The 2004 edition of the Kuala Lumpur Mountain Bike Festival was held on 22 August at Taman Lembah Kiara, a scenic recreation park not unlike Singapore?s Botanical Gardens. The park grounds consist of open, manicured lawns, interspersed by rubberized and asphalt jogging/walking tracks, and a lake surrounded by stands of trees. One of the jogging/walking tracks snakes its way through the jungle, emerging from the canopy to cross a twenty-metre suspension bridge. For the less adventurous, there are playgrounds, a man-made stream in which children can net longkang fish, kampung style, an exercise corner, with a modest car park located nearby. Situated at the south-eastern foothills of Bukit Kiara, in the Taman Tun Dr. Ismail residential area, it proved to be, as it had last year, the perfect location for the Carnival.
Then of course, there is the bike course. At only 2.1 km total in distance, this loop course makes up for its lack of length with its formidable elevation gain. From 100 metres above sea level at the start/endpoint, it tops off at 160 metres above sea level at the halfway mark. The creation of Canadian expatriate, KL Bike Hash chief, and local trail fiend Pat Brunsdon, it offers plenty of technical bike handling opportunities, assuming one survives that first lung-busting climb from the trailhead. Switchbacks, many of them with roots spreading in all directions, threaten to wash out riders on the climbs. Trees lining the single-track, with a gap barely the width of a handlebar between them, and several overhanging stands of flora, are par for much of the course. Sections of roots and extensive rock gardens are overshadowed only by the fact that much of the course, having been cut out of the hillside, overlooks steep jungle gullies. One wrong, off-camber line, or a lapse in control, could see a rider plunging headlong downhill amidst the greenery. One particular section encompasses a steep downhill into a gully, with a section of ?babyhead? rocks at the bottom, followed by a sudden steep climb out along the next spur. While much of the trail is clean-cut and hard-packed, the ?stall wall? concept, incorporated into the trail design, demands precision bike handling at both high and low speeds. According to some of the local riders, the challenging Taman Lembah Kiara trail becomes an even more horrendous beast in the rain ? thankfully the weather held up sufficiently for us not to witness that transformation during the races.
The Race & Competitors
The highlight of the Carnival, the mountain bike competition, attracted a veritable United Nations of riders of all ages. Running through the starters lists, one could pick out participants from a number of European countries, the United Kingdom, North America, as well as nations in the region including Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Australia. At only 2.1 km per lap, the race fell easily into the ?short course? category of the XC spectrum. But it would be by no means an easy day out for anyone. Indeed, even the Elite riders were obliged to dismount their steeds when the tactical choice of running/pushing over riding up a number of the ascents became obvious. Men in the 18-30 and 31-35 age groups had to duke it out in heats, each lasting 2 laps, before proceeding on to the finals for the fifteen fastest riders in each category. Wave starts of each heat, and subsequently of different age group categories for both men and women were implemented as far as the cramped, technically demanding course allowed. After a brief lull, the Elite Women?s race kicked off for four laps, where Thai rider Jiraporn Janthrat quickly established her dominance to eventually take the top place, with Swiss rider Lea Yeo and Malaysian Norasyimah Ali coming in second and third respectively. The Men?s Elite race soon followed, over a course of 5 laps. Of the four Singaporean participants in this showdown, two secured podium finishes, with just under a minute separating them. National rider Samuel Yang took first while compatriot Junaidi Hashim was third, with runner-up Malaysian Mohd Zamri Salleh sandwiched between them. Other notable wins included Pat Brunsdon, who secured first spot on the trail he helped create in the Mens 41 And Above race. Three minutes later, Cycleworx veteran Haji Mohd Yusoff Haji Said was edged by Malaysian Eco-Challenge alumnus Gary Choong by just one second, finishing third and second respectively in the same category. Mohd Herman topped the Mens 18-30 Category, while SACA?s Lee Chuen Ling did likewise in the Womens 31-35 Category.
But the mountain bike competition was not the only thing afoot at Taman Lembah Kiara. A full-fledged food bazaar was in full swing, along with all manner of vendors selling anything from babies? clothing, kites, to promoting aromatherapy treatments, fitness centres and foot reflexology. Maxis was promoting its mobile phone plans, while ASTRO had a kiosk where people could sign up to subscribe to their cable service. The young ones were kept occupied with activities as diverse as art and clay-picture contests, a petting zoo, body painting and temporary tattoos, to the more standard inflatable playgrounds and roaming, balloon sculpting clowns. At the center of the park was a stage, where skits and performances took center stage. Later on, a boxercise demonstration ensued, followed by performances by two stars from the Akademi Fantasia talent show. Akademi Fantasia ? the Malaysian equivalent of the Eurovision or American Idol vote-for-your-favourite-singer show – has a hugely loyal, almost devout following in Malaysia. It was startling, to say the least, to see the crowds forming so swiftly as the first song was belted out. Though the sun was out, forcing people to squeeze under shelters and tents to shade themselves, industrial fans with cooling mist nozzles were in generous supply, and offered the crowds some respite as they thronged the carnival grounds.
Of course, there were cycling-related booths present too. One tent put up by the Amateur Downhillers was a definite crowd puller, with its television screenings of downhilling and freeriding action drawing many curious young viewers. Demo rigs (some of them used during the race) were available for riding, including the exotic long-travel Whyte 46 with its Maverick fork and trick components. Another tent displayed a range of recumbent bikes (including a tandem recumbent-upright bike). One mainstay was the Shimano tent, which provided free tune-ups and minor servicing. Bike ailments ranging from shifting tune-ups and minor tightening, to full-on wobbly wheels and rear derailleurs destroyed during the bike race were brought over there.
All in, there were enough activities going on to sufficiently distract me from the main task of catching the race progress for a period of time. This carnival is truly catered to the whole family ? having a definite ?Mom & Dad? feel about it
Quick Release Adventures, an adventure and outdoor sports company who also organize the Malakoff and Powerman Malaysia duathlon series, are largely responsible for making the KL MTB Carnival a reality. Head honcho Geoffrey Kronenburg was pleased as punch as he gave out prizes to the top riders of the competition, seeing that another successful Carnival was drawing to a close. Melody Tan, the Race Director, had her hands full as she and her merry men (and women) puttered about the race registration tent throughout the day.
This is only the second time that the KL MTB Carnival has made its appearance, but three major sponsors have pledged their continued support for this event. These were ASTRO, Malaysia?s premier cable television network; mobile phone service provider Maxis Communications Bhd; and Golden Village cineplex and leisure holdings Tanjong Entertainment Sdn Bhd. Maxis representative William pointed out that the course was indeed tough by regional standards, and rightly so in order to attract a strong field of local as well as foreign participants. Additionally, much funding went into the procurement of tentages and stores, manpower support and advertising for the event. Through the promotion of Kiara as a multi-use trail system, the organizers and those who back them hope that Bukit Kiara?s trails continue to remain accessible to KL residents. It is through events such as the Carnival, and continued public awareness campaigns, can the hard work on the trails by individuals such as Pat be appreciated and supported.