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530km. Everyday is a little more than a century (a century is 100 miles or 160km, in cycling term) and coupled with the windy coastal roads from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu and rolling route from Kuala Terengganu to Tanah Merah, many of us had doubts on how we were going to survive the 3-day ride.
It’s a difficult feat to complete and it took us a lot of courage to finish the ride, but all through the ride, in my head, I kept on thinking that whatever that we had to face within these 3 days were nothing compared to the hardship that these unfortunate people had to go through everyday. I am grateful to God that I had this opportunity to meet them and together with the 116-odd cyclists, we managed to brighten up their lives with the donations that we had collected.
We pushed off from our starting point at Sutera Inn, Kota Bharu, Kelantan at 7am after a simple doa recital for our safe journey to our destinations. The morning breeze felt cool on our skin but don’t thank the weather just yet, for the weather forecast stated that it would be a scorching 3-day ride and we should put a generous amount of sunblock on the skin.
The ‘train’ was moving at 28km/h, just nice for a morning warm-up and to prepare the legs for the 170km beach route that day. The route was flat as pancake but the strong coastal wind was the real challenge. First stop was at Kuala Besut and the cyclists were served with fresh young coconut juice while the strong breeze from the sea dried the sweats on our bodies. The view was terrific, with blue sea and clear blue sky with scattered puffs of clouds and coconut trees swaying to the tune of the breeze. I could do with some lying-on-the-beach right now!
After refilling our water bottles and refueling with enough bananas to last another 2 hours’ ride, we continued our journey to our lunch and solat Jumaat break at Penarek. Everything was going fine until kilometer 88, when I heard a loud pop and then noises like bicycles hitting the tarmac. The leader slowed down and brought the pack to a halt on the roadside. 200 meters away we could see bicycles and people on the ground but we couldn’t quit make out who was involved in the crash. Sharef came to where we were standing with our bikes and said, “AJ’s injured in the crash!” A few of us cycled back to the crash site to see what’s going on. I wanted to follow suit but by then, there were a lot of cars on the road as the marshals have allowed the cars to overtake the convoy, making it difficult and dangerous to cycle back to see the commotion.
Somehow, En Ahmad Jauhari felt unconscious on his bike and landed on the tarmac. Some cyclists were unable to avoid him and his bike and crashed on the tarmac, too. The ambulance and medics rushed to the site and tended to those involved. They put En Ahmad Jauhari on a stretcher and put him in the ambulance. A few minutes later, he regained his conscious in the ambulance. Luckily his injuries were not critical, only some road rash on his face, arms and legs.
The lunch break at Penarek was a good time for a few cyclists to get some shut eye before continuing another 60km later. The wind has already picked up speed and the peloton couldn’t afford to break. Any breaks between the riders would let the wind through and force the riders to cycle harder to fight the headwind and side wind. The sun showed no mercy on us, too. The peloton was going at 28km/h and soon, we entered the town of Kuala Terengganu. The riders were eager to finish the ride and picked up speed to arrive sooner to our abode for the night.
Suddenly, a clanging noise was heard and there was a void in the middle of the peloton. Another crash had happened at only 2 kilometers more to go. Someone had dropped his bottle and probably while trying to avoid hitting the bottle, some cyclists swerved and hit the others’ back wheels, thus causing the crash. Ah, not again. Luckily no one was seriously injured and able to continue the remaining 2 km to finally arrive at Sumai Apartments in Kuala Terengganu.
A dinner followed by mock cheque presentation to charity homes was held that night. Representatives from charity homes were present to accept the cheque, followed by a photo opportunity with the cyclists. It was an honour to be able to cycle to meet the unfortunate people and give them some contribution to help with their day-to-day expenses and I bet this feel-good factor was also felt by the cyclists who were there that day.
Second day was the daunting 190km rolling route, dubbed “Rolling Day”. And it was indeed a rolling rollercoaster ride. The inclines were long and the downhill was swift. I tried to be in the front pack to avoid being left behind. En Ahmad Jauhari has recuperated and was ready to lead the pack with Saiful that morning. His road rash was prominent on his right cheek but there was nothing that this steely MD/CEO can’t handle. The first stop quickly followed and we were served the local kuihs that were quickly taken up by the hungry cyclists. Me? I just stick to 4 bananas and plenty of water and isotonic. I didn’t dare to take the kuihs as I was afraid that it will upset my tummy, and that would be the end of my ride that day.
The rolling route took its toll on a lot of cyclists. Coupled with the merciless sun, many decided that enough was enough after the lunch stop. Looking at the feedback from cyclists and the weather that day, we were thankful that they have decided to remove a 20km de tour that would have led us to a 750m climb and climbing at 2pm in the hot sun for some people might mean pushing the bike up the climb instead of pedaling the bike to the top! Haha!
At 4pm, we finally arrived at our next destination – Tanah Merah. The cyclists were taken to their respective accommodations as there were limited places to stay in Tanah Merah and the accommodations were scattered around town.
The route was flat and took us through the villages with narrow roads. Herds of cows were everywhere and we had to slow down whenever we saw them as any element of surprise will shock the cows and they might go havoc and run into us. I heard the marshals said over the walkie-talkie, “Be careful, elephants in front. And also a lot of landmines on the road.” In my mind, I thought, “WHAT? You’re not supposed to take us to a dangerous place with landmines! We might get killed!” And then it clicked, hey, the landmine is the marshal’s way of telling that there are cow dungs on the road! Haha, silly me!
After lunch, as the day got hotter, so did the pace of the peloton. Everyone was eager to finish fast and in the excitement to complete the final day, the leaders pulled the pack a little bit too fast. My meter said 28, then 30, then 33km/h! I was huffing and puffing like mad. That’s it. I gotta put an end to this madness. “Hey, slow down, tak larat!” Saiful the leader responded by slowing down the pace. Thank god!
We had a long stop at Esso, somewhere near to Kota Bharu. A few cyclists went into the kiosk to sit in the air-conditioned room. Rozaimi the marshal lied down on the floor in the kiosk to have some shut eye before continuing his task of clearing the road for our journey. Some cyclists were seen taking the water hose and drenching themselves to recover from the merciless heat.
Another 40-plus kilos to go, I told myself. We took off again in high spirits, knowing that the end is near. We were told that the final kilometers were going to be split into two 20km. By my calculation, this would be about almost 1 hour of riding each. My meter showed 20km has passed, but the stop was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly Shahril, in the Prado, showed a red flag, that was a signal for sprint zone. As soon as the flag was dropped, the cyclists sprinted against each other along the long stretch on road.
Well, actually, he wasn’t signaling a sprint zone but only to tell that the road in front was a little bumpy and beware of potholes! I peeked to see if there was Yusof in the middle of the road with his yellow flag to show us to our feeding station but he was nowhere to be seen. Ah, we were duped! Actually there weren’t any sprint zones and the sudden spur of energy was wasted just like that. The ride continued for another 10km and many of us were holding on to our dear lives. Hot, tired but what I can’t stand most of all was the anticipation of where the next stop would be! Ah, the suspense!
We finally arrived to our last regroup at a police station before entering Kota Bharu town. Another 12km to go. A measly 12km that would be easy peasy if we were riding at 8 in the morning. After 100-plus km, coupled with the hot sun and tired and aching body, 12km of riding was not funny anymore. So they decided to let everyone have enough rest and drinks before continuing the final leg.
The final 12km was done at 20km/h. I knew Saiful wanted to lead the pack at least 25km/h but Shahril’s marshal car would not allow it. The finish was done in style and the camaraderie was amazing. We waved, we made noise, we joked, we sprayed 100 Plus at each other. The locals must have thought that we were crazy but we didn’t give a hoot. At last, Alhamdulillah, we finally arrived at Sutera Inn in high spirits. There were smiles on everyone’s faces, especially the riders, who went through 530km of pain in the last 3 days.
That was the end of the 5th Annual Malakoff Charity Ride. An event that has thought us the meaning of pain and perseverance, friendship, and the importance of adequate mental and physical preparation. It was a time of reflection for some, a moment to remember those who are less fortunate than us, and to appreciate what we have given in life. This year, we managed to collect RM152,500 and the donation was distributed to 9 beneficiaries: Kelantan 1) The National Autism Society Malaysia (NASOM) 2) Pusat Rawatan Dialisis Yayasan Buah Pinggang Kebangsaan Malaysia (NKF) 3) Madrasah Tahfiz Darul Islah 4) Baitul Taubah 5) Pusat Jagaan Harian Warga Emas Kemumin 6) Majlis Pemulihan Negeri Kelantan Terengganu 7) Persatuan Sindrom Down Terengganu 8) Pusat Rawatan Dialisis Islah 9) Pusat Tahfiz Ribath Pulau Manis May God bless those who have come forward with donations for this worthy cause which is a unique marriage of community service and sports that has entered its 5th year:
Allianze General Insurance CIMB group Sterling Insurance
Alstom Power Bank Rakyat Gas Malaysia
Global E-Technic GP Mech Engineering Ranhill Powertron
Acomech Engineering Integrated Services Lafarge Malaysian Cement
Sime Darby Energy (PDP)
Port of Tanjung Pelepas
Al-Rajhi Bank Algotech Frudenberg Fitration Technologies KG
MCIE Mitsui & Co (Asia Pasific)
Sumi-Power Malaysia TOS Energy
Bank Muamalat Fichtner GmbH & Co KG Tyden Engineering
Alpha Maxtech Engineering Aras Marine Services
Landak International Services Mozzaz Venture
Nur Afar Perkhidmatan Kren Chew Petronas Gas Segaritec Enterprise
Tenaga Tiub Wai Soon
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Insastech JIS Electrical & Engineering