Photo credits :
Nepal – ANUJ ADHIKARY , Malaysia – DARON LAM , Brunei- LUTERA, JAMES WK, ADRIAN TAN
Round 3 – BRUNEI
The Abode of Peace hosted the AES for the second time, taking the successes of last year’s race but with greater quality in many aspects of the whole event. Thanks to the generosity of Royal Brunei Airlines, Royal Brunei Enduro is now turning to be an annual classic in Asian mountain biking. The new sport has gained popularity among locals since its debut in 2017, and the way the country’s tourism ministry is supporting this international race, Brunei is potentially becoming another MTB hotspot in South East Asia.
Positively taking the feedback from the 2017 participants, Jason Pickett , the race director made enormous adjustments in liaison stages and event format, his team practically put some 3000 man hours to shorten the route to the top and add in some new trails. The number of marshals and emergency personnel is also noteworthy, giving every biker some peace of mind and focus.
The 7 Stages were broken into 1.5 days of racing. With day one practcing stages 1-3 in the morning, then racing them in the afternoon. using shuttles all day was a welcome sight we everyone, including spectators! The second day presented more challenging terrain but running clean on day one was important and it served like a self-boosting ride for the next day. Everyone loved Stage 4 for its long and winding trail where they could dance as one with their bikes as they descend. Stage 6 separates the men from the boys with highly technical sections from start to finish.
Last year’s top seeds were not around but two Scottish pro riders Christopher Gallagher and Chris Hutchens ripped the trails with jaw-dropping speeds, placing them first and second respectively. Joining them on podium is Malaysia’s Norshahriel Hazat Ahmad Nazali. The Aficionados (Master A) was the biggest and probably the most joyous pack, perhaps it’s the balance between camaraderie and competition. Winners in this group are Malaysians Tan Soon Soon (1st) , Mohd Kjairy Bin Razali (2nd) and Wilfredo Dalinog Jr. from the Philippines (3rd).
The local female cycling community is commencing its love for off-road riding, two of the four Brunei ladies made it to the podium- Liana Zacaria and Didez are first and third ; in between them is second placer Jessica Pickett from Canada.
It was a very close race for the Kenage Category leaders (Master B), Thailand’s Pongpun Itngam with 27:56 ,Brunei’s Amir Jamin 28:11, and South Korean Youn Ilsang with 28:18. For the Legends (Master C) , as everyone has predicted, Chandra Ariavijaya of Indonesia took the lead with over 4 minutes ahead of the second and third placers Michael Suliman from New Zealand and Tan Chang Woei of Malaysia.
AES is a breeding ground for competent Asian bikers. More and more young mountain bikers are into Enduro and it is awesome to see the radical lads from different nations come together in the series that prepares them for next enduro generation. The Koreans dominated the Prodigy group (Junior), take note of their total times – Junho Kim 27:39 , Haesang Kim 29:24 , and local wunderkid Azza Zainal with 31:28.
“I am first a gentleman, second an athlete” – the enduro creed resonated from the race briefing up to the awarding ceremonies. AES is grateful to FunnMTB for the special prizes given away to the riders who have exemplified good character in the race.
Next stop: Chiang Mai , Thailand on 29 November to 2 December 2018.
(story by Ronald Lumbao)
Round 2 – MALAYSIA
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.
(story by Ronald Lumbao)