Editor’s note: Several paragraphs have been removed at the author’s request
Just back from breakfast, lying on the bed. Imagine a giant anaconda having just swallowed an adult goat and you’ll get the idea. At these tours you quickly learn to take a serious dislike to eating, because it isn’t for pleasure anymore, but rather for the basic purpose of refueling. Like geese being force-fed to produce foie-gras, we sit there and stuff ourselves every chance we get, on bad pasta, dry rice and copious mounds of bread, the likes of which haven’t been seen on a plate since the Eastern Bloc fell.
We are in Malaysia now. I’m reposing listening to Start Dude, who is 13 stories below and a kilometer away and kicking it out on the street, blasting through his repertoire on the mic and what might be the world’s most powerful speakers. Start Dude is a guy that somehow magically appears at the stage start of all UCI Asia Pro Tour events. He is generally almost as wide as he is tall and has a mustache and a head full of pomade and fake Oakleys and wears a very bright shirt that could double as a beach wind-breaker for a small family of four. There is, it seems, a version of him in every country on the Asia Tour and they can be programmed to speak that country’s language perfectly, and very very loudly.
He says things like ‘WEEEEEEEELCOME TO THE START HERE IN PATABUKAY HEY HEY HEY HEY! Everybody scream INDONESIA-A-A-A-A-A-A at the top of your lungs like me! Let’s damage some tympanic membranes!”
Tarmac shifts underfoot. Birds fall from the sky. Clouds recede.
It’s just what you need when you’ve been standing on the start line under an already burning sun for ten minutes, and its so loud that it can, if you’re the lucky rider standing nearest the truck-size speakers, permanently separate vertebrae. I once saw a rider crumple into a puddle of flesh after all his bones got powderized after a particularly hearty ‘Hey Hey Hey HEEEEEEEEEEEEY!’
I apologize for the cynicism. I’m grumpy. I don’t know why, I’m not usually like this. It might be a case of I’m-A-Racer (IAR) Syndrome. This particularly pathetic condition afflicts many, if not all, riders at some point in the season, and a few unfortunate souls exhibit persistent signs of the disease.
It is also known more commonly as ‘being-an-a**hole’. Symptoms include chewing the soigneur’s ear off when she hands you a Coke that has been chilled for less than ten minutes, shouting ‘Who’s moved my f***ing sunglasses?!’ at no one in particular, pre-race, when in fact they are in your back pocket, and seriously contemplating killing the guy in front with a jackhammer before burning his body with a lighter and a can of WD40 because he took ‘your’ line. Also inherent in sufferers is a need to complain about everything, all the time.
In particularly bad cases, focus becomes narrowed until a point is reached where you, and only you, seem to exist. All other beings become inconsequential, they serve merely to irritate and to prohibit you from becoming the legend you so obviously are and would be, if only everyone else would realize and bow down at your feet to offer praise and get you what you want. Right now.
So either I have a dose of IAR, or am just tired. After all this racing and the traveling, I am hoping it’s the latter…
Seeing as this is a diary of the Tour de Langkawi, I guess I should talk about the racing a little. First day was a 20.3km ITT. I am not too bad a time trialist and yet a certain fella by the name of Zabriskie opened up his lungs and put a minute into second place (which was in fact a wicked ride by Drapac’s Adam Phelan) and 2:48 into me.
I was hoping against all reasonable expectation for top 20, but thinking top 30 might be doable, so 44th was somewhat of a disappointment. The heart willed but the legs were having none of it. Still, what do we do when we get a firm bit of boot leather slammed into our teeth? Get up and ask for more, naturally.
Day 2, I was up for it, so up for it, in fact, that I launched the first attack. I love the Utterly Pointless Gesture. I am, you might say, a master of it. Needless to say I got slapped back into the peloton soon after. The usual madcap attacking ensued for the next 20km until a very strong Drapac dude and OCBC’s Loh went clear, poor buggers! I say that only half in jest because I wanted to be up there with them, but man, working all day in this heat is not to be taken lightly.
Back to Stage 2, we start to close in on the break, 20km to go and they have just under a minute. I decide to attack, what the heck, I will not be figuring in any sprint, and I hate the nervy finishes. I launch out of the pack, a veritable rocket! I’m flying! ‘Look at him go!’ I hear the locals whisper in shuddering awe as I ride away, I get three hundred meters from the bunch and it is a certainty, I’m away! And then — flat tire.
So I get a replacement, chase back on, work up to the front and what do I do? I attack again. See what I mean about my infatuation with The Pointless Gesture? I bridge up to the two leaders and hit the front and, to be honest, we make a pretty decent go of it.
They were exhausted so I did most of the work and we got close to a minute and a half with about 9km to go but inevitably, we were closed down. All over with 3.5km to go.
Felt pretty great though, leading in on the run in.
Guardini won, reaffirming his affinity with the Tour de Langkawi and proving that the suffering he did in Oman and Qatar did pay off.
And yeah, that’s about that from the first two days at Langkawi. So far, pretty fun. Everyone is waiting for Genting though, the mythical climb, later in the week. I shall endeavor to persevere.
17 years after stopping racing as a junior in England and traveling and working around the world, Lee Rodgers started cycling again 4 years ago “to lose a bit of weight” and now rides for UCI Continental team, RTS Racing Team, based in Taiwan. He works full-time as a journalist and part-time as a cyclist.Check out Lee’s previous diary entries