Cyclists, brace yourself! The epic cycling challenge on the enchanting island of Bintan in the Riau Islands Province is back.
The sixth edition of the tough race that combines sport and tourism in a beautiful setting, the Tour de Bintan 2015 will take place from 6th to 8th November 2015.
After a one-year hiatus, the 2015 Tour de Bintan sees the return of the popular Prologue Time Trial (ITT) to kick off three days of racing action on Friday, 6th November 2015.
The 11km test of speed and power against the clock will be slightly hillier and a bit more technical than the previous Tour de Bintan ITT course as it negotiates the twists, turns and undulations of an out-and-back loop connecting the Lagoi Bay and Ria Bintan resort areas. Even though TT bikes, aero helmets and disc wheels are again banned for the Prologue, the course should still suit the strong time trialists such as 2013 overall champion Pierre-Alain Scherwey and last year’s runner-up Bastian Dohling. However, it’s unclear at this stage whether 2014 champ Ayub Gathurima of the Kenyan Riders team will be back to defend his title.
Now in its sixth edition, MetaSport as the Race Organizer returns to the center of action to its traditional home in the Nirwana Gardens Resort, which is just a short 9km spin away from the Plaza Lagoi where the Prologue will start and finish.
The respective leading teams from Allied World CCN and the Specialized Mavericks, Scherwey and Dohling will be among the favorites battling for the overall trophy and the S$8,000 total prize fund, but they will face stiff competition as the best of the region’s cyclists will definitely flock to Bintan for what has become one of Southeast Asia’s premier amateur stage races.
In the women’s race, the Melbourne-based 2014 champion Grace Phang has not ruled out returning to Bintan to defend her title, but if she does, Phang will definitely face fierce competition from some of Singapore’s best lady-cyclists, as well as some those Perth-based Wormall CCS outfit.
As in previous editions, the Prologue is only for the Category (Cat) 1, Cat 2 and Women’s races, and will again act as a qualifier for the Cat 2 field, with the fastest 100 riders moving forward to take part in Stage 1 proper on the Saturday morning, 7thNovember 2015. Cat 2 riders missing the ITT cut will drop into the Cat 3 contest.
As ever, the centerpiece of Tour de Bintan 2015 is still the venerable 150km ride through the heart of Bintan that is Stage 1. While there are no major climbs on the course, it is seldom flat, and the near constant diet of rolling hills and heat and humidity will ensure an epic day in the saddle for all competitors.
The standout feature of Stage 1 course is the famous “red road” sector, which comes just 22km from the stage start at the village of Simpang Lagoi. It delivers riders to the coast via 13km of short, sharp climbs on a road carved through a starkly beautiful landscape, where the predominant red soil contrasts vividly with the bright green but stunted foliage.
The Tour de Bintan concludes with Stage 2, a 107km Sunday morning journey through the scenic northwestern section of the island. While not quite as lumpy as Stage 1, the course does have a few hills, including on the 8km-long stretch of road that connects the special Bintan Resorts area to Bintan “proper” via Checkpoint Charlie security post. Tackled in both directions, the top of the last hill on the return leg of this section will not only mark the final (King of Mountain) KOM sprint, but it is also used as the launch pad for race-winning moves. More often than not, however, the Stage 2 honors are settled by fast and furious bunch sprints on the iconic finishing straight up into Nirwana Gardens.
Part of the Tour de Bintan’s appeal is its location. The island is just an hour’s ferry trip from Singapore but on arrival it feels like another world. The lush green landscape, quiet and well-paved roads to ride on, and the generous hospitality of the easy-going local population, provide a striking contrast to the hustle and bustle of big cities. Regular ferries ply several times daily from Singapore and Malaysia and also between Batam and Bintan. Today, Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air operate frequent flights from Jakarta to the new airport at Tanjung Pinang.