Men, by nature, are competitive creatures. In many ways we’ve barely evolved from the days when we hunted our dinner and cooked the poor unassuming animal on a fire that we’d slavishly lit using a couple of chunks of flint.
But what happens when your mind still wants to compete, but the years have mounted up and the injuries have taken their toll on a body ravished by rugby scrums and two-footed tackles on a football pitch? The answer, according to recent scientific research, is to take up cycling.
Apparently, it’s possible to keep improving as a cyclist until the age of… wait for it… 52. Obviously you’re not going to emulate Bradley Wiggins at such a ripe old age, but the thought of being competitive after bringing up your half century is music to our ears here at EX, where we all thought we were approaching our own personal sporting icebergs while standing on the deck of the Titanic.
Chris Lloyd, from Lloyd Marine Yacht Charters, is one such chap who’s made the seamless transition from rugby pitch to cycling saddle, and he recently completed the inaugural Cycosports bike race on the Indonesian island of Batam; a gruelling 120km slog along the Six Bridges Road in scorching-hot temperatures. Despite dragging contestants to their physical limits, the event proved to be overwhelmingly popular.
“It was incredibly well run from start to finish,” remarks Chris. “We had to meet and register for the race at 5.30am down at Harbour Front, so it was a very early start. Two ferries had been specifically chartered for the race, so the organisation was fantastic. Customs met us at the other end, where we had a special queue. Considering it was the first ever Batam race, everything ran incredibly smoothly.”
The race began at 9am, but there’s more to competitive cycling than just hopping on your bike and peddling as fast as you can. Preparation is everything. “You need to be fully prepared and to be a strong cyclist in order to finish the ride,” he adds.
“I’d describe myself as a keen, rather than competitive cyclist, so I was in Category Three. Category One is the top level. But at any level you need to carry all your nutrients; electrolytes in water bottles, salt tablets to prevent cramping and powergels which you take every 45 minutes to an hour. Your back pockets are stuffed full. The organisers also provided water support – guys on motorbikes pulling up beside you and handing you fresh bottles. It was like a professional race.
“The course was beautiful; it’s by the sea all the way so it made a nice change to what we’re used to in Singapore. But it was very undulating with a series of sharp hills that really split the group. Cycling is all about grafting and working together, so if you lose touch with a peloton then it’s very tough and a very lonely place to be. Especially as the heat was unrelenting – we were all praying for rain but none came.
“I fell away at one point and the feeling of despair was almost tangible! Luckily, I soon linked up with another peloton and my pace picked up again. You’re averaging 37 to 38kph up and down hills in the peloton, but you’re lucky to average 32kph when you’re on your own. In a peloton, you become a pack and bring each other home.
“I finished 20th in my category in four hours and 22 minutes, which I was delighted with. The winning time was around three and a half hours – those guys at the top end of Category One are serious riders.
“Despite the saddle-sore, it was a great day. We had a party at the Golden Fish restaurant by the sea afterwards, then we were bussed to the ferry and were home to our families by about 7pm. It was a fantastic day.”
Chris’s tips for cycling newcomers
Get a decent road bike. Not a mountain bike or a hybrid bike, it has to be specific road bike.
The bike has to fit properly, so go to a shop for a fitting.
Start going out on the road, having steady runs and build it up. If it’s for you, then join a cycling group. It’s much easier to ride together as like-minded individuals.
Wear the right clothes. Padded Lycra shorts are essential when you’re in the saddle for a long time. Lycra is quick drying so you cool down straight away.
After a long ride, rehydrate with water and electrolytes and eat something soon after – even just a banana.