Last Saturday, we had a taste of bike heaven, in the form of 80 kilometers of smooth asphalt, right in the Central Plains of Luzon. This was the bike race that was part of the opening activities for the new Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Actually, according to my cyclocomputer, it was more of 73.5 kilometers.
It was my first time to join a cycling race. Of course, I wasn’t there to race, but simply to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was in the Category C, the lowest among the race categories, but still not for the faint-hearted! As we were flagged off the starting line, it was fascinating to hear about a hundred clicks of the clip-on pedals, and then I realized this was how it was in the olden days when men went to battle, the sound of metal rousing men’s spirits.
I was well prepared for the race, 4 bottles of sports drink, 4 packets of gels, 2 spare tire tubes. In the end, I used up one-and-half-bottles of drink, all 4 gels, and unfortunately 1 spare tire tube. I suffered a flat at the 35 km mark. The asphalt probably wasn’t that smooth. Anyway, the wonder of it all was that I managed to fix the flat in 10 minutes! During that time I was cursing one second, praying to my guardian angel the next second, until finally I had put on the wheel back in place.
I managed to get back to the race, finishing the whole stretch in 3 hours 3 minutes. It took a while to recover from the heat. No wonder everyone else had support vehicles, splashing cold water on the riders. I had to sit down in the air-conditioned tent for half an hour before I could declare myself recovered.
I was targetting to race at 30kph, which I did for the first hour. The main peloton was simply too strong as I think it was averaging 40-45 kph. So I found myself racing alone for the most part, trying my best to break through the wind. Looking at the cyclometer, the kilometers seemed to fly in the first half of the race, but after going through the turn-around signaling the first half of the race, with fatigue setting on, I found myself wondering if there was something wrong with my cyclometer: the kilometer reading seemed to be getting slower and slower! Well this was the time to chat with fellow cyclists also struggling, enjoy the scenery, munch on my quashed banana.
It was a pretty exhilirating experience. I guess for the next time we’ll have to wait for the next highway construction to finish to get another thrill like this.