Friday, July 21, 2000

THE EXTREME TOUR OF REJANG (ETOR)2000 - Stage 4, Kanowit to Sibu

Fri 21st July - Despite the late start on the last day of the ride, the routine of the previous days had established a set wake-up routine for us. The thought of a relatively easy 50km ride to Sibu had everyone in extremely cheerful spirit that morning. The plan was to start our journey from Kanowit town itself.

Packed into a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup, 7 bikes and riders and a driver, we flout every rules in the book to get transferred to the town from the timber camp. With no record at stake, the extra 20-km let off was the only luxury for our battered body.

That's 7 riders/ bikes and a driver versus a pickup truck
We left the great hospitality of the people of Camp Mapai, with four of us in the back of the pickup courting danger of a different kind. Hanging to anything, we were bounced and wind blown all the way to the river crossing at Sedaya Secondary School. I reminisced the battle I had with mud, cramp and heat along this stretch of the road last year, which by now is fully tarred. This probably explained why we weren't too eager to ride this section of the tour.

The sun seemed to know that we needed some challenge to compensate for the flat terrain we would be riding through. The temperature rose, fittingly in the same manner as the opening stage of the tour. A short bike tour of Kanowit town and a wonderful lunch of low fat grilled chicken and rice, the team (including the support crew) headed for the fire road that would take us to the mid-way point, the town of Durin.

Riding roadie style, we were making good time. The sun was fierce and the dust were there but without the aid of much traffic they could only throw their occasional flimsy veil at us.
A small incline came into sight and Malcolm went, "Hills!" and that was the only excitement until we reached the town of Durin for a break; to time our arrival into Sibu and to do a phone-in to the local radio station for our daily report.

There were now about 20-km of riding to do, through a country side aptly described by Glen as , 'a picturesque rush'.

In front of a typical farm house in the area

The combination of cement footpath, pre-war farm houses, durian orchards and plenty of canopy cover transported us into a world, refreshing to most of us, hardened by the single tracks and technical terrains typical of Ibans and Bidayuhs (Sarawak natives) country. The well-worn path with the occasional dips, the surreal feeling of deserted farm houses, the quiet lay back ambience of the area left an indelible mark in each one of us. If ever there was a need for us to be reminded of the recreational aspect of mountain biking than this place had been successful.

Typical of the cement path and shade along this stretch of the ride
After what seemed like an endless cement path ride, it finally ended at a fire road for a butt- jarring ride to the ferry point. The FSR was worth its weight in gold as it glided effortlessly over the gravelly terrain.

The internal combustion engines of some were running on hot when I decided to increase the pace after realising that we were behind schedule. We separated and re-grouped on several occasions. 'Glen, I don't want to see you!' as I cast my eyes to the rear helping him to take advantage of my draft. The rest followed in Glen's wake. My familiarity of the area told me that the pace had to be maintained for the 4pm welcoming ceremony.

"Big job, well done" says the advertisement slogan

The elations were understandably uninhibited as we rolled into the ferry point one after the other. Bear hugs, warm hand-shakes, back slapping and smiles made their rounds on board the ferry as I called Eddy Puah, the Bureau Chief of Sarawak Tribune, Central region, of our pending arrival at Tanahmas Hotel.

After 4 days, 200 km, we arrived at Tanahmas Hotel, Sibu at 4:07pm to a warm welcome by En. Daniel Ngieng, The Political Secretary to The Chief Minister, The Assistant Secretary of Sibu Municipal Council, Mr. Hii Chang Kee, friends and supporters.

Hip hip hurray!

May the Tour lives on.................and thank God for answered prayers and journey safety.

Thursday, July 20, 2000

THE EXTREME TOUR OF REJANG (ETOR)2000 - Stage 3, Song to Kanowit Epic Ride

Thurs 20th July - As we continued our stevedoring saga, this time from the jetty up to the Camp Iran's office, we thought the place was a little too quiet for comfort. Where was the pre-arranged 4X4 for the longest ride of the tour? "The Camp Manager has gone back to Sibu and the foreman is in a transit camp deep in the forest" offered the canteen operator, much to our consternation. We were annoyed and thinking hard at the same time. A logging camp was not a place where transportation could be at your beck and call. To compound to the anxiety, we received a call from Sibu that our transport from Kanowit to Sibu had been 'snatched' fro

A quick change of plan. Take all the food and emergency repair supplies and tools for a 5-hour ride max. By then, hopefully, the support crew would have met us head-on coming from Camp Mapai's side; provided that they were not hampered by land-slides which were quite common in an abandoned logging trail. All told, it was not a good start to the longest stage of ETOR 2000.

But it had been a pleasant experience at breakfast table earlier in Song. There in the coffee shop where we had breakfast, was black leather bound chair that had the team doing the "musical chair" . It was a mechanical massage contraption that had rollers going up and down one's back in varying patterns of massaging techniques. Three minutes of bliss! Ah..........and fuelled up with the usual Popeye's stuff, the comforting thought of a cooler day and no dust to contend with, we were in high spirit.

Watched on by a group of bemused camp workers, the team with each rider heavier in weight, set off with a quiet confidence that we still had each other to depend on. The pace was slow having the learnt the lesson of the first day. Yes, the climbs confronted us almost immediately but fortunately they were more gentle. As usual Malcolm was in his element, taking to his flight of fancy, leaving the rest to keep each other company.

The weather was a contrast to the first day's ride. The temperature was probably in the 30's but cooler in the shade. The road condition so far had been as expected; free of dust, hard and fast.
As the hours went by, the continuous climbs began to sap the strength of the riders. The elevation of the logging roads going into the hinterland are characteristically steeper in climbs and shorter in descents. I could hear the hard breathing of Liu as Glen, Fui and I kept pace with him and with each other. Liu had performed admirably so far for a 51-year old. However yesterday's ride at the Communist Trail had taken a big toll on his body.

The breathtaking scenery at the second highest peak in the region. That's Liu snuggling up to Glen......

It was moment like this when group dynamics came into play. Glen, Fui and myself took turns pushing Liu's bike up the countless climbs. Not to sound like superman, some of the climbs were unrideable for us. And I was still carrying the flu and over-exertion would only force mucous further down into the lungs.

"Walking up is just as hard", complained Liu between sips of water from his camelback. He was referring to the two monster climbs with one peaking at 2,200ft

"This is the 4.30 pm road", observed Glen on the seemingly hastily cut incline on an already long climb. Fui and I thought the view was a reward for all the hard work. All of us had lunch on top of the second highest point in the region; the best panoramic view ever in our gastronomic experience. Lunch consisted of a sachet of Power Bar gel, kong piahs (yes!) and beef jerky to hold the food in our system.

Soon we turned left into an abandoned stretch of logging road, the link to another logging road which would take us to our destination; Camp Mapai. Deep in my heart I was hoping that we did not have to suffer the nightmarish muddy slog that I went through last year. It had rained for two days in the area. My confidence soon soared as the trail surface maintained its dignity. Yeah...we were going to make good time.

The beauty of the region still had the same enthralling effect on me; the deep valleys where virgin forest had stood for centuries, the pleasing sight of the blue hue in the atmosphere as a result of oil emitted by millions of leaves, cool and refreshing oxygen laden air and great company, ...this time marvel together.

A picture paints a thousand words............

As we were negotiating a technical descent, I suddenly caught sight of two figures on the slope of the next hill. "Support!, support!...", I exclaimed. It was Daron and Eunice. Their support truck had been impeded by a land slide. They had walked ahead waiting for photo shooting opportunities. It was fortunate that the meeting point wasn't any further away. Relieved and none more so than Liu who wisely made the decision to travel with the support truck until he was fully recovered. Glenn limped into the support area with a broken chain. Fui was taking it all along in his stride.

There were still about six hours to go according to our estimate. Refueled, recovered, chain fixed and with the reassurance of a backup, the remaining 4 of us set off increasing the pace a little bit. Roadrunner (Malcolm) was with us for while until Glen felt the strain of keeping with the pace setting in. Mind you, to have come this far was already an amazing feat considering the amount of preparation he took. His body was sore especially the muscles around the scapula region. An impromptu massage temporarily relieved the sting.

The climbs and descents along this stretch were technical. There was one which was about 2-km long and it was basically putting one foot over the other. Mud was still present in sections where water could not drain off. The mud was thick and sticky enough to adhere itself all over our bikes and annoyingly in the clipless pedal. Fortunately there were few.

"Stop, Illegal immigrant check!", shouted Daron, as he playfully flagged us down. He wanted to show us the local version of Viagra known as 'Tongkat Ali". Wow, wonder if it were any good for cyclists. If the resilient nature of the plant were any indication, then its reputation was justified. The leaves were as tough as Dupont material and the plant near impossible to uproot. Consider this, the plant we encountered could not be persuaded to leave its home when some timber workers had earlier tried to use a 4X4 to pull it out , with a rope tied around the 1-inch circumference trunk.

What about the deer and the monkey? Daron would later recount the story , how he first saw a Kijang (local word for deer) and had wanted Eunice to film the animal. Unaware of the National Geographic instinct of Eunice, Malcolm sent the deer scuttling as he came hurtling round the corner.

The Macaque monkey that ran across my path was a change from the majestic rhinocerous hornbill I saw last year. It must have been a male judging by the size of it as it scampered into the bush. This is in the wild remember....hence the excitement.

Not all were hard work though.......this was about a 60km/h km-long descent. Definitely FSR country!

The weather has grown to be quite hot now as we rode into the lower topography of the region. We were regularly sucking Replace from our camelback to keep the electrolytes level up and the cramps away. The support truck kept us reassured and replenished. The white towel wrapped around our neck provided additional cooling mechanism. It kept the sun off the back of our neck and the dampness of it kept the heat at bay.

It is always a good feeling when one has reached a certain point of a journey as one is able to gauge the possibilities. For us that feeling was felt when we left the link trail for the home stretch to Camp Mapai. As is the characteristic of logging roads, there were now longer descents and shorter climbs. The speed was gnarly to say the least, and thrilling to boost. Attempts by Glen to use the speed as inertia for the climbs worked occasionally but he would discover that nothing beat technique. The smooth surface of the rolling terrain was like one giant roller-coaster. With wind howling in our ears and the upper body staying as loose as possible, we were having the ride of our life time. Fui would not quite agree to this however.

7 hours, 8 hours..........passed by. Liu rejoined Malcolm ahead as Glen, Fui and myself brought up the rear. The old soldier in Glen prodded him on. He was seemingly on survival mode as he tackled the climbs admirably. There were still no let-up in climbs. "You guys go ahead", offered Glen as he realised that his pace was slowing us down. I refused. It was just not in the spirit of the tour. Fui and I were to become his de-facto body guards till the end of this stage.

"We are almost there!", I shouted out. The familiar terrain sent a feeling of relief. after 9 hours into the ride. In a way I was glad that we did not have ride all the way to Kanowit town, my destination last year. It would have taken another 2 hours at least. Braking gingerly, we rolled downhill to cross a public road junction to enter the last stretch of the logging road to Camp Mapai. Our elations dampened the dusty condition for we knew that we had gained the respect of Mother (Father) Nature.

74km and 10 hours; we looked at one another too caught up in our introspections of what had been.

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

THE EXTREME TOUR OF REJANG (ETOR)2000 - Stage 2, Song - Communist Trail

Wed 19th July - Everyone seemed jovial and in high spirit at the breakfast tables of the little Hua Kee coffee shop in Kapit. We were probably their single largest paying customer in a long time as we gobbled up in true mountain bikers tradition, the noodles, hard boiled eggs and an assortment of beverages spiked with protein powder; and including the usual morning 'doping' rituals of vitamin supplements and iron capsules. I still needed my anti-histamines.

As we boarded the express boat for Song under the bright early morning sun, I guessed all of us had this quite sense of relief that today's stage would be like our normal Sunday ride along the single tracks of Kuching; shaded, relatively technical and middle chain ring experience.

It was Hollywood this time as 'Gladiators' kept some of us , especially Glenn, entertained during the one-hour journey to Song. "This is the fifth time I have seen this movie", he enthused. Perhaps he could relate to the gladiators.

With folks of Rumah Rawing, the entry point to the 'Communist Trail'. In the background is the mighty Rajang River which is 350 miles long; what it lacks in length to the Amazon River, it makes up in the volume of water discharged into the South China Sea.

After a quick check-in into the well-maintained Song Government Rest House, we were transferred to Rumah Rawing; about 25 speedboat minutes away. The place was bustling with expectations and excitement as we climbed up the long steps to be greeted by the headman and his entourage.

Thankfully we were spared the traditional welcoming ceremony ( where a pig is speared before visitors enter the longhouse). Glenn would probably have been eager to do so after watching 'Gladiators'. (Sorry, Glenn, picking on you again.) Instead the entourage was given a traditionally tour of the longhouse (43-room long); from one end to the other accompanied by the sound of gongs and drums. Malcolm and I playfully broke into a nagjat (Iban form of dancing) every now and then to liven up the atmosphere. We, however, got the real thing when an elder (the guy with the jacket and tie in the photo) strut his stuff worthy of a ballerina.

But, why is it called the 'Communist Trail'? Tuai Rumah (the headman) of Rumah Rawing had this to say, " During the communist insurgency, the locals needed a route to escape from the clutches of the enemies. And so this trail was cut deep into the jungle, carved over and round hills; and rugged terrain". There may be some truth in the story. As the longboat is the main mode of transport for the Ibans, it doesn't make much sense to cut a trail this long (15km) just to serve a longhouse (Rumah Sari) with no farming activities in between. Whatever it is, the trail provided the team a change of scenery from the previous day hot and dusty environment.

The calm before the storm as the riders provided the folks some diversions from their normal rustic lifestyle.

Eunice and Daron joined us as we cycled single file to the trail head, invoking ripples of greetings, laughters, giggles and curiousity from the locals in our wake. A few minutes into the trail, Daron remarked, "This is just like the the Singai trail back home in Kuching". The rest agreed in similar fashion as conversations flowed freely. Yes, a recovery ride it would be, with smiles all round.

As the hot midday sun struggled to cast its heat through the leaves, you would have swore there were smirks on our face. The riders began to feel at home. Roots, a mixture of short gentle and steep inclines with the occasional gullies and depressions, wooden bridges and tight single tracks were lapped up with glee. The two amazing guides assigned to us managed to keep up with us as a result of several stops for photo shoots. When you consider that it was a 3-hour walking journey to our destination, we were glad then to be on our saddle.

That's right folks, the drop that you see in the picture on the right is a sheer one and this is reflective of the type of single track found most of the way to Rumah Sari. In some sections, one wrong move will send you clinging to branches for your dear life!

About 4 km into the ride, we came to the only longhouse between Rumah Sari and Rumah Rawing; Rumah Saing which was to prove its usefulness later in the day. We were still in the right frame of mind for a photo shoot as a stream crossing flow across our path. With the midday sun casting a beam of light through an opening of the canopy directly onto the stream, there had to be a Kodak moment as well as a time to enjoy the coolness of the water.

As I surveyed the hike section on the opposite bank of the river, little did we know that we were soon to receive our baptism of fire. There was a sudden transformation of landscape as the trail became a footpath and the climbs became longer. Pushing and walking the bike was getting more regular. In some downhill sections, it was a stomach on the saddle experience and brake pads began to protest as they work overtime. "The terrain is so deceptive, the climb looks easy but the effort seemed herculean as the minutes ticked by" remarked Malcolm in disbelief as he checked his Polar HRM. Yes, the thick vegetation had camouflaged the severity of the elevation.

The attrition rate began to take its toll. " I could hear my heart throbbing in my ears" said Daron in between mouthful of breaths. Liu found the going tough. Fatigue and lapses in concentration began to set in for the rest of the team. The single track took its literal meaning for a slight off-balance would send you down a 200-foot drop. I took a fall on the wrong side of the track and fortunately the trees and branches saved me from my momentary lapse of concentration.

Wanting to make it back to Song in the early afternoon, we stepped up the pace a bit more and whatever recovery we were looking for vanished into the dense humid tropical rainforest. Soon the groups began to split up into three. Without the handicap of a pushing a bike the two guides caught up with the back marker. By then Eunice and Daron had decided that it was time to turn back. The two guides accompanied them. Fui waited for Liu while I went after Malcolm and Glenn.

The remaining riders eventually regrouped at the foot of a hill. With no line of sight of our destination and carrying the flu, I decided to join Liu to retrace our way back to Rumah Rawing. Malcolm, Glenn and Fui soldiered on. And unbeknown to us, our destination was just over that hill! It's amazing how our mind functions isn't it? Had our guides been with us, Liu and I would have enjoyed the hospitality of the folks of Rumah Sari. "They have heard of our coming over the radio and they have been expecting us" reported Malcolm later.

Another hazard, rickety old bridge.

The weather was so hot despite the shade that Liu and I had to wade into two streams to cool down our body. It brought immense relief to two overworked internal combustion engines. The orange that we brought along never tasted sweeter or juicier. The return journey was easier as there were more and longer descends. But we still have the same terrain to contend with. Liu took a tumble as he stepped into a void while trying to dismount at a difficult section. Fortunately his bike was okay! (him as well.)

Rumah Saing, the longhouse I mentioned earlier was to be our transit point on the return journey. Eunice and Daron had earlier been feted with cordial drinks and biscuits. Liu and I happily rolled into the compound of the longhouse with little water to spare. We were spent! I could feel my body's temperature rising as the flu bug took advantage of the chaos in my internal organs. Eunice handed me an Advil tablet which helped me to drift off into a light sleep. It proved beneficial.

I was awoken by the noise of Malcolm and Fui. But where was Glenn? "Oh, he is running with the bike", announced Malcolm. "A branch caught his rear derailleur and ripped it off its dropout and bending it in the process ", he added. Bad news! Hopefully we could find a saviour in Song.

We were simply glad to make it back to Rumah Sawing at four that afternoon, where our lunch had been waiting since....lunch time. We ravenously pumped food into our depleted body as the whole longhouse watched on. When asked why our high-tech bicycles could not outdo their 4-hour return walking time, we had to sheepishly replied that we had spent a lot of time taking photos. If the forest could talk.........

As our speedboat skimmed above the waters of the Rajang River back to Song, flashes of lightning streaked across the darkened sky. We knew that the ensuing rain would keep the dust away for the epic ride; Camp Iran to Camp Mapai.

The only mechanic in town turned out to be Glenn's saviour as his hydraulic press flattened the dropout into place. A quick transplant job was done to solve Fui's Judy's hairline fracture problem. Eunice became Fui's damsel to the rescue when her Judy XL temporarily gave him a peace of mind for the much awaited highlight of the tour; 10 hours, 70-km of climbs and descends averaging between 1,500-2,200ft.

What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, July 18, 2000

THE EXTREME TOUR OF REJANG (ETOR)2000 - Stage 1, Pelagus to Kapit

Tues 18th July - There had to be the ubiquitous flag-off albeit a ceremonial one. Michael Sawing did the honour against the backdrop of the early morning mist.

The team with Michael Sawing, the chief honcho of the Kapit Division and Mathew Ading, Manager of the Regency Pelagus Resort prior to the first stage of the tour.

Thereafter, the team was ferried to Camp Ecobay, about 10 minutes away, but not before going through the dreaded ritual of embarkation and disembarkation with all the luggage in tow. At least it provided some degree of warming up.

At Camp Ecobay, light breakfast was the classic instant noodles with eggs (still carbo and protein to the body) followed by the daily morning ritual of loading up with vitamin supplements and iron capsule. Michael had an extra dosage in the form of anti-histamine. His cold has taken a turn for the worse. On the contrary, Malcolm was ready to eat hills for breakfast. "Radicals were popping out of his head and green smoke emitting from his body", that's how Glenn would later put it, judging from a handful of vitamin tablets and capsules he shoved down his throat. Well, he is a big man! (6ft 1in)

Report from the camp manager that the logging road was choc-a- block full of inch thick dust got us to bring out our bandana to prepare for the inevitable. But we were all raring to go.

Bad move! Wham!........the hills hit you almost immediately before your internal combustion engine could fire smoothly. Trust Glenn to use his clipless pedal for the first time. And his heart and spirit did not seem to be on working terms that morning. Push he had to, up those 15-18% gradient hills. Practically everyone's heart rate were off the lactate threshold limit. But Malcolm seemed to lap up the climbs like a 6-year old would on his ice-cream stick. If he were feeling the pinch, he was not showing it. The 3-km first course of the day to the junction of the main logging road seemed hard to swallow. The sun gave a bit of respite but came back with a vengeance for the rest of the day.

It was now mid-morning and our camelback was working overtime. We were riding along a very busy section of the stage. The heavy traffic of logging and and coal mining trucks, combined with the drought in the region, we soon understood what the camp manager had earlier warned us about. Dust and dust storm! Imagine hundreds of thousand of talcum powder canisters being being emptied of its content along this stretch of the road - all 27 km of it. One wrong squeeze of the front brake and you would get a washout (Fui would say, ' Ouch') and the dust storm whipped up by the trucks blinded the riders.

It was an amazing sight to see those coal mine trucks tackle the hills under the hostile condition. First, you hear the roar of the 10,000 cc turbo-charged engine as it crawled its way to the crest of the hill and then an even louder roar as the driver gunned the 18-wheeler down the slope as if he were late for an appointment. During one of these performances, we happened to have a front on view of two trucks screaming down the slope. The trailer end would bob up and down, flex sideways as the driver fought the wheels to keep the juggernauts true on course. He had to! We were all too vulnerable!

All dusted up while fixing a puncture. Note the colour of the road.

30 km may seem short by any standard. But throw in the heat, dust and long climbs, the morning seemed long. In fact when noon came, we could still see volumes of dust rising in the distance, which indicated to us that base camp was nowhere near. Water was running low and food was kong piah and an apple each. In fact some of us had to share our water. Oh, the thought of a cold can of Coca-Cola tickling our throat started to dance in our head.

We had to get to Camp Tulle eventually and got there we did. 'Water!, water!', our body cried out even before we got off our saddle. It was unbearably hot - hot enough to adequately dry our jersey, gloves, shoes and socks in the 1 1/2 hour lunch stopover there. Lunch was noodles and eggs and flashbacks of the ride so far - 2 tyre punctures, fast and tricky descent, long granny climbs, dust storm, a hairline fracture just below the brake hanger on Fui's Judy XC, abrasions and bruises and stunt performance by the truckies.

The smiles were before the disembarkation Aman log pond.

The embarkation and disembarkation ritual again! I guessed we were all resigned to the fact by then. The transfer from Camp Tulle to Aman log pond 5 minutes away on the opposite bank of the river had to be done. And Glenn had to cause a little diversion as boat QSB 6069 had to turn around for him to fish his hat out of the river.

Another 10-km to go and we were soon joined by a group of local mountain biking enthusiasts. The ride was a breeze until the local mountain bikers decided to test how good we were. Ah...contrary to their early publicly stated intention of joining the team for a group ride, it turned out to be an impromptu race into Kapit. Daron, Liu and Malcolm were ready for them, however. Being less race smart, they fell for the decoy in Daron who tried to wear them out by attacking as soon as their intention were known. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Liu knew that they would have the reserve for the final stretch which included a hill climb. By the time the riders reached the hill, the local riders were a spent force including Daron naturally. And Malcolm and Liu ate them for tea! Michael, Eunice and Fui decided to have their tea at the 4.00pm reception while Glenn probably couldn't wait to have his when he inexplicably rode into Kapit alone ahead of his teammates who were timing their entry into the town for the start of the official group ride.

The Kapit Celebrations next..................and more photos of ride to come..............

Sunday, July 16, 2000


16th July, 8.43pm - Its 'hammer time' literally. After a 6 1/2hour drive from Kuching to Sibu and an hour shaking the cob-webs off the legs around the outskirts of Sibu, the Etor team is in Hai Bing Seafood Restaurant for the much anticipated house specialty, 'Black Pepper Crab'. What is most amusing about this dinning experience is the use of real hammer for the job of breaking the shell of the crabs; thus the use of the phrase 'hammer time'. How apt for us mountain bikers!

Hammer time re-defined

Tomorrow the team will depart for Pelagus at 9.30am. We know that John is 'shattered' but we will be with you in spirit, John (if you are reading this). Yu Siong, we hammer a crab for you.:)

Saturday, July 15, 2000

THE EXTREME TOUR OF REJANG (ETOR)2000 - Preparations 1 week to D-Day

Logistics is still a concern. Apparently it is a very busy time of the year for timber companies, with the dry weather and all. 4x4s is crucial for logistics support and hopefully we will be able to know before we depart for Sibu on Sunday 16th. All else are firmly in place with the loose ends expected to be tied up. The supporters have been very enthusiastic in their assistance; we've even got our menu lined up on the morning of the ride by one of our hosts - Hariwood - sensible pre-ride good old-fashioned porridge at Camp Ecobay - owned by Hariwood

12th July 10.05pm - A slight hiccup; mud slide has made some sections of the Iran-Mapai stage impassable. The longest stage of the tour has suddenly thrown the team an extra challenge. At this moment we have yet to get in touch with the man on the ground to find out more about the washed out trails. Malcolm was hoping this would not put a damper to the tour as he was looking forward to the climbs.

Two releases came out in the Sarawak Tribune that concerned the keen wishes of the Kapit mountain bikers to be part of the first stage of the tour. First and foremost, they have to realise that this a close event, not a race and that logistics are planned around the Etor team. However, they are welcome to participate with the understanding that they are completely on their own. To take matter to the public has generated publicity for the event nevertheless!

There are other avenues to test their skills against others; that is the Junaco Park Mountain Bike Race Sibu and the Rainforest Cup - Cross Country in Lundu, Kuching.

13th July 5.10pm - It has been a good day for the event. Received report from the Camp Manager of Camp Mapai that although the Iran-Mapai stretch was impassable to 4x4, the good news was that the riders could bike and hike over the affected stretches. This means that the support crew will accompany the riders as far as logistically possible before they will turn back to base camp (Camp Iran) for a speed boat ride to the destination camp (Camp Mapai); where they will meet the riders head-on.

Naturally Malcolm was pleased to hear this piece of news. He, obviously, relishes the challenge of tackling those rolling hill stretches. I couldn't wait to ask for his opinion after he has done this stage.

A bit of promo work of the event was done over the RTM radio network. Malcolm and Michael were interviewed on the 91.9FM talk-show programme with Coma Smith.

14th July 4.00pm - Received word that our American rider/writer, John Hagedorn has to iron out his work permit renewal. At this juncture the team do not know if he could make it for the tour. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

15th July 12.34pm - Its official, John Hagedorn won't be able to make it to the tour. Needless to say this is disappointing to the organiser. The group has been whittled down to 5 riders; Michael, Malcolm, Uncle Liu, Glen McNair and Jong Tze Fui. Unexpectedly, the rose among the thorn, Eunice will join in the ride Way to go Eunice!

The Sibu 100 Celeberation committee headed by YB Lau Hui Chew is expected to see the riders off at the Kapit Jetty at 9.00am 17th July. And what novel and better way to do it than to garland each and every rider a string of 'Kong Pias'

The team will be making an overland trip to Sibu at 9.00am tomorrow (Sun) for a night's layover in Sibu.
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