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Baker & Oh sweep 2018 Race to Enlightenment

posted 19 May 2018, 22:19 by HK Dragons Triathlon Club   [ updated 19 May 2018, 23:18 ]
One word: HOT!! If there was one takeaway from this sixth edition of the Race to Enlightenment (RtE), it was that this was the hottest. Looking back at previous races, we have averaged between 22-24 degrees on this race, held each year in May so it is as close as possible to the Buddha's birthday. At this year's race my Garmin hit a maximum of 42 degrees in the sun and an average of 28 degrees for the whole race. Combine that with 75% humidity, the toughest hills that Lantau and arguably all of Hong Kong can throw at you, and this race was tough.

But the hot conditions did not put off some of Hong Kong's finest cyclists from showing up. Representing the Hong Kong Dragons & Project 852 and fresh from Tour of Friendship (ToF) held earlier this month in Thailand, Nick 'ever enthusiastic' Adamus, made a welcome return. With a strong performance at ToF, where he came 2nd overall in his AG in similarly hot conditions, he was a favourite. 

Also coming back for a second attempt was Jon 'cool, calm & collected' Colbaer of the SIRs & Team Unfound. Colbaer is always a dark horse, and from a strong racing pedigree and never to be written off. 

And there was also Kris 'explosive' Guns, the pre-race favourite with a 13 minute Peak under his belt, though a surprise entrance from Martin Lieberz, the friendliest man in the Peloton, and overall winner in his AG at the Tour of Friendship, threatened to upset the form books. Also making a welcome return was 2014 RtE winner Rupert 'the finish line was back there' Griffiths, and Dragons committee member Paul 'Boomer' McMahon.

We also had some debuts. First our Hollywood stars: the dynamic duo of Anthony 'Hopkins' Lam and Ben 'Affleck' Wilder - both recent converts to the Dragons. Stuart '007' Wong of the Tritons, Will 'not so secret agent' Schaffer of the HK Dragons and of course a HK cycling icon, SIR Bo Kratz, founder of our sister club, the SIRs. It was also a first time for Paul 'full time athlete' Wright and also the man of the day, Steven Baker of Team Unfound - an amazing talent and winner of December's SIRs Peak TT.

It was also great to see Hong Kong's strongest female riders show up in force including Christina 'ever young' Hudson, celebrating a milestone birthday and winner of the Tour de Bintan; Yann Kai 'roinkers' Oh a previous RtE winner from 2014; debutant Jen Hsieh; 'Queen' Mary Ho; Wynnie Fung; and of course winner of last year's Race to Enlightenment Cora van Laer, hoping to defend her crown!

With such a collection of talent and the fact that for the first time there were no traffic lights on the race route, expectations were for a fast race and it it did not disappoint. Even in the warm up roll down to the briefing there was some surging at the front by Guns, Lieberz, Baker and Griffiths - perhaps just sizing each other up ahead of the fireworks to come. While the rest of the peloton seemed to be saving their legs. Indeed, it was slightly surprising to see that Cora van Laer and Yann Kai Oh were doing most of the pulling at the front. (Come on gents - where is your chivalry?)

The race itself started quickly. As soon as we turned the corner onto Tung Chung Road, the pace kicked up rapidly, with a strong front group emerging of Guns, Lieberz, Baker and Colbaer with Adamus and Griffiths in hot pursuit and Wright leading a third pack containing Oh, Fung, Lam, Wilder and Sheel Kohli.

As soon as we hit the hill, the splintering began- with Baker and Guns maintaining a very fast pace cresting the Beast in just over 10 minutes, followed by Colbaer, Lieberz, Adamus, Griffiths and Wright. And a little behind was then Fung, Lam, Oh and Kohli.

On the descent after the Beast and on the rollers to Shek Pik reservoir, first Guns and then Lieberz who was descending with Adamus spectacularly punctured and were out of the race. This left Baker on his own with Colbaer and Adamus pursuing. With Guns and Lieberz both gone, Baker was untroubled for the rest of the race, while the battle for second was raging on. Adamus finally managed to catch Colbaer on the undulating flat and then shake him off as he time trialled over the dam at Shek Pik reservoir, ready to hit the last two climbs to the Buddha.  

The three leaders of Baker, Adamus and Colbaer then did not concede anything to each other for the rest of the race and took the top steps on the podium. You might have expected that the same would be the case of the chasing pack too, but the intense temperatures and humidity was beginning to tell on all the competitors. Griffiths was the first to blow up just as he was rounding the corner at Tai O junction, and he was caught and passed by Wright, Oh, Wilder, Lam and Fung. That final climb to Buddha sometimes never seems to end, and Oh in particular put in a fantastic effort coming in just behind Wright to take the women's race and 5th overall. A remarkable achievement, as she is the only competitor in this race to have now won it twice!

Meanwhile behind, the suffering continued as Kohli buckled in the heat and found himself being joined and eventually passed by Wong and McMahon, while the rest of the Peleton limped in a few minutes later, completely spent. 

A remarkable race and some valiant performances and much licking of wounds too.

Congratulations to all participants - and let's all pray to Lord Buddha that he makes it a cooler one next year. Final standings and Strava times below:

Steven Baker - Team Unfound: 54.09 WINNER

Nick Adamus - Project 852/HK Dragons: 56.34

Jon Colbaer - SIRs/Unfound: 59.21

Paul Wright - HK Dragons: 59.43

Yann Kai Oh - HK Dragons: 1.01.01 WINNER 

Ben Wilder - HK Dragons: 1.01.34

Anthony Lam - HK Dragons: 1.02.17

Wynnie Fung - HK Dragons: 1.03.24

Rupert Griffiths - P852/HK Dragons: 1.04.31

Paul McMahon - HK Dragons: 1.04.58

Stuart Wong - P852/Tritons: 1.05.06

Sheel Kohli - HK Dragons: 1.05.56

Bart Piestrzynski - SIRs: 1.08.32

Will Schaffer - HK Dragons: no time recorded

Christina Hudson - HK Dragons: no time recorded

Dana Guidice - EZR/P852: 1.10.55

Bo Kratz - SIRs: 1.12.29

Rob Kushner - HK Dragons/P852: 1.18.42

Jen Hsieh - HK Dragons: 1.18.55

Greg Karpinski - Lantau Buffalos: 1.19.58

Mary Ho - HK Dragons: 1.25.55

Fabrice Peyrin - HK Dragons: 1.31.49