Photo credits : 

Nepal  – ANUJ ADHIKARY  , Malaysia – DARON LAM

AES -MALAYSIA ROUND by Apo

A weekend in July 2018 was packed with monumental sporting events on earth. The World Cup in Moscow, the Wimbledon Championships, the Paquiao-Matthysse WBA in Kuala Lumpur, and also in Malaysia; the Asian Enduro Series.

While the broadcast is not as huge as the 3 world events, in the MTB community, the AES-Malaysia race is a milestone that will propel the growth of the young sport. With a total of 21 countries from across the globe, MAD Enduro, the organizing team for the second round of AES, made history in Bukit Kiara.

Like other country hosts of AES, an efficient and proactive team is the key to a successful international event.  MAD Enduro’s master tactician William Tan wisely delegated the tasks from the start up to the completion of the project. A trail crew headed by Edy tirelessly worked on the soil under the extreme weather conditions for at least 7 months to come up with a world-class enduro race course.  It is noteworthy that in Kiara, AES-Malaysia was the only mountain bike event fully supported by the government. This privilege gave MAD some liberty to build new lines without compromising environmental issues in the lovely reserved park. William, a trail builder himself is responsible for the “Gozilla Trail” , one of the sections in the notorious Ohlins Stage – Stage 5.  Bukit Kiara has been a venue for various MTB activities, but with an “enduro eye” , MAD discovered more lines where front and rear suspensions will serve their purpose.

MAD’s admin crew was as instrumental, especially that 80 % of the registration came from outside Malaysia. The expectations are high and the riders’ experience on and off the trails will determine the likelihood of coming back in the future.  Overall, MAD’s head administrator KK did pretty well in arranging airport transfers, race briefing, and awarding ceremony. Keeping everyone informed with the changes in schedule via social media and onsite announcements contributed to MAD’s smooth event.

The practice day gave everyone a taste of what MAD had been brewing for many months.  Riders had sufficient time to read and ride the tracks. By Friday, most have mentally drawn a map for each stage. Some argued “A lines” are not necessarily the faster route considering the risk of nasty crashes.  Options were available according to one’s skill level, some challenged themselves and worked on the steep and rockies repeatedly on practice days, giving them confidence in the actual race.

The sun was up as everyone had hoped for. Race course were properly marked, timing system in place, marshals positioned – Race Day One. By 10:00 in the morning 126 bikes have ascended to an altitude of at least 215 meters covering special stages 1 to 3.  Another nice thing about Kiara is the accessibility, the starting points are accessible by  pedaling the liaison stages.

The first day’s results came as anticipated. It’s a close gap between Florent Poilane and Rajesh Magar, the seeded French finished the four stages 37.67 seconds faster than the
Himalayan hero. Coming in third is local rider Tong Wai Loon, tailing 34 seconds behind Rajesh. It was a joyous racing day for the participants and organizers, no major accidents and with smooth runs the riders have gained confidence for the second half of the tournament. The day concluded just right on schedule, the trail warriors have enough time to rest- the battle is not over , in the next morning they are to conquer a more challenging set of special stages.

Then came Sunday. Riders are all set for the dreaded steep and crooked sections.  Generally everything is in the same order as the first day but there is more demand for skills ,stamina, and courage to complete. Ahead of the bikers, the medical staff were strategically positioned for emergency situation and the photographers were in perfect vantage points to capture the actions and emotions in Kiara.

The day’s course averaged to 1.5 kilometers per stage characterized by precipitous path, rocky garden , and single tracks in between trees. The bikers’ spirits are high so is the sun, it is indeed blessed weekend, the course would be doubly challenging had rain poured that day. Chats and laughter reverberates through the forest as they head to the starting area.  Once released, it is only the sound of crank, short squeaks of the brakes, and the staccato rhythm as the tires collide with the flickery rocks.

The final results in Elite group is almost a duplication of the first day. Florent Poilane maintained his lead over Rajesh Magar with a very convincing margin of 2:22 seconds.  Series newcomer Minho Yang from South Korea made it to third place. 

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