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Monday, May 25, 2015

Bringing On The Racing Action - BBCH Criterium @ Bharatiya City - May 2015

The Dash To The Line!!
It was the final lap of the elite race. The lead group of four has been drilling it at a furious pace lapping and eating up most of the field as they went around the mile long circuit. Enaut jumped from the lead group of four with more than half the lap to go. With another 20 meters to go, with the other three riders fast approaching, he sat up and kept looking back. Was he unable to believe he was about to beat a national time trail champion to the line or was he perhaps over confident that he clinched it although there is still a bit of distance to go to the line? As the fans on the sidelines, some of whom kept biting into their nails while some were vociferously egging him on, the current national time trial champion, Naveen John(NJ), finally jumped and sprinted to the line. Did he manage to outwit the basque rider??

The finish line action.. Pic: HRL
The Action Packed Thriller!
As the elite race that I was part of, got flagged off at the end, at 9:50am on the mile long circuit in Bharathiya City, some twenty four of us took to the line. Five riders from Hyderabad Racing League(HRL) came down to give competition to the local favorites from the Specialized Kynkyny Cycling Team(SKCT). There are other hopefuls like myself who made it to the line with the sole objective of lasting as long as we can before getting lapped by the leaders. Criterium races are time bound and tend to be very intense with a lot of accelerations out of corners. Our race was for 60 mins. If, in that period, any rider gets dropped by the leaders and get caught by them from behind, that rider is considered lapped by the leaders and it is the end of the race for that particular rider.

Since I’m not particularly great at taking the corners at speed and accelerating out of the corners, criterium races are the least favorite of race types for me. I tend to participate only because it provides a platform for me to get better at them. It is a sort of learning by fire. The last time I rode in such a field, I lasted 20 mins before getting lapped. My objective for this race was to see if I could hang on for longer than that.

The action was hot right from the word go and I found myself at the tail end of the field in the first lap. In the second lap, I made a conscious decision to move up and reached the head of the field. By the third lap the accelerations at the head of the bunch split the peloton into several small groups. The Basque rider Enautopoulus Gonzalakis, SKCT rider Naveen John(NJ) and HRL rider Jetharam Gat Jaat, formed a breakaway group. Behind them, Naveen Raj, Kiran Kumar Raju from SKCT, Ramswaroop, Parashuram Chenji from HRL and Gaurav Duggal formed a second group. I found myself with a third group with Aditya Kaul and SriRam.

Enaut hitting the front in the breakaway group! Pic: Veloscope

The next few laps were a full redlined effort for me as I chased to get back into the second group at least. After a few laps, I saw that Adhitya was still on my wheel while we lost SriRam as we made it across to the second group on the road. By then Naveen Raj decided he needs to be in the lead group and started to chase on his own. Now, our group became Kiran, Ramswaroop and Parashuram from HRL, Gaurav Duggal, Adhitya and myself. Kiran kept egging the guys to take turns but the two guys from HRL showed all the enthusiasm of a dead cat to lead the bunch. They were quite content to sit on the wheels and watch the proceedings with occasionally gracing the front briefly.  I tried to take to the front to give Kiran a break from time to time but it was him who was driving the group pace most of the time.

Second group on the road with the third group(with me in it) behind....Pic: HRL

I noticed that my cornering and accelerating out of the corners wasn’t as bad as it was on previous occasions. I was trying to take cues from Kiran(he is an excellent MTB rider and has great bike handling skills) and was trying to take tighter and faster lines with a bit more confidence.

 After a massive effort, Naveen Raj managed to bridge up and join his teammate NJ in the lead group.  Now, Enaut, the two Naveens from SKCT and Jetharam from HRL were the lead bunch. They were fast gaining ground on our group with each passing lap.

Seeing this, the two guys from HRL, Ramswaroop and Parashuram, from our group finally decided to accelerate and Kiran managed to join them but the rest of us were left behind. I didn’t have the legs needed to make that jump at the point. Gaurav then took to the front and set the pace for a while to keep us from getting lapped by the lead bunch. After 50mins the lead bunch over took me and there ended my race. The second group of Kiran and the two HRL riders managed to finish the race without getting lapped.

In the final lap with more than half the lap to go, Enaut jumped from the lead group of four. He got a good gap on the group. With a dangerous sprinter from HRL glued to his wheel NJ was not ready go full gas to reel him in immediately and thus gifting Jetharam the win. With another 20 meters to go, with the three riders fast approaching him from behind, Enaut sat up and kept looking back. Was he unable to believe he was about to beat a national time trail champion to the line or was he perhaps over confident that he clinched it although there is still a bit of distance to go to the line? As the fans on the sidelines, some of whom kept biting into their nails while some were vociferously egging him on, the current national time trial champion, NJ, finally jumped and sprinted to the line. That late deployment of watt bombs would have done the trick if only the finish line was just one more meter further out. But, as the adamant paint on the road refused to move, he fell short by half a wheel length. Enaut, the basque pocket rocket of a power house has won it!
Just about managing to hang on!!  Pic: HRL

NJ finished second and Jetharam finished third right behind him.

Master’s race: A Masterful Show of Sportsmanship!

The masters field was small. 12 riders started the race. Right from the get go, Opendro of Cleated Warriors clan shot off from the group only to be reined in by the second lap. Around the third lap, Vivek Radhakrishnan of SKCT jumped ahead of the group and Ronny Schrijvers joined him after a couple of minutes. The two kept riding at the front for the rest of the race with Ronny at the front most of the time. Mohan Kumar of Spectrum racing was behind them followed by Arvind Bhateja of Spectrum racing in between them and a group of three riders behind.

Ronny, the strong Belgian diesel engine was predominantly driving the pace with Vivek taking an occasional short pull. They were way ahead of the rest of the riders when Ronny punctured. Vivek could have taken off and taken the win but decided to wait until Ronny got a wheel change and could ride again. Mohan joined them both for the last few laps. Towards the end, Vivek jumped again from the group of three to distance Mohan but then waited for Ronny to join him and crossed the line together with him. With that little gesture he preferred to show great sportsmanship by acknowledging the stronger rider and showing him respect rather than showing guile and race craft to take the win. We have seen this before at BBCH and BAR where the riders duel fiercely but also have a lot of respect for their competitors and the sport. Kudos to Vivek for keeping up the BBCh spirit!

Amateur Race! Class Act!
About 20 riders started in the Amateur category. After a few laps of riders trying to form a breakaway, two riders emerged strong and managed to get a gap from the group. Amudanand(Anand) from team Veloscope and Vishwesh Sangarya formed a breakaway and started to work together to increase the gap from the group that they left behind. The group behind(with likes of Mohammed Riyaz, Antonio Tardi, Vivek Kabuji, Akshay Raju, etc) wasn’t as cohesive as the leading duo and started to fall behind. With a few laps to go from the finish, Vishwesh left Anand behind and went solo. He was so fast that he managed to lap the peloton some 50 meters from the finish line and sprinted past them to take an emphatic win.

U-18 and Women’s Race:
With less number of registrations in each category, U-18 and Women’s races were held together. The U-18 race was taken by the Tarun(Mysore Cyclopedia,1st) and Sourav(Mysore Cyclopedia,2nd), Niranjan Iyer finished 3rd.
In the Women’s race, Fariyal Jamadar of SKCT won the race while Shilpa Deo of Spectrum racing finished 2nd.

Kids Race:
About 10 kids were there watching the races and have participated in a race of one lap around the course. It was great seeing the tiny tots having fun on the course trying to emulate their elders and outshining them in the process.

Organizers and Volunteers:
Team Velohankans have taken the responsibility of organizing the race and did a great job of it. The breakfast at the end of the race was yummy. All the different category of races were organized very smoothly thanks to the organizers and volunteers on the day. Thanks to Bharathiya City for providing the venue and hospitality support. They have been a great support for BBCh over the years.

Watch the space at BBCH for the details of next races here.
Watch for photos from the race through the lens of the experts at Veloscope here.
Watch for action pics from the lens of Arvind Chenji at the Hyderbad Racing League here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Heat is On! April Road Race - Bangalore Bicycling Championships 2015!

Horn OK Please!!
7:00 am sharp on a gaily Sunday morning on Hyderabad highway. 80 odd cyclists took up the left lane lining up at the start of first road race of the season at BBCH. 3-2-1 go! Some of the beginner riders shot off the gun and went to the front. The rest of us knew there is plenty of racing still to do with 97 kms to go and were just spinning easy and watching them hanging out there some 50 m ahead. Eventually they returned to the bunch and the peloton kept moving at a lazy pace. 

I was hanging out at the head of the bunch or thereabouts watching the proceedings. After a bit of loitering for about 10km or so, people obviously started getting impatient and the action stated getting a bit lively. The SKCT rider Sarvesh Sangarya who is coming back fresh out of a forced break due to a collarbone fracture tried a few accelerations to no avail. Ronny tried a break away and I and a few others were on to him. I was willing to gamble on a breakaway with someone like him just for the heck of it although my main job for the race was to be there and work for my team. 

The Belgian Jet and The Basque Torpedo Take Off!
After a couple of failed attempts that ended up with the bunch coming together, the Basque rider Enaut joined the Belgian power horse, Ronny and they took off. I was trying to jump on to them when I was shut down by a quick call from my skipper. I stayed back but asked our Spectrum Racing skipper, Arvind Bhateja to join Sarvesh who started chasing to join the two rider up the road. My thinking was since Ronny is in the Master's category, if we had one of our master's rider up there with him, the rest of us could relax and watch the proceedings. 

I was still at the front but was setting a sedate pace to let the riders at the front organize the break. However, since Sarvesh is just getting back to riding outdoors again, he was obviously not in a top shape and Arvind and him couldn't bridge up to Ronny and Enaut quickly. I obviously didn't want to chase our own man up the road but didn't want let others just go either. So, when a couple of young riders started chasing and I quickly got on their wheels and the peloton's speed quickly rose during the chase.

After dangling for a bit in no-man's land, Sarvesh and Arvind got back to the bunch but the two man train up the road kept gaining more and more with each passing km since no one other than a couple of us was really putting any effort to chase them down. With Enaut being in Elite category, SKCT's podium spot on the top step was also at risk if the break ended up staying away. So, Sarvesh offered some help and my teammate Mohan and I joined him and started to work together in attempt to reel them in.

The rest of the peloton was more or less content with hanging on since there is a fair bit of racing to be done especially after the U-turn with headwinds.

The Heat Turns On!
As we approached the U-turn one side of the highway was closed for repairs and the traffic was diverted into one lane for about a km or so. We ended up with some vehicles coming head on towards us. Thankfully, we managed to get their attention with frantic waving of arms and shouting at the top of our lungs to get their attention and get them to their side of the road.

Near the U-turn we noticed that the two guys at the front have managed to put almost 90 secs or so on the peloton. As soon as we took the U-turn the action got hotter with a couple of accelerations with Naveen John and Naveen Raj of SKCT becoming more concerned with the gap that Enaut had on them. I managed to hang in there during those accelerations but I noticed that my energy levels were not that great. But I decided to go to the front to make sure our riders Hari and Arvind don't end up spending time at the front. 

Hari was of the opinion that it is time to put in a serious chase to catch Ronny. I agreed and suggested that Hari, Arvind and Shankar do a TTT to catch Ronny since I needed a breather and the rest of the field seemed unconcerned. Just as I was going back to tell Shankar to join Hari at the front, an attack happened on a long hill and I found myself at the back of the pack and slipping further back with energy levels low and the onset of cramps. 

It was not even 60km and I was supposed to be there for the team for the whole race. I noticed that I have hardly been drinking as two of my three bottles were still full. I cursed myself for the silly mistake and furiously started gulping down my energy drink. It was too late by then and I needed a bit of respite to recover. I saw the bunch riding away and sat up for a bit to recover and get my bearings right.
 The Second Wind!
It took 2-3 minutes but I slowly started feeling better. I joined my teammates Mohan and Ameet for a few minutes. We picked up a couple of riders and started going at a decent pace. We picked up Rajat Roy from Pune Wolfpack and Karthik Padmanaban of Team Mongrels from Chennai. After a while I noticed that my teammates were not with me but I kept working with Rajat and Karthik to keep going. From then on it was a possession of picking up and passing riders. Sri Ram from Scott joined us and so did Anatha Vishwanathan of Cleated Warriors and Sarvesh of SKCT.

We tried to rotate and share the load but it didn't always work with varying pace of the riders ended up causing occasional accelerations breaking the rhythm. We kept chugging on and I saw someone being attended to on the road side. I assumed it was a crash and was disheartened to see it was my young teammate, Rishav Mallik who was in top shape but ended up unable to finish with cramps.

We continued going at a decent pace when I sawed the familiar Spectrum racing colors of pink and blue ahead. I could recognize that riding style from far off too. It was our master's contender, Shankar Jayaraman. He was another rider from our team in top shape and I couldn't believe he got dropped by the bunch. He was riding strong and it took us a while to catch him. When we finally caught him, I learnt that he had puncture and had been doing an ITT of sorts to try and catch the peloton after a wheel change(thanks to Tusker Kiran of Wheelsports). That was another bit of bad luck.

We kept going and a brisk pace sharing the load between six of us(Shankar, Karthik, Anantha, SriRam, Sarvesh and myself). In the final kms with nothing to lose, I started driving the pace again. I was feeling perfectly fine and was thinking if only I hadn't neglected taking care of my energy needs earlier in the race, I would have been more helpful for the team. I could have been there for Shankar to take him back to the bunch. But despite all ifs and buts, we finished about 30secs behind the main bunch. 

The Racing Action Up Ahead:
With the break of Enaut and Ronny up ahead, the SKCT riders Naveen Raj and Naveen John apparently decided to liven up the action to catch them. An young rider from Pune, Rhishabh Hattarki managed to join them for a bit before they dropped him and caught the break. Despite riding in the break all day it apparently took multiple attacks to crack and drop Enaut. He finished third behind Naveen Raj and NJ who basically rolled together to the finishline after dropping him. Rhishabh finished fourth.

Ronny managed to stay ahead of all the masters contenders who were in the bunch and took the top step on the podium. What a brilliant ride from the super Belgian! A well deserved and well earned win!

Behind, in the bunch, the young gun from Hyderabad, Aman Punjani, took the bunch sprint with the Madrascals rider Adarsh Saxena finishing behind him. Master's sprint was taken by the Spectrum racing skipper, Arvind Bhateja while Rajani finished behind him followed by Hari Menon. The Spectrum boys had our rocket, Gaurav Dwivedi to work for them as they approached the line while Rajani on his steel steed, Surly Pacer, had his alliances in Akash Ananthaswamy and Abhirama Mallela leading him out. Brilliant racing by everyone!

"Hey There, Don't waver! Ouch! Damn!"
In the shorter 47km Amateur race, that started 20 minutes after the Elite race, U-18 riders and Women were combined. With the shorter race and younger riders, the action is bound to be a bit more agitated than usual. Apparently a few of the U-18 and other younger riders were having trouble riding without wavering too much in the peloton and were causing problems to some of the Amateur riders to stay upright on the bike. This resulted in a few crashes with the big one being a huge pile up for riders with 12km to go. It resulted in quite a few riders leaving fair bit of skin on the road and coming back with severly bent wheels. Thankfully no broken bones were involved and the ambulance support from the medical partner Sita Bhateja Hospital was there to attend to them in time.

In Under 18 (47km race) Vishwesh Arya finished first with Sarvanan and Karan of Gaint-JustBuyCycles finishing 2nd and 3rd. Niranjan finished 4th
U-18 Podium

Women's Category:
Geetanjali of Team Wheelsports finished first while her teammate Shaheera Attar finished second. Velohankan Sabina von Kessel finished 3rd while Lena finished 4th. Their race was  for 47km as well.
Women power at BBCH!

Amateur Category(47km race):
In the Amateur category race, Vignesh M of Gaint JustBuyCycles finished first followed by Darius Koester of Crankmeister finishing second. PBS Mahapatra finished 3rd in the category with Ajit B of Velohanka finished 4th.
Amateur Category podium!

Masters(97km race):
Ronny won the master's race in style riding in the break all day. Arvind Bhateja of Spectrum racing won the bunch sprint in masters taking second place with every awesome Rajani finishing 3rd. Hari Menon of Spectrum racing finished 4th. 
Master's podium with Peter from Aurovelo giving away the medals to the guys!

Elite(97km race):
The national ITT champion, Naveen John and his teammate Naveen Raj didn't let things get out of hand and took control of the situation with aggressive riding towards the business end of the race. They finished second and first respectively although they crossed the line arm in arm. Enaut raced aggressively right from the word go by making the break last for the majority of the race. He finished third. Youngster Rhishabh finished 4th in open. 
Elite podium! Class act!

Record Participation- Riders From Around The Country!
This race saw quite a few outstation riders from cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Auroville and Chennai. With about 150 riders participating across the two distances of 47km and 97km in various categories, this is record participation in BBCH. I guess having a shorter race also encouraged better participation from beginner riders. 

Credit goes to Team Cleated Warriors for suggesting and planning the two races and helping the BBCH core committee execute them well. They have brought in Decathlon Anubava as hospitality partner who hosted the podium ceremony following a sumptuous breakfast for all the riders and volunteers. Great job by everyone.
The ambulance support from Sita Bhateja Hospital and Physio support from Spectrum Physio were put to much use today as there were a lot of crashes in the shorter, 47km race where most of the young blood was riding. Thanks to them all the injured riders were attended to in time.

Yoga Bars gave away their yummy yoga bars for all the riders who participated in the race.
The volunteer force behind the race!
Super job once again by all the volunteers at BBCH for pulling off another great race! Thanks everyone!

Security Note: We might need more volunteers to look after the vehicles parked at our start/end points. Some cheeky burglers managed to break glasses of 7 cars and got away with valuables from the cars. We need to be extra vigilant from now on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Team Sport Indeed! - BBCH Team Time Trial - March 2015!

Trial By Time!
Individual time trial(ITT) and team time trial(TTT) are interesting desciplines. They are very similar and yet very different. In the individual time trial you race against the elements and the clock. There is no hiding from the wind. No respite from the ticking clock. An individual, his machine(of course the aerodynamic paraphernalia) and their race against the clock. It is the purest of tests in cycling, in a way. No wonder it is often referred to as the 'Race of Truth'. Usually a person with the ability to hit steady threshold or higher power and keep at it for the distance would do well in ITT. And flat ITTs tend to favour the person with a higher FTP(Functional Threshold Power) and most aerodynamic position and gear(as in Aero/TT bike, skinsuit, aero helmet, shoe covers etc).

Some had TT bikes and full aero gear at their disposal!
Some had their road bikes and aero bars added in the mix
A Team Sport!
When the descipline is extended to a team, a lot more dynamics come into the picture. Along with the factors that apply to the ITT, it is also about cohession and communication amongst the team members. It helps if all the team members are of almost equal abilities. But when that is not the case, the team can go as fast as it's slowest member. How the team works with and leverages the strengths and weakenesses of it's members to go as fast as possible on the set course, determines its performance in the TTT. 

Some just had their road bikes and their fabulous smiles to aid them go fast!
Work With What You Got!
In our team, Spectrum Racing, we have always given importance to TTT because it challenges us in different ways each time. Being an amateur team with mostly masters athletes(35+) of various backgrounds, it is always difficult to have a set of riders at similar level at the same time. In our team Shankar Jayaraman and Hari Menon were in decent shape but the course doesn't really suit their ultra skinny selves. Our skipper, Arvind Bhateja, just got back on the bike 4 weeks back after a back surgery and I got back on the bike a couple weeks before the race after a 3 week forced break due to various injuries. But we have decided that this combination is our best bet based on our practice rides during the weekends preceding the race Sunday. We have also managed to fine tune our communication and pacing strategies based on the blunders we did during our practice rides. 

Cleated Warriors Master's team in action!
We took to the startline as the penultimate team with the two man team of Vivek Radhakrishnan and K Kiran Kumar Raju of SKCT starting at the end. We have decided to start with a two minute pull with Shankar starting followed by Hari, Arvind and myself. After the initial 10km of moderate start we switched to 1min pulls for most of the distance with 30secs each in the final kms. We were mindful of not starting too hard and probably were a bit over conservative at the start. But we decided to stick to our plan and not get excited even when the two man SKCT team went past us barely 10kms into the 49.3km race.

We knew trying to match someone else's pace is only going to throw us off our rhthym and ultimately hurt the team. So, we continued with our plan and kept working smoothly. We went at a fair clip of 40kmph till the halfway point(24.6km). At this point we were 2mins slower than during our last practice ride a week before. It might be due to unfavourable winds or due to our conservative tactics. With such a distance it is not easy to guage how hard we could go for how long. If we over cook the effort we might end up burning out too soon and if we are too conservative we end up being slower than what we are capable of. It is a fine balance and we probably decided to be safe than sorry by being a little conservative.
Spectrum team A in action!

A few kms after the U-turn at the halfway mark, after doing a fine job of putting in some solid pulls at the front, Arvind told us to go ahead as he is unable to continue with the effort. Hari, Shankar and I kept going trying not to be not too fast on the uphills and not too slow on the downhills. About 5km to go we switched to 30sec pulls. Being almost 8 kgs heavier than the remaining two, I decided to take longer than 30 secs on the final downhill leading up to the finishline. The three of us crossed the finishline almost simultaneously in 1:12:17 at an average of exactly 41kmph.

Masters Category:
As it turned out, with the oldest rider being 48 and the youngest being 35 with a 38 year old and a 43year old in between, the mean age of our team A was also 41. May be we could have saved another minute or 90 secs if we went a little harder but we are not complaining finishing the second fastest overall(behind the two man SKCT team,1:09:02) and first in masters category.

Our team B of Vicki Nicholson, Ravi Ranjan Kumar and Mohan Kumar finished 2nd(1:16:57) in masters with Cleated warriors Deepak Mhasavade, Thoudam Opendro Singh and Nalla Konar finished 3rd(1:19:06).
Master's Podium!

Women Category:
In the women's category, the all star team comprising of a couple of German nationals(Sabina von Kessel, Lena Robra) and an Indian(Mehvash Arslan) took the top prize. They finished the race with a time of 1:30:53. They were followed by Team Wheelsports women team of Tim Tim Sharma, Sowmya Urs and Geeta Bhist with 1:46:19. Harsini G and Payal Kini of Team BOTS finished third with 2:14:44.
Girl power at BBCh!

Open Men:
With their main riders resting, it was upto SKCT owner, Vivek and their MTB rider, Kiran to defend the team TTT title and they did a swell job of it with a superb timing of 1:09:02. Team Wheelsports consisting of Paigamber Nadaf, Anantha Vishwanathan and Shivraj M finished second with a timing of 1:13:39. Team BOTS consisting Craig Raynes, Muralidhar and Akshat Khanna finished third in open men's with a timing of 1:14:45.
Open Men Podium!

On a Right Note!
BBCH 2015 season started off on a right note with ITT last month and TTT this month seeing record participation. We have had 26 teams and about 80 riders participating in this race while ITT last month saw 105 riders. For both the races, the BBCh council has started the practice of giving out the start order and start times for each of the riders, a day before the race. This not only enables the riders to time their warmup and nutrition but also ensures that everything goes smoothly on time. That is just an example of how BBCh keeps getting better every year.

Another great thing about BBCH this season is that it is completely community driven with each of the Bangalore based teams taking the responsibility to help the BBCh council of volunteers to execute the races. Our team, Spectrum racing, was responsible for ITT last month and TTT this month. I think they went very well even if I say so myself. The BBCh council of volunteers, Suman Paul, Promise Gangani, Marghoob Hasan and Khuram NK have been doing a great job along with other volunteers like Opendro. The next race(100km road race) on 19th April is going to be driven by Bangalore's most cheerful team, Cleated Warriors. I'm looking forward to it!

Sumptuous Breakfast:
Our team also sponsored breakfast for all the riders and volunteers at the end of the race. I was the first to grab a plate but I ensured that I left enough for others to eat. The buffet breakfast of idly, vada, kharabath, kesaribath, coffee, tea etc., was just what we needed after a hard race. Thanks to our skipper Arvind for coming up with the idea and doing all the arrangements.
Spectrum Racing! One happy team!
All the photos in this post are by Raghu Mohan Photography. You can like his FB page to follow his superb work in Sports photography. The album from this race can be accessed here
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