just as I did sit up, my two breakaway companions kept on riding and started to roll away from me. I looked down the road, and saw the mid-race sprint line, so I dialled it up, came from behind them with speed and won that sprint! That put me in the "Green Jersey", something I never win. After my sprint victory, the group of Remko, Paul and company all rolled along well, but I was starting to fall apart. I started sitting on quite a bit, which I am not used to doing and don't like to do but felt it necessary.
Then with about 12km from the finish, another group of 9 joined, which included Rob Reid and Hossein Askari from Giant, among others. I was shattered. The heat had done me in and in the "gallop" (or sprint to the line) Remko got 5th, Rob ended up an impressive 2nd and Paul Griffin won. Yikes - sufferin' big time!
Stage 2 - September 13: Cirebon - Purwokerto, 188 km
Uh oh. I was knackered. Lights off at 8:00. But I could not fall asleep and at about 9:30, felt this cascading feeling in my stomach. I have felt this before - it means only one thing - I knew I was going to spend some time on the toilet. 4 trips in total - did not sleep at all. Felt horrible in the morning and very weak. I did take an Immodium, which I do not like to do, but this was so bad, I knew it was a necessity.
Same hot, humid weather. The race organization decided to let everyone who rides 70% of the stage to climb into the bus, and receive a 15% time penalty based off the last finishing rider. Word was out, and that bus filled, me included. As for the rest of the Greenfields Team, Nathan was very active as was Rob, Eddy and Rhys. This stage was 100km of flat, then a nasty climb from km 128 to km 143. So the magic number for me was 134 - I came around a corner, and met Andrew Lewis, and two others.
Remko Kramer writes:
This climb was cruel. At the start of the climb we already hit some super steep sections of only a few hundred metres but around 20 percent! We had to pull our maximum in the 39x25! There were still some rollers going down and that is were a break went. Eddy Hollands went along which was a perfect move for Greenfields. I survived in the front of the field and the climb got harder. The steep sections got steeper, longer and no more going down. At a flat part Ghader Mizbani launched an attack and the race exploded. I got dropped from the first group with 4 Giant Asia riders in it and no Greenfields nor a man from our TelKOMsel Team. When I passed Eddy it looked really bad for our teams. I suffered at my maximum heart rate and could catch on at Rhys and Robin who passed me. I hung on until the top and with some Indonesian riders we tried to work together to prevent loosing time. However we had to do the work and of course the guys that sat on outsprinted us at the finish.
On a very nice, air conditioned bus, we continue on picking up the stray rider here and there. Then on the descent, I saw a Marco Polo bike with the #3 on it smashed on the road. That would be Eddy. Rats. Word was that he was in the hospital with a broken collarbone. The report was changed to a broken back. Hard for me to always discount these reports like this after witnessing two riders killed in races. It's a dangerous sport. At any rate, Eddy landed on his back, on a rock and took a good beating all right. But he will be OK. The rest of the race was a disaster for us. Rob and Rhys were over 3 minutes back, and Nathan even further. Dave McCann and his entire team made the front break of 15 and won the race. Giant is in total control now, and I am pondering heading home. Nathan wants me to continue on, try to help out. I have a moral dilemma with dropping out and then making an impact on the race in any way. The only thing keeping me here is that I have to go to Beijing after this race concludes, so I might just ride to pass the time. Not a fun way to end my career with Marco Polo, but it has been good.
Stage 3 - September 14: Purwokerto - Yogyakarta, 205 km
This stage ended up being 220k by Nathan's computer. In order to get to the 70% mark I had to ride 140k to make the bus - which I did. I am starting to feel a bit better for this one, but still far from good. I was dropped on the big climb that went basically from sea level to 1,400 meters (about 4,200 feet) in 16k - that included a few flat sections so that made for some wicked steep sections. Guys were using 27s! I stuck with a 23. Rhys ends up off the front solo after 60k, drills it! Gets caught by a Kazakh rider from the Indonesian Polygon Team, ends up 2nd in the "H.C." climb, Robin and Nathan jump away from the field and end up catching Rhys and their group grows to 20. I am tucked nicely in an air-conditioned bus and have felt better. Rob ends 3rd! Podium placing number 3, amazing these guys. Of course, when you feel horrible, hard to keep things in perspective. Hossein Askari of Giant takes the GC lead from his team mate Paul. Dave McCann did not start - out with a major bout of "Indo - out it go" disease. He is not alone. Many other riders are suffering from that now.
Stage 4 - September 15: Yogyakarta - Solo, 135 km
This stage featured another 1,400 meter climb after 45km. TheKOM was at 66k, so another wicked climb. Iam a hairs-breath from not starting - did not sleep at all last night, but Eddy who has to suffer the fate of following the race in the team car and with his back a mess - nothing worse - talks me into it. He tells me that it's good for Nathan, Rhys and Rob. Of course, I do catch some flack from a few riders but that is OK - harmless really. Nathan gets away early with three others, builds a lead of 10 minutes by the bottom of the climb. As we hit the climb, I come off as that flu-ish, achy feeling overcomes me, but I settle in to a rhythm. Start to feel good, and start putting a bit more into the pedals. I look up and see Rob dropped!
UGH - since there is more money in team GC than individual and Rob is our 3rd guy (team GC takes the time of the first 3 riders each day), I work to get to him. Make it, help pace him to the top, where he goes banzai on the descent. Nope, not for this elder conservative and expectant papa. I take it easy. What a fun descent, except the oncoming traffic and on a road that really is no wider than a bike path at times. Rhys makes the front group. Nathan is still in front together with Peter van Achtmaal. They work together very hard and just make it till the finish. Nathan ends up 2nd, and one more "new one" for me, the guy who wins Peter van Achtmaal is a Dutchie who is smoking a pack of cigarettes a day - I could NOT believe it when I saw him smoking back in Jakarta! I thought he was the mechanic. But his teammates say that he does all the time and he is just amazing. An anomaly I would say. Rob makes almost to Rhys' group, and I finish in the next group. The guy who won climbed in the bus on stage 2, so now I feel no shame at all about carrying on. Feeling better!
September 16: Rest Day
Just in time! After three super hard and hot days, this day arrives just in time. We enjoy a bit of a "lay-in" as it is referred to do down under, then head out for a leisurely ride of just over two hours on relatively quiet roads - if there is such a thing in Indonesia. Felt great to just roll along, enjoy the day. Then back to the hotel where there is free Wifi Internet in the hotel lobby. I park myself there and work for about 3.5 hours getting caught up on all of my Echelon Sports Performance duties. Feels good to exercise the grey matter for a change. This day flies by!
Stage 5 - September 17: Solo - Madiun, 108 km
This is a pancake flat course, so its really almost a rest day, or could have been. The attacks start straight out of the blocks, and don't end all day. Seems every team is on the attack, except Giant who just follows. They seem to be in total control and do not really show any signs of cracking. Not much to report on, except that it was even warmer than the last few days, if that is possible. Very fast all day - with 20km to go or so, we have to stop for a train, but everyone does so its no big deal. No changes to any of the GC places. Dutchies go one - three, with Bastiankrol third and again Peter van Achtmaal first! Tomorrow and Monday are biggies, so it will be interesting to see how that one transpires. The heat is sure to take a toll. Stay tuned!
Stage 6 - September 18: Madiun - Malang, 234 km
The attacks started fast and furious, with a group of about eight escaping, only to be reeled in after about 20km. That just led to counter attacks, and another group of eight formed. This group held only a three minute lead due to the fact Giant has managed to be very persuasive at convincing three other teams to help control the race. So now, Giant has the team from Beijing that includes Yu Tong, a rider who is on the Marco Polo team and is currently in 5th on GC, Polygon that has two Kazakh riders and Dodol Picnic, both Indonesian teams assisting them. These four teams bring the break back at about kilometer 150, and I see it coming back so I drill it - attack with everything I have. If they want to chase a rider who is 3 hours down (after two days of climbing in the bus, that is my time behind the GC leader - incredible), then so much the better for us. The last part of the race, there is a KOM at 196km, and then its gradually uphill all the way to the finish. Even if I blow (which I did after my 30k breakaway) that would allow Rhys, Rob and Nathan to sit in, wait until the field is tired and hit them hard. That is exactly what happens. Nathan goes on the attack as Iam reeled in, then sets Rhys up for a counter and Rhys is solo for a few km, gets caught by a Hong Kong rider and a Polygon rider, and ends up 2nd on the day. This makes podium placing number four!
ANOTHER impressive ride by Rhys! Both Nathan and Rob are raging as well, so despite the fact that we don't have any GC threat (at this point), morale is good.
Stage 7 - September 19: Malang - Jember, 181 km
This stage started where we finished yesterday of course, at an altitude of 480 meters. The plan today was again, to try to make the Giant contingent work and soften them up a bit to make them vulnerable and then attack them. I started off attacking like crazy, maybe four attacks. Each time, built a gap, but only to have the Kazakh and the Polygon team reel me each time, save the last time when the Dutchies chased me down. The Dutch excuse is the points. I have five whopping points from stage 1, so I guess Iam a threat to them. At any rate, my attempts were all foiled, so I drifted back and of course, the very next move succeeded in escaping. Remko Kramer slips in there. This group comprises a total of five, and they build a lead of 4 minutes, plus a few. The course descends 40km to the first mid-race sprint, then it parallels the sea for 40km where there is another mid-race sprint at 81km, then turns inland and does a very gradual climb that averages about 2%. The "climb" continues for about 15km, then a gradual descent to a valley that has dikes and as Nathan correctly forewarned, wind.
On the descent, the most refreshing rain started, huge drops, as well as a pleasant drop in the temperature. On the descent, the Dutchies come to the front and start aid the Giant consortium in their chase. I ask them if they too, have been "purchased" by Giant, but they say they are after the last mid-race sprint. At this point, there is no way they are going to bring back Remko and his partners in crime. Their tactic did not pay off - not for that objective anyway. In the last part of the race a major wind storm came in, and then rain which reeked a bit of havoc in the filed as guys were buffeted by the wind and driving rain. Unlike Qinghai Lake, this was a WARM rain - I had no problem with it this time round. During the commotion, Rob and Nathan made an attempt at escaping, but that was foiled. Rhys countered, just as a major gust of wind and the rain thickened into a raging downpour. Rhys built a 1 minute lead, but Giant Incorporated and their "helpers" started to launch attacks after Rhys. Nathan and I tried to foil their attempts, but they were relentless in their pursuit. I stopped following attacks and sitting in the echelon's with about 15k to go, when Rhys's lead was down to 50 seconds and falling fast. The final nail in the coffin for Rhys's stage win was again the stinkin' Dutch guys. They launched one of their riders and sure enough, he pulled it off. Rhys made a tremendous effort - very impressive too. Bummer! Two days to go, two more chances for Greenfields to make the top step on the podium.
Stage 8 - September 20: Jember - Banyuwangi, 112 km
Nathan wanted to try for the KOM jersey and since the stage started with a category 3 climb of 32km, he wanted a nice steady pace on the approach. No better way to set that up than to have a chase. This climb was really more of a false flat except for the last 2km where the road tipped up to about 6%, and had a few switchbacks. The idea was for me to attack and get in a break from the get-go. After four attempts, my efforts finally worked as I countered a brilliant move by Sir Robin Reid. My companions this time were a Hongkong Rider, a Philippine rider, and a local guy that stood probably 4'11" - maybe. But that guy was strong, at least in the start of the break. The Philippine and the Hongkong rider seemed to have it in for each other and kept gapping each other off and then yelling at each other. This was not really conductive to a cohesive effort. I gave them a bit of advice and told them to just ride, stop the cat fight "...right now!" and let's get on with it! The local guy in the mean time, seemed to have spent all his efforts in the opening moments of the break and all he could do was hang on - barely.
We built a lead of 1 minute and change when the cat fight started. the lead dwindled to 20 seconds. As we hit a flat, straight section about 15km into the climb, I slammed it to the 11, and just drove it. The gap went back to 50 seconds, but I was starting to get a bit tired myself. Only the Hongkong rider hung on and then he jumped me with about 1.5km to go to the top. I settled into a pace that I thought would deliver me to the top 2nd on theKOM, but then Ghader Mizbani, the Iranian climbing phenom blew by me like Lance Armstrong blows by Ullrich when Lance is getting down to business - and that is really fast! I lost my impetus and was caught by the rest of the field - or what was left. The Hongkong rider made it to the top, won theKOM and was closely followed by Mizbani. The entire field re-grouped, except for the Dutch team who all climbed in the bus. The only Dutchie to carry on was Berkenbosch, who is a very good rider. Guy won Nord Isere this year which is no small feat. So with all in tact, we scream down the descent, which was very bumpy and rough, and head into a field sprint in Banywange. No changes to anything, except that I learn later that Nathan who was tied for 1st on theKOM with the Polygonkazak, fell to 3rd onKOM's since he got no points. Berkenbosch moves to 2nd. Shoot. The hotel we have this night is fantastic! Beautiful tropical setting with a big swimming pool, very nice gardens, clean, green, right on the beach. Don't want to leave at all. But we have an early wake up call tomorrow - 5:00am. We have to ride into town at 6:15, then ride back out of town to a pier where we board a ferry that will take us across to the island of Bali, where we will race 134km into Denpasar (a.k.a., Bali).
Stage 9 - September 21: Gilimanuk - DenPasar , 135 km
Ugh - that alarm went off way too early. I shared a room with Rhys last night, and we tried in vain to watch the "Thin Red Line." An appropriate movie to watch during a bike race really, especially when in the tropics - the hot, humid conditions were making the soldiers pass out. This bike race was doing a lot the same to many, and a bike race does feel a little like going to war. We "war" with all the other teams and very few allies are to be found. At any rate, we ride into, then out of town, load onto a rusted out ferry boat that I can't help but think of all those CNN News clips I have seen where a ferry has sunk, and all on board drowned. This thing has holes rusted in the floors, the stair wells are so badly rusted that the hand rails wouldn't hold up my 85 pound mother if she grabbed on to it. I negotiate my way to the top level just in case this rust bucket does succumb, I will at least be on surface and be able to swim out of harms way. Just like those safety announcements on the airplane where they ask you oh, so very nicely to read and review all emergency procedures should an emergency arise, I decide to read the instructions on how to deploy a life raft. These are of the variety that are encased in a metal barrel and open up on impact with the water. I decided it was worthless to read any further when I saw that the last inspection date on the thing was March, 1995. Great.
Having safely "sailed" across to Bali, we unload, hurry off to the start line not 1k from the ferry and wait. Starting time for the race is 10:00, so we have 25 minutes or so to spend, sitting in the sun. I don't really mind since right after this race, I have to scoot to the airport, fly to Jakarta at 4:20, then catch a slow plane to China - Beijing actually. Todd McKean, our first class sponsor from TREK - China has asked me to swing by on my way home and take part in the Great Wall Bicycle Festival. Iam looking forward to it actually, but I have to admit that three weeks is too long to be separated from Nanci.
Back to the race - this starts off with a mid-race sprint at 32km - basically flat and super fast until then. We never stop racing all day - from the start. Anno Pedersen from TelKOMsel (a Marco Polo "Executive") makes the break after about 20km. That break grows to eight, then starts to disintegrate after the rollers kick in. The last 30km have big hills and it is here that Nathan gives it one last go. He ends up with one Hongkong rider, one Philippine and a Polygon rider and they bridge to the remnants of Anno's group. Rob and I hit the front and ride a tempo that is just fast enough to discourage any more attacks, and yet slow enough to allow Nathan's move to gain time on the field. TheKOM leader, a Kazakh named Yakovlev who rides for Polygon asks me why Rob and I were chasing. I explained the concept, but he did not quite get it. To do well in cycling does not always go hand in hand with well equipped grey matter. Nathan's group gains a lead of two minutes and change, but then with 20km to go, the stinkin' Dutchies come to the front and drill it. They close the gap quick, then stop chasing for a bit. They resume their chase with about 7k to go, and catch Anno and the rest of the break with 1.5km to go. Nathan still gives it a try with a Philippine rider and at only 700 metres to go he also gets caught. But it is Kam Po Wong from Hongkong who wins the last stage. I like Kam Po - so Iam very happy that he has foiled the Dutch move. So the stage ends, no changes in any thing. Giant wins most of the money, we pick up the scraps here and there.
Like the race is named Dji Sam Soe which means Two Three Four, we placed: Three times Two, and one time Three makes Four podium placings... but no win.
I want to believe that had I been able to stay healthy for the entire race, I would have been gracing the podium. Felt great after the rest day, and darn if it isn't "....woulda, coulda, shoulda..." But as a good friend of mine once pointed out, " ‘IF' is the middle word of ‘Life'." He was a golfer, so he was well versed in that philosophy, but same can be said for bike racers I suppose.
So my career with Marco Polo comes to an end. Or, has it? Stay tuned, I love this sport and you might see my name there on the "Brief Results" of Cyclingnews.com for Tour of Korea. I have to wait and see how many "passes" I can earn from the missus, especially with a new little Carter, and also if Gudo will list me on the Continental Team for 2006 - just in case! It has been a fantastic run, I must say. So I want to say "THANK YOU!!!" to Nathan, Gudo and all the other support staff of Marco Polo. You guys allowed me an opportunity that was truly unique and once in a lifetime.
See you all at the starting line!
For more information on the Marco Polo Cycling Club and its travels, visit: www.marcopolocycling.com