Thursday, February 13, 2014

Xterra World Championship MTB Course Preview

Thanks for reading the Xterra Teaser 11km Trail run race report that I posted up a few days ago. As luck has it, i missed the slot for the Triathlon race and decided to come help the organiser with the Bike course - after all, i need some training as well. What better way to volunteer and still get to ride? The race organiser and race director has posted a very through walk through of the course and I really wonder how many actually reads it. I've not been on the course and last Sunday was my absolute first time.
7am Sunday Feb 9, 2014
"We will start in 15minutes. Remember, FOLLOW THE BLUE SIGNS if you are Biking!", the MC's voice echoed through the morning at 6.45am. He went on to repeat the announcement a few times. As I will be helping with the bike course to marshal or to provide any help, I know I am to "follow the blue signage". Sharp at 7am, the Duathlon, the Triathlon and the MTB XC, both Sprint and Championship went off. It was a mass start and such were a joy to see how people suddenly went off in water, bike and feet in unison! .
Out of transition
I placed myself initially at the end of the tarmac out of transition. With arrow signage point STRAIGHT, i see riders turning left and right (and not straight). It is impossible to miss the signage as it was there. Utilising the Race Director's narrative for the MTB bike course (that will be used as the World Champion course), this is my ride marshaling report:
Onwards Through The Blue Signage!
Xterra 2014 Bike Course is a single loop course (instead of 2-loops in 2013) and like last year it was marked with XTERRA Blue arrows. The Sprint is about 16kms and the Championship about 34kms. I've included some videos in this blog entry. Captured using the JVC Adixxion XA2 at 720p x 60fps to save on battery power. Whenever possible (and bandwidth allows), view in HD for the experience. I mounted the XA2 on my (right side) helmet using a handlebar mount.
Both leave transition area and follow last years course out towards the Persiaran Selatan Highway via gravel road that prove to be semi-technical with loose gravels and sudden drops.

From here onwards, riders will meet with the motorcycle lane that runs along side the Persiaran Selatan Highway. Shortly after crossing the KLIA Express Train Line they sweep round a sharp right and cross the Highway using a tunnel. 

Motorbike lane flanking Lebuhraya Selatan
This is the same tunnel last year and exiting the tunnel will take a sharp left and cross a small drop (used to be a stream, but now all dried up because of the weather this few weeks). You will exit into a Kampung road and will cycle into Putrajaya Challenge Park (PCP).


P5. PCP Area
The climb up PCP is more of a mental climb than a hard difficult climb. Go easy on your cranking and maintain at a 90rpm to 100rpm spinning on grannies. 
Riding up PCP to the trail
You will eventually get up back to the tarmac before heading downwards into the technical trail in PCP.

As I took the Championship route, I was in for more surprises as there were sections I've not ridden. With me wearing the clip shoe for the second time, the fear of falling was there. Having ridden in PCP twice, I know there are sections that will be delightful to be ridden. Indeed it was. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in PCP despite the semi-technical effort needed. I am after all, a road-creature when it comes to bicycle.

The course then exit PCP at the roundabout where the Muslim cemetery (for Putrajaya) is and will enter a wasteland that are used by Radio-controlled aircraft hobbyist to fly their RC planes. This is the bumpiest section and was known as the “Field of Broken Dreams” last year by one of the XTERRA 2013 competitors.

Because this is ridden in reverse, expect to having to ride up (and many of us will PUSH up) the steep cliff. No shame in that as you can see from the video above, how steep the embankment of the cliff is looking out to the Field Of Broken Dreams.


Riding along the roadside, you will see the 1st water stations. If you are the Championship route, this is your first water station at approximately 7km.
After making a sharp left and passing the Water Stations on the course you will disappear off left down single-track trail that will exit alongside the KLIA Express Train Line. This section was done in reverse last year Xterra. However the route for 2014 will see it turning a sharp-right and you ride opposite the traffic flow. Stay on the grass area (aka offroad) to cross the bridge (with Lebuhraya Selatan underneath). Polis and Putrajaya enforcement officers were here (this is near the PICC area FYI, if you are not sure where you are).

Attention to the red line that passes through my watermark. Stay on grassy area until the turn off area near Polo and Equestrian Centre
Immediately after the road crossing the trail will reenter the grass verge and pick up trail through a sandy and stony wasteland area. Eventually this will cross a small river and riders will veer left to take a single-track trail alongside the city’s Polo and Equestrian Centre.
Then, for the next couple of kilometers riders will be expected to stay left on trail that will be two-way as riders return along this section trail from the U Turn point for the Sprint riders and return section of the larger Championship loop. 
Eventually riders come across an open area where the Sprint riders Checkpoint is and after checking in will U Turn round and head home. Marshals were placed here asking the riders (me that day) if I was doing sprint or championship (before the trail)
You will cycle under a highway bridge and will then see a small narrow bridge that Sungai Langat. This bridge is the choke point and priority should be given to returning riders (as they are already more further front, at that point, clocking in 30km of the ride). This is also where many gotten confused, as some loop back only to find that they went the wrong way. Agree that a Marshall should be placed here. There wasn't any placed here that day. Hopefully on Xterra race day in May, things will be better. 


I stick to the Blue Arrow signage and after crossing the bridge, made a left turn and ride through sugarcane plantation! It was awesome. You will ride through more plantations before the trail leads to a small settlement on to Jalan Dato’ Dagang Mondok. For safety, the race director has made rider to traverse through the edge of the palm oil plantation and emerge near a Motocross track on their left and you will see a signage asking you to take a sharp right. Follow the signage and you will exit beside a red house (min 1:50 below) . Turn right and you start a climb.
The local know this as Bukit Rashid. The race director has renamed it into “Sun off a Beach” Hill. It is a 1km climb that will bring rider up a 100m elevation (so it's a 10percent climb) on gravel. You will see the whole of Dengkil as you climbs up.
The climb was really good. Keeps the leg cranking and you will eventually reach the top where marshall will check you in as proof that you reached this point. Take a breather and enjoy the view! You will then ride down on a gentle downhill. But becareful as some portion has sudden drop that may just flip you over the handlebar.
The rest of the course was taken with time-lapse photos (30seconds every pic), because I was running out of memory (7gb of 8gb used up). The balance of the route per below, with comments describing the route.
Last portion of downhill before hitting tarmac. Push if not confident to ride this.
Exiting the downhill, you will join tarmac and you will see the 2nd water station. The road here is flat and do resist the temptation to go all out. You have about 10km more to go and in the trail mix XC ride like these, expect unexpected (hint : one more climb).
Volunteers filling up water for riders


Really flat kampung road
The road exit right next to Sime Darby Ladang Labu at Dengkil. You can see PICC from here. I bumped into Dave and Charlie at the junction. Careful here as you will need to cross the mainroad. Polis were placed here to stop the traffic.
Turn left and TERUS (because Mat Salleh say U-turn, Malaysians go straight!)
Yes, the caption in the above are real. Charlie told riders before me to make a u-turn at the bottom of the road and cross the street. What some riders did was cycled down the road to the next U-turn (legal). Funny. From here, it is mix tarmac and trail before ending up at the Sg Langat bridge again. 
Tarmac


Trails
Plantations
wasteland
Plantations
KLIA Express
Short climb further up
dry ground not helping
Reduced to Single trail
Before becoming Kampung road...and...
Finally...the Bridge
Sufficient markers. How many missed them???
Backtrack to PICC
Polo club on right on the return.
Cross over the road and head down the road on the right. Agree than signage on the bottom confusing - but that was what you see on the way in. Marshal should be placed here.
PICC infront.
Marshals at the end of the trail, heading towards PICC
The organiser has this sinister idea of making the riders go up PICC on tarmac. It was a good climb (I live for hill climbs, on foot or on bicycle)
Crank!


Doesn't seems to end
Making my way up PICC for the first time



Almost at the top!
That's it?
Got to stop for a pic...
:D
ON top of the PICC, two volunteers offers you water. :)
Staying under the shade. 
Then, the route took a turn downhill, literally by the side of PICC. Careful when heading down as the roots may just stop you if you aren't too careful. Never ride parallel to roots or risk wiping out.
Down we go!
Marshal waiting down the bottom
Home run!
Heading towards Pullman



This portion is mostly Tarmac. 
And wasteland
Careful when crossing the road and do not ride over the kerb too fast or risk blowing up your tire
You will ride past Pullman and the man-made beach...and...
Ride left towards finishing line (for MTB XC) or enter Transition here!
If you need a map to see where I cycled (without getting lost and following the markers only), click here. My Garmin Connect doesn't want to upload my workout. So this will do for now. The map from the MapMyFitness is per below
And elevation profile
Finally got the GarminConnect to work (timezone causing the problems). here is the course.
Pros
- Fast course. I took it easy as I was helping out the race. A few friends has managed to cover this distance in about 2hours. 
- Superb no-loop route. 
- A little bit of something for everyone. Favour XC riders with technical skills (for fast PCP entry and exit)
- AWESOME HILLS!
- Sufficient markers. Just keep an eye out and you will not miss any. Practice some common sense. Markers are always set up FACING you, not the other way around ;-)

Cons
- For teaser event, super lack of manpower to man critical turn off and junctions, which could had lead less experienced riders lost. 
- CAUTION sign for certain area warning of sudden drop within the first km
- Lack of medic
- Marshal
- Marshal
- Marshal

Discussion
The cons for this write up are specific for this Teaser event. At the risk of sounding biased, I want to put it on record that there were nothing wrong with the signage and/or route. Why? I rode the whole route following just the BLUE Signs!

HOWEVER things definitely could be better with more human presences, which I believe what many Malaysians taking part in sports are used to. Xterra event in other countries are minimally marked and getting lost is part of the adventure and game changer for top Xterra Warriors. In international events, markers are sufficient without overloading the trails (and nature) with more papers or rubbish. 

My observation last Sunday was that the participants litter the trails with their energy food wrappers and other items. So, some mentality change has to be there.

Much has been said on the Facebook on how badly this was organised. I believe to a big degree, it was (again) seriously lacked of manpower. ORGANISER, PLEASE TAKE NOTE. Come May, things HAVE to improve. 

While organiser must take responsibility over basic safety like medical, the ultimate responsibility for safety is on the participants themselves. You are responsible for your own safety when riding offroad due to the nature of the sports. If you are not confident enough to ride the descent, push. 

It appears to me that the old timers that has taken part (regular) in other various sports or races, or exposed to other organisers felt it wasn't half as bad. 

So, there are two sides of the coin. Many gave constructive comments for improvement. I applaud that. Then there are those that has been too negative without offering any solutions, you are not really helping. Fuming over medals and finisher-T? Funny how no one complained that the apple given out the night before wasn't...errr...sweet? (for the record, they were sweet and crunchy).

Perhaps, one way is to volunteer to help in races in the near future, and you will then see how things work behind the scene ;-) I seriously ask you to consider that; and Xterra Malaysia World Championship Qualifier WILL need you to help if you aren't taking part. Time to give back, perhaps?

And oh...please wear a helmet and don't try to sneak away without having one (I stopped and DQ a participant because he rode without helmet).

I read that the Triathlon and Duathlon transition area were badly managed. This I agree as well. Looking back, the same happened during Putrajaya Triathlon, which sadly, were even more badly organised than this. So, again ORGANISER, PLEASE TAKE NOTE. Come May, things HAVE to improve. 

Other than that, keep moving forward! See you in Xterra Malaysia World Championship Qualifier!

6 comments:

  1. Great post!... It brings me back to the race and track!...... Now I remember you on the side of the fence of the equestrian club filming and cheering us, I was the leader of that pack of 4 in Video part5 heading back …. Cheers / Nelson

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  2. Outstanding write up and great feedback.

    It's easy to miss a sign when on a MTB but that's half the skill i.e. the navigation. Some of the detractors should understand how many hours the organisers have already put into this event and how much effort it takes just to find a course let alone mark it out not to mention the run, swim, the transition, the website and all of the attached logistics. This was a "Teaser" event, it was as much for the organisers to work out their teething problems as for the competitors to get a sneak preview. I expected nothing and was amazed to see chip timing, a starter shirt, medals and trophies for goodness sake, it wasn't supposed to be a full on event! What impressed me and amazed me the most was that after the Run event on Saturday night the event director and some of his team went out until after midnight making sure the MTB course was marked properly for the morning races. Commitment or what? I just went home straight to bed.

    I've got to take credit for the naming of the "Field of Broken Dreams" for the crazy bumpy field, it somehow seemed apt especially as I bought a 29er last year just to help deal with that field and then couldn't compete due to a bad crash a few weeks before. I've got to say though that it is a gentle, milder version of last years Field of Broken Dreams. You had to do it twice last year and it was 10 times bumpier. Piece of cake this year (until it rains haha).

    I've got loads of feedback for the organisers, some quite critical but all constructive and well meant, (no complaining or whining), I shall be passing that to them directly.

    Thanks for your feedback, pictures and video Stupe. It's awesome to have people like you giving so much back to the sport.

    And finally, to the Numpty who road without a helmet - ARE YOU BONKERS? There are two types of rider, those that have crashed and those that are going to crash. That is all.

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    Replies
    1. Simon - spot on. Yes, well aware of them organiser out until early Sunday morning to check and mark the trails. I say it was sufficient and only those too blind to see would miss it.

      Superb feedback from you. It reaffirm to me that it takes a racer to know how a race should play out. THose that races long enough would be appreciative of the comments and feedback, and the commitment the organiser has shown.

      To critic is easy. :)

      See you in the trails and road!

      Delete
  3. Good write up Sir..spot on!!
    - Vasto

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh no....not that crater filled field again! Hahahah! Thanks for the write up bro ;)

    ReplyDelete

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