Stage 1 of Jelajah Malaysia saw the race head 162km to Bandar Penawar on the east coast. The stage was dead flat and with 180 fresh riders, everyone was keen for a breakaway.
As usual, the race started fast, as I followed wheels at the front and hoped for a gap. I managed a small break with 3 others as the first sprint point approach. Well that's what I thought anyway. With 4.5km of neutral before the start of the race, I did not allow for the extra distance and the break was swallowed up before the sprint.
Despite training in the Queensland summer, nothing could prepare me for racing in Malaysia's humidity and heat. Any effort caused my temperature to go up and I was constantly showering myself in water. During the race I drank 8 water bottles! The only respite was short sections where the skies would open up and pour rain for a few minutes. It was like entering a curtain of water and exiting only a few hundred metres later, back into the heat and humidity.
Several small breaks went and came back until there was 70km to go. Mart attacked to bridge a gap across to a small group. I think everyone assumed it would fail as there was a long way to go and the stronger teams of the sprinters came to the front.
With 10km to go, the group was down to Mart and the very strong sprinter from team Tabritz. They maintained a small gap of 15sec. In the final kilometres, the chase was interrupted as the peleton turned a sharp right with many spearing off into the grass and some landing in a ditch.
With 1km to go, mart still had a gap and the Tabritz rider attacked. The peleton was bearing down on them at full speed with only 200m to go. Mart could not match the attack but clung on for 2nd place!
Mart had clearly given it all and said that he lost two years of his life after the day's effort. In hindsight, the Tabritz rider winning was, in a way, a relief as they now had to control the race to protect the yellow jersey.