Numbers Soar

Following the success of last year’s inaugural race, the Tour de Bintan, an endurance cycling event that will take place from 11 to 13 November 2011 is back. Set in the backdrop of picturesque Bintan, Indonesia, the Tour de Bintan is set to test the mettle of participants with challenging routes over three gruelling stages in two days covering a total distance of 265km.

The acquired reputation of a “tough race” does not infringe the Tour de Bintan’s popularity, with 800 cyclists expected to take part this year against 500 last year. One of the most hotly contested categories will be Category 1, which will see the most serious and experienced teams from Singapore and all around the region vying for the total prize purse of S$10,000. The largest participation will be in Category 2 and Category 3 which are meant for competitive and passionate cyclists who are a level below Category 1. The competitive women cyclists will have their own category.

In addition, the event offers more seasonal and less advanced cyclists the opportunity to experience the Tour as part of the “Challenger” category, where it is all about completing each stage within set time limits. Cycling enthusiasts who just want a taste of the action may also decide to register for one stage only.

With the increased popularity in cycling over the past three years, the Tour de Bintan is especially popular amongst Singaporeans and Singapore-based expatriates, giving them the opportunity to experience road racing in a multi-stage and multi-day format. As compared with other key cycling races of this nature in Asia, the Tour de Bintan has the unique characteristic of being a Tour for amateurs in a competitive format where the cyclists select their race category based on cycling skills and experience rather than age group. The race includes also various intermediate sprints for the Sprint Ace and challenging climbs for the King of the Mountain jerseys.

Stage 1 (153km) of the Tour de Bintan will start off from Simpang Lagoi via the picturesque Trikora coast to the Bintan region’s capital Kijang and back to Simpang Lagoi. Travelling through the undulating hills and greenery of Nirwana Gardens, the official host and co-organiser, and the town of Tanjung Uban on Stage 2 (74km), the cyclists will face more stinging hills and energy-sapping sprint sections. On Stage 3 (38km), participants will race past Bintan Resort’s reservoir and golf courses before sprinting to the finish line.

For the first time this year, the Tour is attracting teams from Europe, and the Organiser, MetaSport, is expecting an exciting competition in Category 1 and 2. Commenting on the rapidly developing sport of cycling, Race Director Matthe Vijverberg said, “The prestige of the Tour de Bintan is clearly growing and evolving, with more and stronger teams taking part in Category 1. For this year’s race, Singapore’s Cannasia-Cannondale team and the OCBC Cycling team will face a stiff challenge from Pico Bikelabz from Malaysia and CCCamp from Spain, next to a number of smaller teams. I don’t dare to pick a favourite at this stage. We’ll follow the competition closely on Stage 1, the longest and most challenging stage of the Tour de Bintan, and will be craning our necks to see who is going to cross the line after the high speed finish at Simpang Lagoi. Last year they hit speeds of over 60km/hr!”

In order to assist the cyclists in their preparation, MetaSport is organizing a two-day training camp in Bintan in the lead up to the race on 17 and 18 September. The focus of the camp is to prepare the cyclists physically and mentally for the distance, but more importantly for the conditions and the terrain, which are a lot hillier than Singapore. As emphasized by Nathalie Wong, a cyclist from the Operation Smile Team who raced last year in the competitive Women category: “I had a great time even though it was so brutal and challenging. We now know we must train in Bintan and NOT Singapore for this race!”

Supported by the Bintan Tourism Board, the Tour de Bintan unveils the true beauty of the Indonesian landscape and is known for the warm welcome of the population and school kids lining up the roads for the occasion as the peloton rides past fishing villages, dense lush green forests and beautiful unspoiled beaches.

For more information, go to www.tourdebintan.com