Tour de Bintan: Robertson and Florizoone take the titles

Tour de Bintan: Robertson and Florizoone take the titles

Tour de Bintan 2012

Prologue changes dynamic of race as Robertson and Florizoone take the titles

Words by Jack McPherson

All photos copyrights of Richard Leong, Relish design+photography.

All photos copyrights of Richard Leong, Relish design+photography.

Colin Robertson, one of East Asia’s powerhouse amateur cyclists, finally added the Tour de Bintan to his palmares when the rider won the 2012 edition of the race on the tropical Indonesian island last week. Veronique Florizoone of Anza Cycling took the women’s title on the back of a dominating victory in the Saxo Prologue, which allowed her to ride the rest of the race with relative ease.

The introduction to this year’s race of the Saxo Prologue, a 12km individual time trial, proved to be decisive as two of the three overall race champions who raced the ITT won their respective prologues, Robertson being the exception, but even he finished second in the opener.

The winner of the Saxo Prologue was Tjarco Cuppens of Team Fuji Asia Singapore, his time of 16:26 giving him a full 20-second gap on Robertson going into Saturday’s Stage 1. Third place went to Dave Christenson who was only a few tenths of second behind his teammate Robertson.

Behind Florizoone in the women’s race were Christina Liew and Joyriders Racing Team’s Wendy Yap. Hamish Murchison of Thug Life was the Cat 2 Prologue champ, his blistering time of 17:01 would have been good enough for fifth spot in Cat 1. Bastian Dohling, riding in the colours of the Confero Mavericks, was the Cat 2 runner up, with Euan MacKay third.

For such a short race, the time gaps in the Prologue were significant, first to 20th place in Cat 1 being separated by 90 seconds. This changed the dynamic of the team tactics for the remainder of the race as getting into any decisive break on Stage 1 might not be enough to build a victory on, as had been the case in previous editions of the Tour de Bintan.

The weather gods smiled kindly on the field as the riders gathered in the township of Simpang Lagoi for the traditional start to Stage 1, a 150km journey through the north and east of Bintan over mostly rolling roads. The pace was brutal from the off in the Cat 1 race and it stayed that way for the next few hours. After just 25km, riders began to be spat out the back of the peloton as the race entered the infamous “Red Road to Hell”.

Non-stop attacks were launched, with the Cannasia, Specialized Knykyny, Confero Mavericks and Anza teams all trying their hardest to get men away. Some got further up the road than others, but Fuji and DirectAsia were controlling the race well and all attacks proved futile. Then, with less than 30km to go, Robertson shot off the front and only Fuji’s Peter Hope, who was in fourth spot after the prologue, could follow the big Scotsman. They quickly built a solid lead as their respective teams slowed things a bit on the front of the bunch. Seeking to take advantage of this, two Confero Maverick riders, Richard Paine and Alan Grant, launched an opportunistic attack and set off in pursuit of the leaders. Being well down on the GC rankings, DirectAsia and Fuji let them go and with the roads now winding, perfect terrain for breakaways, they were quickly out of sight. They eventually bridged to the front pair and the Scottish-Australian foursome built a lead which extended to 90 seconds at its biggest point as the rain that had been threatening for a while finally unleashed itself. Hope and Robertson launched one final attack inside the final kilometre which the two Maverick riders couldn’t follow. The Fuji man took the stage win and 10 valuable bonus seconds, with Paine allowing his teammate Grant to roll over the line for third behind Robertson.

The chasing group came in 58 seconds behind Hope, which resulted in a shake up at the top of the rankings. Roberston took the yellow jersey and led the young Australian by 8 seconds, with Cuppens 46 seconds back in third. The race now looked like a two-horse contest. As an indicator of how fast the pace was, the winners averaged 39kph for the 150km and went nearly six minutes quicker than the lead bunch in 2011.

In the women’s contest, Stage 1 was raced over a shortened 134km course this year, and a small group of seven containing all the main players separated themselves from the bunch. It came down to a sprint at the end with Serene Lee of DB2 BikeLabz outkicking Florizoone, with Yap again taking third. With Liew just behind, there was no change in the women’s GC standings.

The huge Cat 2 entry had been whittled down to a still large 110 after the Prologue. But with a strong field, including several Cat 1 riders from previous years, the race was a war of attrition and the lead bunch contained only 32 riders as they approached the finish in the driving rain. A sprint full of big, strong specialists ensued, with Daan Kegel of the 4T2 claiming the victory from 2011 overall champ Kelly Davey of Revsin. The yellow jersey of Murchison took third.

The Cat 3 race saw a breakaway of eight riders reach the finish some five minutes ahead of the next bunch, with Andri Prawata of the KGB team winning the sprint ahead of the Balanced Living pair of Scott Kuegler and Sean Donovan.

Sunday’s Stages 2 and 3 started and finished from race headquarters at the beautiful Nirwana Gardens resort complex. To pack two stages into a busy morning, the Cat 1 riders had an early start, rolling off the line for Stage 2 at 6:50am. Things weren’t much different from Stage 1, with the speed immediately into overdrive after the commissaries dropped the flag. It stayed fast and furious over the hilly first 15km to “Checkpoint Charlie” and beyond, until a decent-sized group driven initially by three Cannasia riders got away. A second smaller group set off in pursuit and with all the major teams represented, except crucially for Fuji, the peloton settled down to a coffee-shop ride type of pace as nobody seemed willing to chase. It wasn’t until the bunch was given a time gap of 3 minutes 10 seconds with 40 seconds to go that Fuji decided it had to chase. DirectAsia too realized then that it too had made a miscalculation; with two top 10 riders in the now combined breakaway they initially hadn’t chased as they thought either of those two riders, Adam Taylor-Campbell or Jason Baran, would take over the yellow jersey if the break succeeded. However, Pierre-Alain Scherwey of Anza was among the escapees and sitting sixth on GC and it was he who was in the virtual yellow jersey.

The speed went from chatting to bone-rattling pace within seconds and stayed that way until, with about 8km to go, a first sight of the breakaway was made. It seemed inevitable they’d be reeled in, but a combination of DirectAsia taking their feet off the gas (no doubt happy to let the break win the stage thus denying Hope any chance of bonus seconds in the sprint) and some of the breakaway riders digging deep into their wells of reserves, the escape succeeded, although not intact. Only six brave men lasted until the end, as one by one, single riders were swallowed up by the bunch in the final two kilometres. The Tour de Bintan 2011 overall champion, Heksa Prasetya of the ISSI Tanjungpinang team, won the sprint for a deserved stage win, ahead of the Anza Cycling pair of Scherway and James Guardino. The chasing bunch screamed over the line some 20 seconds behind the winner.

The results saw no change in the top three overall, although there were some adjustments within the top 10.

The women’s race ended in a win for DB2 Bike Labz’s Lee as a group of 11 ladies made the final selection this time. Liew took second place, with the yellow jersey of Florizoone easily maintaining her overall lead after finishing third.

In Cat 2, despite a few efforts by the Confero Mavericks to get their second-placed man Dohling away, the race ended in a field sprint again, with a 46-strong bunch coming over the line together. Mohamed Fadzli Bin Hayof of the Bike 360 Racing snagged the win, with that man Kegel closely behind in second. Third place went to Roberto Uy from Colossi CC. There was no change in the GC, with Murchison first, Dohling second and MacKay third.

A big Cat 3 bunch also entered the classic 2km Nirwana Gardens finish but it fragmented a bit on the final stretch where Andry Tjahya Indra prevailed for the win ahead of KGB’s Prawata and Dai Matsui of Japan.

Just two hours after ending Stage 2, the Cat 1 riders lined up for the traditional finish to the Tour de Bintan, a 38km dash around the Bintan Triathlon bike course. With such a short distance and a mostly flat parcours, sprint finishes featuring the full field are common for Stage 3 but that doesn’t stop suicide breaks from having a go. This year it was the Specialized Kynkyny team from India who sent one man after another off the front,but inevitably the field came back together for the run in. The infamous cobbled roundabout at the Nirwana entrance caused a few wobbles but it came down to another frantic dash for the line, with Prasetya claiming his second stage win of the day. Cuppens was second ahead of Evan Quek of New Moon Khycycle.

Robertson finished safely in the bunch to keep his yellow jersey and claim the title of Tour de Bintan champion for 2012. Fuji took second and third through Hope and Cuppens but must have been left thinking “what if?” Robertson’s victory came with a prize of S$2,000 to share with his teammates who put in a dominant performance that saw them deservedly win the team prize from the Confero Mavericks in second and Anza Cycling in third.

Cat 2 saw another big bunch finish with Kegel claiming his second stage win of the race. Colossi’s Uy went one better than in the morning’s Stage 2, taking second place with Soren Jepsen representing Sitecore Singapore finishing third. Kegel’s accumulative total of 26 bonus seconds wasn’t enough to steal the overall GC victory from Murchison, whose blistering prologue time made all the difference. Kegel did move into second place overall, pipping Confero Mavericks’ Dohling by one second.

The women’s race for Stage 3 looked like being a bunch sprint finish too but Megan Kinder of Anza and Kerry Izzo shot to the front from the cobbles and working together managed to hold off the field, with Kinder taking the stage win. Lee rounded out the top three. Florizoone’s overall win was never in doubt and the Anza women proudly took the final yellow jersey and the top prize of S$1,000. Liew, the 2011 winner, finished 24 seconds back in second place, with Lee rounding out the final podium in third.

The Joyriders Racing Team took the women’s team prize from the runners-up Anza.

A huge Cat 3 field bunch of over 60 riders stayed together for the finish and we had another multiple winner in the shape of Prawata. Matsui came second, with Donovan third.

Prawata’s two stage wins and one second place gave him a comfortable GC victory from his fellow Indonesian Indra in second. Balanced Living’s Donovan took third place on GC.

The Cat 2 team prize was a close run thing, with the Confero Mavericks just doing enough to pip Revsin by 13 seconds. Colossi finished third.

Balanced Living took the Cat 3 team prize from MetaSport and Anza.

The Tour de Bintan also offers intermediate King of the Mountain and Sprint Ace prizes in each stage, awarding 15, 10 and 5 points for the first three riders over the line for each contest.

Prasetya of ISSI Tanjungpinang took the Cat 1 KOM prize, only moving to the front of the contest with his second place on the final sprint. The DirectAsia duo of Michael Maiers and David McIntosh finished second and third respectively.

Prasetya also won the sprinter’s green jersey title but in a much more dominating style. But for a poor Prologue, he surely would have been a contender for the overall GC. Fuji’s Cuppens was second sprinter with Specialized Kynkyny’s Naveen John in third.

The ladies leading sprinter was Yap of Joyriders from Lee and Liew. Lee made up for losing the green jersey by claiming the Queen of the Mountains title from Liew and Florizoone.

The Cat 2 KOM title went to Colossi’s Uy, from Chanmakra Hong of Team Cambodia and Nick Swallow of the DirectAsia Blackhawk team. Powerhouse sprinter Kegel of 4T2 ran away with the green jersey from Uy and Colin Pearson of Revsin.

In Cat 3, Andry took the sprinters title from Prawata and Ahmad Yani. Yani fared better in the KOM competition, taking the climber’s polka dot jersey from Jean Eichakaer and Prawata.

In addition to the four main categories of the 2012 Tour de Bintan, hundreds of other riders took part in the non-competitive Grand Fondo. Many completed all three stages, while others were happy to complete one or two stages. For some, Stage 1’s 150km was their longest and most challenging ride to date.  It’s certain that some of those Grand Fondo riders will feel motivated by their experience and move up to the competitive divisions next year.

The Tour de Bintan has grown from a test event in 2009 to one of Asia’s leading amateur stage races in four short years. With this year’s race another resounding success for the MetaSport team, the 2013 Tour de Bintan is set to be even bigger and better.

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