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Battling the tropical heat

By:
Jason Sager
Published:
October 19, 2011, 19:41 BST,
Updated:
October 19, 2011, 20:53 BST
Race:
Langkawi International MTB Challenge, Stage 1: Marathon

Nevermind the leeches or flooded cow pastures

Stage 1 of the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge (LIMBC) was a pretty amazing way to see the island from the inside: everyone knows about the Sky Bridge and fabulous beaches, but what's it like to live here? Acres of rubber trees harvested by the locals with hanging bags tied to collect the oozing white, accessed via hiking and scooter trails, rice fields, connected by what amounts to a great paved bike path system. Passing roadside food and drink stands made us all wish we'd carried a few Ringgits to quench our insatiable thirst. I'd have stopped in a heartbeat for some fresh and cold coconut water.

Racing in hyper humid and equatorial heat is one of those things where you're good until, well, you're not. There's little warning to the overheating process - and once you notice it happening, usually it's too late to do anything about it.

That's how it happened for me, about 20km into the 60km stage. Thoughts of pacing and heat management are always on your mind in these conditions, but on one particularly gnarly and exposed climb (that claimed many victims, I later learned) the warning signs of imminent overheating surfaced... no worries, we're in the big ring, so I'll dump the gears and sit this one out for a minute or two.

This strategy is a double edged sword, however - now I'm on said climb for twice as long, and with no wind or tangible forward movement in my 27x36, the heating process was just fed double the amount of time that it would've had before. Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

It's all part of jungle racing, though. You stop bothering to wipe sweat and drool from your brow or chin. Mud bogs that initially repulsed you with their stench, later aren't even noticed.

Leeches? Just flick them off.

Flooded cow pastures? Just try and avoid the deeper or darker spots.

Running vs. riding becomes the biggest question out there. You don't want to lose a shoe in a calf-deep sinkhole, but riding is often slower, if not impossible.

Today's opening stage was a fair mix of terrain - road sections contrasted with swamps. Steep paved climbs followed by serpentine hillside singletrack. The constants of the day were excellent course marking, locals on the course everywhere cheering and welcoming us through, at times, their own backyards, and the complete and full endorsement of the government and community of the event. The race hotel even has a channel on the television dedicated to the race!

I'd love to see that at the Holiday Inn for the Sea Otter Classic!

Author
Jason Sager at the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge

Jason Sager (Team Jamis) is in Langakwi, Malaysia, racing the 2011 Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge. The 37-year-old father and husband manages the Jamis team and also still competes professionally. Sager is a long-time racer who often does in mountain bike stage races and other endurance events although you will still see him in some cross country races. In 2011, he won five stages of the Trans Andes and finished second overall at the Trans-Sylvania Epic with three stage wins along the way. He was 17th at the Cape Epic with a few top 10 finishes. The past two years, Sager has finished as runner-up in the BC Bike Race, in which he has eight total career stage wins. Sager, a former banker, is based in Ogden, Utah.

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