Once the roads flattened out towards Muar, the coastal winds made cycling more challenging than scaling steep mountains. You have to be a cyclist to understand the bane of having crosswinds cut your speed by more than half, while doubling the intensity of your pedalling efforts!
Each town in Malaysia has its own unique way of roasting coffee beans, which lends a different aroma, taste and gleam to your regular cup of joe. When in Muar, we did as the locals do, and tried a cup of coffee from the 434 brand.
As the searing heat rose, the riders gleefully emptied out the accompanying cars of their stock of cold drinks. Our helpers in the support vehicles also came with spray bottles to bestow a mist of cold water onto us over-heated riders.
With a little bit more pedalling, the peloton pocketed another 171km to reach Batu Pahat and then found satisfying recovery meals in the local seafood restaurants. It was a good way to call it a day.
On the third day, we discovered that the real trick to surviving the PCC Interstate was to get our bodies used to fatigue from cycling three days consecutively, a torturous “luxury” weekend warriors hardly experience.
Not everyone will admit that the toughest part of the ride is getting up the next day and putting yourself back onto the saddle.
With more than 400 heartbeats drumming as one, the peloton departed for the final chapter towards the historical town of Malacca. We noticed the change in states when we spotted a mosque, which was painted yellow instead of Johor’s state colour, blue.
The route was flat for the first half of the day’s 140km, but the terrain started to climb as the peloton approached Jasin in Malacca. Ah, welcome back to the rolling hills.
The sleepy town of Jasin seemed rather invigorated by the 400 cyclists trundling through. We could almost smell the famous chicken rice balls of Malacca town but couldn’t get the real thing yet, so regular chicken rice had to do for a carbo boost.
It was over all too soon with the relatively short distance to Malacca town, but a final “King of Mountain” or KOM challenge awaited the cyclists at the new Swiss-Garden Hotel as they were required to cycle up the parking ramp to the fourth floor! The hotel rang with jubilant voices, many newbies to PCC Interstate, celebrating their achievement of conquering 470km over the long Merdeka weekend. It was an achievement accomplished by teamwork and camaraderie on the saddle.
As the day was still young, I took to touristy rides along the Malacca River to Jonker Street. There was nothing like the famous local chendol with durian to quench my thirst, and chicken rice balls for the perfect recovery meal.
With “suffering” such as this, it was no wonder that many of us have already signed up for next year’s edition of the PCC Interstate!
The youngest rider
While other 12-year-olds are fretting over exams, Barbie dolls or staring into iPads, Glenys Tan from Kuching had 470km of cycling in mind instead.
The youngest rider of this year’s PCC Interstate, she completed the long ride despite a slight mechanical problem on the first day.
Riding a beautiful Colnago C60 bike with souped-up wheels and groupset (collection of mechanical parts), Glenys started cycling with her father’s group last October.
Her love for cycling was boosted after a Kuching cycling event in January, and she has been diligently joining training rides every Sunday to build up endurance over long distances.
The group rides, consisting of 30-40 cyclists each time, had been ramping up the distances of their rides, including one of 260km from Kuching to Simunjan and back over hilly terrain.
With patience and tenacity, Glenys steadily completed the ride. In fact, with mutual encouragement from a 46-member team from Kuching, led by captain H.C. Chin, all the riders who came for their first Interstate finished jubilantly.