Legs on fire
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.