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Battling the tropical heat

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Avocado rub - Russell Finsterwald tries out the local beauty products, sort of willingly.

Avocado rub - Russell Finsterwald tries out the local beauty products, sort of willingly. (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Registration

Registration (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Gondola riding up to the Sky Bridge

Gondola riding up to the Sky Bridge (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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The Sky Bridge

The Sky Bridge (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Kona's Kris Sneddon and Cory Wallace are also on 29er bikes

Kona's Kris Sneddon and Cory Wallace are also on 29er bikes (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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The Team Bulls bikes of Karl Platt and Thomas Diestch. The Euros have gone 29er

The Team Bulls bikes of Karl Platt and Thomas Diestch. The Euros have gone 29er (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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There are varying levels of equipment at the 2011 LIMBC.

There are varying levels of equipment at the 2011 LIMBC. (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Burry Stander's stage 1 - winning bike.

Burry Stander's stage 1 - winning bike. (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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A late 90's GT circa Chopper Greg Randolph

A late 90's GT circa Chopper Greg Randolph (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Russel Finsterwald's Trek Superfly and Brady Kapius's Cannondale Flash 29er

Russel Finsterwald's Trek Superfly and Brady Kapius's Cannondale Flash 29er (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Jason Sager and Thomas Turner's Jamis dXC bikes

Jason Sager and Thomas Turner's Jamis dXC bikes (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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The bikes of the Japanese team

The bikes of the Japanese team (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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Blake Harlan during stage 1

Blake Harlan during stage 1 (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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A glimpse of the scenes from on-course during stage 1

A glimpse of the scenes from on-course during stage 1 (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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The start

The start (Image credit: Jason Sager)
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One of many water crossings

One of many water crossings (Image credit: Jason Sager)

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!