Legs on fire

Action Asia - - EVENTS -

WI T H S T I F F G R A DI E N T S , spec­tac­u­lar views, swoop­ing de­scents and the threat of erup­tion (no mat­ter how im­prob­a­ble), rid­ing a vol­canic is­land prom­ises lots of ex­cite­ment. That’s what led my hus­band, Paul, and I (shown be­low) to sign up as a team for the in­au­gu­ral GFNY In­done­sia on Lom­bok on Oc­to­ber 1. But then the vol­cano ac­tu­ally did erupt. No, se­ri­ously. Five days be­fore race day, Mt Rin­jani, the sec­ond high­est vol­cano in In­done­sia, and eas­ily Lom­bok’s most dom­i­nant fea­ture, briefly belched hot ash and smoke. It was quickly over but it was with trep­i­da­tion that we donned our non-lava-proof ly­cra to com­pete with 300 other road­ies in the 180km ride. At 6am we set off along the coast, en­joy­ing smooth tar­mac and a cool sea breeze be­fore split­ting off from the main road onto a sin­gle­track up a se­ries of sharp climbs and de­scents. The hills were not long but what they lacked in kilo­me­tres, they more than made up for in leg-burn­ing gra­di­ents of up to 26%. We were re­warded with a roller­coaster of swoop­ing de­scents and spec­tac­u­lar views of the is­land. We had re­joined the high­way and were 100km into the race when dis­as­ter struck. My hus­band hit a stray dog at high speed and went over his bars, crash­ing down head-first. The dam­age: a bloody mouth, patches of road rash, a bro­ken bike and a near-hys­ter­i­cal wife. The hound quickly scarpered. A policeman ar­rived and lo­cals gath­ered out of cu­rios­ity. Be­ing an en­gi­neer, my hus­band didn’t see a bro­ken bike as a prob­lem, more a project. An hour later, he’d trued two buck­led wheels, changed his blown tire and straight­ened his de­railleur. We pushed on to the city of Mataram where traf­fic is chaotic and progress slowed. The roads were far from closed as ad­ver­tised and, de­spite their best ef­forts, the po­lice strug­gled to man­age the flow of cars, mo­tor­cy­cles, ponies and carts, live­stock and now, sun­glass-and­hel­met-clad bik­ers. Be­yond Mataram we rode up and con­quered Pusuk Pass: a 300-m climb which stood be­tween us and the coastal road to the fin­ish line. Mon­keys and mo­tor­bikes ruled on both the as­cent and the de­scent mak­ing us both ner­vous and Paul’s de­railleur was protest­ing too. Fi­nally, with 30km to go, the de­railleur made it’s last change and, with a clang, fell to the ground. “I’ll just have to turn it into a sin­gle speed,” said Paul, al­ready open­ing his tool kit. Bike re-en­gi­neered, this stub­born cy­clist walked up eight coastal head­lands be­fore, fi­nally, we reached Seng­gigi and the fin­ish line where a medic stitched his split lip. Vol­ca­noes come with many per­ils but a dog which doesn’t look be­fore cross­ing the road is most dan­ger­ous of all.

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