My dad’s cycling career, yes, I call it career because he takes it so seriously, started about 4 years ago. I still remember mum complaining that dad has gone into a cycle frenzy after an evening with his friends. We still blame his friends, and we would remind his friends that they are the reason for everything that is happening to us.
So, from that point on, my dad would organize 20km 30km rides. One thing though about my dad, he loves, to spend time with us, his kids and my mum. So he’d drag us along in everything that he does. It was like that when I was growing up, and that wasn’t about to change now. We would all go together, we even dragged our cousins nephews, aunties and uncles, every weekend, different routes. It’s such a big family affair, we even have our own jerseys. We called ourselves “Waghih on Wheels” because my dad’s from Negeri Sembilan.
Suddenly, this Audax thing came to light after he went for a ride with only the boys that one time. Long endurance ride events organised all over Malaysia. When I say long, I mean LONG. 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and so on. And I suddenly find myself often being the support car for these rides. (This is exactly why we ladies shouldn’t let the boys be left alone, they get into all sorts of trouble and shenanigans)
As my dad got into a rather minor accident but traumatizing all the same for us all at the start of his cycling career, we would not let him go on rides alone. One of us had to be with him at all times, either on the bike or with a support car.
By being the support car, I get to go all sorts of places I otherwise won’t. I drove all over Malaysia, spending 5-8 hours in the car supporting him at checkpoints and being worried that he won’t reach in time. But little did I know, that this would prepare me for something I never thought.
Audax, is actually an international event. If you’ve managed to complete all the kilometres I mentioned above within a year, you get to participate the big event in France that is held once every 4 years. Paris – Brest – Paris (PBP) route is 1200km in total and you’d have to complete that within 90 hours. A support car is allowed at the checkpoints only, and within 5km radius of the checkpoints. The support cars are also not allowed to be on the same route as the cyclist. To avoid accidents I guess. (How I know so much of these things still baffles me till this day! Haha)
You know, I said in the beginning that one of us had to always be there when he cycles. And we have, my brothers have. But unfortunately they did not enjoy it. And when you don’t enjoy something, cycling 1200km is just asking too much. We were lucky indeed that Aliff, our cousin enjoys it, just as much as dad. So they were going to do it together.
2019 is here, my dad is starting to prepare for the event in August. So, being the designated driver of the support car in Malaysia, I had an inkling that I’d be involved in this. Early January, I didn’t think much about it. I mean, dad would not let me drive my own in a foreign country right? Me? The sick one?
As August is approaching, my dad has only one thing in his mind. Whatever planning we wanted to talk about apart from the PBP had to be deferred until after PBP. It was like his calendar stops until PBP, just like the Mayan Calendar that stops in 2012. We often tease him, but at that time, it wasn’t so funny to him. Only one thing in his mind, to complete 1200km within 90 hours. That was the goal, the target.
August is here, and I had no choice but to accompany him and mum in the support car. My brothers cannot be with us, because of other commitments they can’t get out of. France driving system is the opposite compared to KL, just FYI. Left Hand Driving, on the RHS of the road, anticlockwise roundabouts and confusing junctions. I had no training, but with everything I do in life, I just dive head first, I’ll think about how to swim later.
Now, I’ve been to Paris before. The traffic, and the drivers there are rough. I know this, and I told my dad I didn’t want to drive in the big city. Driving in the smaller country roads would be easier as the traffic is less busy. He agreed in KL, but NOOOOOO, it all changed when we arrived in Paris. My dad’s theory, do the hard one first, and then the other ones would be easy, like a piece of croissant. Never mind the fancy car he got scammed into getting because of a mistake he made. With no extra insurance access, I had to think about driving fancy car on the wrong side of the seat, on the wrong side of the road, in a foreign city. After hitting the first road kerb, I cried. I cried my eyes out, partly I was so scared, but mostly I was angry. I didn’t want to drive in the CITY.
But, the second day got easier. As dad and Aliff has started their 1200km journey, I didn’t really have a lot of time to ease in to it slowly. After one day of crying, I knew I had to bounce back quick. Because now, with them gone, I have to be the strong one. I thought to myself, you have no choice but to be brave now, so BUCK UP!.
And getting around the city wasn’t too hard with the GPS. We rarely got lost in France, which in itself is amazing. Finding the cyclist wasn’t too hard either, as I already had the cyclists’ route downloaded in my phone. All I had to do was find a place, a little bit outside of the checkpoints, on the way out to next checkpoint. My biggest clue was to find other support cars. As we had sticker registration numbers on the car, the other support cars were easy to spot. Most support cars were the caravans. I guess that was easier than a car and finding the accommodation nearest to the routes. With caravans, they can just park at the caravan park, or any parking lot really, and the cyclists can rest easily. I could not imagine if I had to drive a caravan. They are three times bigger than a normal car. But, knowing my father, if he decided that caravan was a better option next time (please, let there be no next time), he’d expect me to drive it. You know, dive head first, and think about how to swim later?
The good thing about being the support car, is getting to experience the smaller towns and the scenic routes you otherwise would not go. I mean Brest, is so far west of France, 600km from Paris, will likely be the last place you’d go. There’s this town with the most beautiful chateau right in the middle of town, called Fougeres, and also Senonches. A small town that’s exactly like the ones I’d imagine a French town would be. (from all the Beauty & Beast movie I watched growing up) I’d like to go there again, without the worry of whether my dad could reach the checkpoint on time.
I did record my day-to-day experience though in a form of a video. I’ve uploaded some on my IGTV at @alynnzamri. Now, that was a challenge. Recording footage, thinking of what to say, making sure I made sense when I say anything, all at the same time with finding checkpoints and routes to get to the cyclist. And editing them at the end of the day, and do a same day upload because the people I love back at home is waiting for updates. Haha. But I did it. I surprised myself and I’m proud of myself. You’ll never know what you are capable of until you are thrown into an uncomfortable situation.
But, most of all, the BEST thing about being the support car, is getting to witness my 59 year-old father cross the finishing line with 1 hour to spare. For a minute there, we thought he couldn’t make it because of a miss calculations of the distance for the last two checkpoints, and of course after already cycling for 70hours. Feeling tired, making their pace slower.
I know when I write this post down, I tend to only write the good memories, with a little dash of bitter memories, but, it was tough. Being alone with mum. Our safety. Two hijabi ladies, in a foreign country, all sorts of things comes to mind. Not knowing where my dad and cousin is most of the time. Worried that they aren’t able to complete the course, worried for their safety on the road. So if you ask me whether its worth it, it definitely was.
I cried when he crossed the finishing line. I cried when everything he’s worked for, for the past 3 years paid off when he crossed that finish line while holding the Malaysian Flag. I’m still crying typing this down 2 weeks after the fact. Feeling so PROUD no words, can express.
I couldn’t thank Aliff also for always being there with dad. Every step of the way. Three years back until now. It was also not easy for him. I know this. The sacrifice he and his family had to make, is a whole another novel. (hehe)
I love you dad. You’ve been an inspiration and I believe you will continue to inspire others with your accomplishments and with what you will do next.
I love you, 1200. (km)
(probably more if you count the back and forth and the getting lost)