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Locals, riders enjoy Tour d'Indonesia YOGYAKARTA - Edwin Raats was brought in only four days before the race, and was expected to be a reinforcement for the Benteng Muda Tangerang team during the ongoing Dji Sam Soe Tour d'Indonesia cycling race. However, the 33-year-old Dutchman has had a hard time making his mark on the race and finds himself languishing in 70th place overall in 1,503-kilometer, nine-stage tour completed, with five stages to go.
Despite his mediocre place in the standings, Raats said he was enjoying the tour, and has been amazed by the response from the public. "I see people coming out to watch the race. I have never seen such a big crowd in the Netherlands," Raats told the Jakarta Post. The traveling convoy comes across groups of people when they enter towns or go through villages. A group of school children were spotted waving flags and clapping to acknowledge the riders.
Particularly during the finish phase, they turn out in large numbers. Waiting for the riders to cross the finish line, the spectators thronged from both sides of the street to make around 500-meter corridor usually in front of the various town halls. Some of them asked for autographs or photos with the podium winners. The crowds often line up a few kilometers before the finish line when the riders were beginning to enter the towns. They were at times too excited that they got too close to the approaching riders.
But their overexcited behavior has unfortunately caused at least one crash, during the second stage from Bandung to Tasikmalaya, West Java, when the crowds got in the way of the riders, causing riders to get entangled with each other. The result was one rider fractured some bones and was forced to abandon the tour, with others suffering minor injuries. Crowd control has proved to be a very tough task for the organizing committee, which is assisted by local security authorities.
"Pull your vehicles to the side, please. Riders are coming," blared the speaker from the leading police car. The entire group is made up of around 80 cyclists, 17 team cars, 21 marshaling motorbikes, three commissioner's cars, two ambulances, two Neutral Vans, a broom wagon, three police cars, 10 press cars, and one each for the race director, time-keeper, jury and VIPs. The convoy, which stretches for around 500 meters at the start, can extend to 5 kilometers when the riders spread out in a number of groups after breaks from the peloton.
At such a distance, the task of handling ensuring crowd control becomes much tougher, especially since they must ensure the all traveling members stick to regulations imposed by Union Cycliste Internationale. Sanctions have already been handed out for a number of violations. The team manager of Kencana Bike Team was fined 50 Swiss francs for turning back and driving in the opposite direction. A photo journalist and his driver were reprimanded and now must stay at the back of the convoy in the remaining stages, after they nearly smashed into a wall of spectators. Cyclist Teguh E.P. of the Central Java Team was fined 30 Swiss francs for throwing objects in the face of spectators.
While the Indonesian riders' expected improvement still awaits, stage-four winner Ghader Mizbani of Iran sees the big crowds as a good sign that local interest in on the rise and that will eventually lead to more quality Indonesian riders as more and more young people get into the sport. "It's a good race. People come out to look at the race. That's great. I'm sure within the next two or three years, Indonesia will become one of the best cycling tours in Asia and you can expect more strong riders like Tonton (Susanto)," the Giant Asia Racing Tour rider said referring to the top Indonesian cyclist, who has been forced to quit the tour due to injury.
Mizbani is one of around 30 foreign riders participating in the tour. They come from Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. Some of them ride for Indonesia-based cycling clubs. Yellow jersey holder Nathan Dahlberg of New Zealand said he was enthusiastic about the whole tour. "I enjoy this tour. The route is hard and challenging. I love to come back racing in the next," the Greenfields Fresh Milk rider explained. Enjoying the race might be all that is left for riders with slim chances of winning like Edwin Raats.
"I'm amazed by the number of fans. They give me extra motivation," he said. While small victories from Raats remain possible, at least in the chase for stage wins, local riders still need to prove that they belong in international races, and would do well to use the extra motivation by the enthusiastic home crowd support. If one of them can funnel that energy into physical and mental strength there could be a local champion of the 2004 Dji Sam Soe Tour d'Indonesia.

Posted in Sports @ 04 October 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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