Java bike jive: Cyclists pedal 333km from Surabaya to Bali

Java bike jive: Cyclists pedal 333km from Surabaya to Bali

There's an amazing cycling challenge that's little known outside of Java, Indonesia. But from its humble one-day inaugural event last year, Audax East Jawa has transformed into a formidable two-day endurance test.

The route goes from Surabaya to Banyuwangi, with a one-night stopover at Jember city, for a total of 333km. The race take you through busy roads along flat coastal stretches and then onto rolling hills.

There are five pit stops so that riders have sufficient rest and enough nourishment. Then, there's the grand finishing ceremony at Banyuwangi, in sight of the island of Bali across a narrow strait.

With 300 registered riders, the logistics for this year's event were daunting. The organisers had to call on the resources of its parent company Jawa Pos, the largest newspaper in Indonesia, and also the patronage of East Java's governor and chief of police.

Somehow, traffic was clear despite the chaotic congestion issues of the region. Along the way, villagers and schoolchildren lined the roads, greeting the riders and support teams enthusiastically.

Every pit stop had a grand welcoming event as mayors roused their townsfolk to put on the best display of hospitality. All the riders were made to feel safe and special, even the slow ones.

There were countless marshals on motorbikes acting as chaperones, mechanics, and food and water suppliers. A fleet of ambulances and recovery vehicles travelled among the support teams. There were even masseurs in attendance at the rest stops.

It was a gruelling event what with a relentless sun beating down on long stretches and various uphill climbs. But Audax isn't a competitive sport - the aim is to complete the challenge, and the organisers want to enable as many of the participants as possible to finish the course.

A majority of the participants succeeded admirably at this year's event. Many of them want to come back for next year's edition.

For more details, visit jawaposcycling.com.

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