Cyclists, brace yourself! The epic cycling challenge on the alluring island of Bintan in the Riau Islands Province is back on. The sixth edition of the tough race that combines sport and tourism in a wondrous setting, the Tour de Bintan 2016 will take place from 1st to 3rd April 2016.
Supported by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia, the 11km test of speed and power against the clock will this time 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 with 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 that include 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. Already over 700 participants have so far registered and counting.
Now in its sixth edition, Meta Sport as 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 for the best of the region’s cyclists who will definitely flock to Bintan for what has become one of Southeast Asia’s premier amateur race.
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 qualifier for the Cat 2 field, with the fastest 100 riders moving forward to take part in Stage 1 proper on the Saturday morning, 2nd April 2016. Cat 2 riders missing the ITT cut will drop into the Cat 3 contest.
As before, the centerpiece of Tour de Bintan 2016 is still the venerable 150km ride through the heart of Bintan that is Stage 1. Although 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 22km from the start stage at the village of Simpang Lagoi. It delivers riders to the coast via 13km of short, sharp climbs on a road carved through fantastic beautiful landscape, where the predominant red soil contrasts vividly with bright green 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 up and down 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 the large Bintan island 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, 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 busy urban 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.
For more information and registration log on to: tourdebintan.com