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Sunday, November 20, 2016

BBCH Nandi Epic 2016 - An Epic Written In Pain!

Epic Written In Pain!
He was in pain but he was in his element on the climb. He was slightly behind the leader but was ahead of 80 others. It was eerily calm except for his own heavy breath. Then he heard something. Snap. His bike’s rear derailleur broke, breaking his rhythm and brought him to a standstill. He furiously tried to see if he can set it right and quickly realized he could do nothing. With 2 more km to go, he threw the shoes off and began to run up the hill with the bike. One by one, three of the riders who were behind him went past as he continued to run up in desperation to finish the race. With one kilometer more to go to the finish line, a rider coming down the hill offered his bike to him. He thanked god and the godsend rider and got on the bike. He began riding in his socks. He was back in his element again. Ahead, he saw a rider who went past him as he was running with his bike. He caught him and passed him just before the last bend. He battled through pain, on a borrowed bike, riding in his socks and crossed the line. Elated, dejected and totally spent! Just another epic performance in an epic race!
Parshuram Chenji crossing the finish line on a borrowed bike in his socks!
Bangalore Bicycling Championships! A Thriving Platform:
In 2008, a bunch of friends got together on a Sunday morning on the interior roads outside of Bangalore to see who can go fastest on a particular stretch of road. They got a kick out of it and decided to get together every third Sunday of the month and a series of races called Bangalore Bicycling Championships(BBCH) is born. Most of the riders have started cycling in the mornings or the weekends to stay fit, while slogging through 40-60 hour desk jobs, in the IT capital of India. For them, these races gave a purpose that is beyond just staying fit and made their rides all the more interesting. The number of riders at these races kept increasing as the word spread through blogs and beautiful photos captured during these fun community events. With each passing month, along with the number of riders, the quality of their riding kept on improving.

The volunteer driven races always followed a specific schedule that is set at the start of the each season so that riders could plan their training for these races. Riders from different parts of the country started participating and the prestige of the events kept growing with the quality of the field. The volunteers from probably the biggest cycling community in India executed these races immaculately and that only added to the charm of the race series. BBCH now is one of the premier racing platforms in the country and typically Nandi race is its last and most prestigious race every season.
The Peloton before the U-turn on the highway! A sedate start on a foggy morning!
Nandi Epic: A Stage for Epic Performances:
Nandi hills, a 7.34km climb gaining about 400m of elevation is the only paved climb of any substance that is easily accessible to riders around Bangalore. Located around 60km from the center of the city, it makes for an ideal weekend long ride with a fix of climbing for most riders in Bangalore. The climb times tend to serve as a scale to decide the pecking order amongst riders in the community. When a 100km race is designed to finish at the top of Nandi, it automatically becomes everyone’s favorite race. They call it Nandi Epic 100! And it usually lives up to the hyped up name!

 181 riders registered across categories for this year’s edition of the Nandi Epic at BBCH. Riders from Goa, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and other places across the country made it to the start line of this prestigious event. This year’s race was moved to a Saturday to avoid the Sunday crowd on the hill that played havoc with last year’s race. The race starts on a National highway just after the Bangalore airport on the outskirts of the city. For Elite and Master’s categories, the 100km route goes 42kms down the highway where it takes a U-turn and stays another 37km on the highway. Then it takes the before getting off it and taking the approach road to the hill 21km from the finish. For Amateur and Women categories, the race route follows a similar pattern but with the U-turn being at 22km making it a 60km race.

The BBCH gets police permissions for their events but has to conduct them on open roads as blocking the roads for the little known sport of cycling isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But with lead vehicles, volunteers managing traffic and support vehicles following the riders, it is as pro as it can get for India right now.
          Anantha taking his turn at the front!

A Foggy Calm Before The Fire Strom:
The Elite and Masters riders were flagged off at 7am. It was an unusually cold and foggy morning. The peloton settled into a quick pace sans any major fireworks. Vinayank Goankar from Goa, Anantha Vishwanath from team Cleated Warriors, Shankar Jayaraman of team Spectrum Racing were the early pace setters. The first hour went relatively smoothly with about 40km covered and with the major players even taking a nature break and getting back to the bunch with the help of their lieutenants before the U-turn.

Kiran Kumar Raju(KKR) of Trek( an MTB National champion in ITT), Parashuram Chenji(Parshu) of Hyderabad Racing League(a silver medalist in U-23 National championship road race this year), Sarvesh Sangarya of team Ministri racing, Naveen Raj of Wheelsports(Karnataka state ITT champion), Muralidharan(Murali), Vinayak are all good climbers and major contenders for the Elite podium. Craig Raynes of team BOTS, Arvind Bhateja of Spectrum Racing, Vivek Radhakrishnan, Nigel Smith of team Scott, Richard Mueller from Goa are all strong riders and contenders for the Master’s podium.

KKR had alliances in Naveen Raj, Anantha and Nikhil Rammohan of team Crankmiester. Sarvesh had an alliance in Vinayak along with a strong team in Ministri’s Phanibhushan Mahapatra and Vinesh Chawla working for him. Murali and Parshu were flying solo.

The Star Studded Breakaway!
Right after the U-turn at 42km mark, the fireworks began to go off. KKR put his men Naveen and Nikhil to take hard turns at the front on the long uphill section right after the U-turn. That infusion of the mad pace quickly shattered the peloton into pieces. Naveen, KKR, Sarvesh, Parshu, Vinayak, Murali, Phanibhushan, Vishwesh Sangarya, Craig and Arvind made a star studded breakaway of 10 riders. Only Craig and Arvind of Master’s category made it to the break.

A second group formed with Nigel, Richard, Vivek, Hari Menon(Spectrum Racing), Mohan Kumar(Spectrum Racing) who are all in Master’s category along with a few young guys like Mani Singh(Hyderabad), Vinesh, etc. Nikhil who was instrumental in making the breakaway happen couldn’t stick to it and landed in the chase group. Vishwesh also joined Nikhil in the chase group after pulling for a bit in the breakaway and dropping off. 

The power house Craig drove the pace hard in the breakaway. He would take strong pulls right after Arvind swung off from his turn at the front. In the process he was not only putting time on all the other master’s contenders that didn’t make the break but also putting Arvind through a lot of hurt. With Phani, Naveen and Vinayak taking regular pulls, the gap to the chase group kept ballooning up and reached almost 4 mins with 25kms to go. Phani cramped up and dropped off the race. Right around that time, KKR, Sarvesh and Parshu launched another attack and only Craig and Vinayak were able to follow. Naveen and Murali got distanced as did Arvind. 

As the lead group hit the right hand turn to Nandi approach road, getting off the highway, Parshu hit the turn a little too fast and slid on the slightly sandy turn. He left a bit of skin on the road but that didn’t faze him as he quickly got back on the bike and started riding. The others slowed down a little to let him get back on, showing excellent sportsmanship that BBCH stands for.

On the Nandi approach road, even Vinayak got dropped paying the price for all the work he did earlier in the race before the U-turn and then in the break. He joined Naveen and Murali. Naveen was driving the pace again and was trying to bridge up with Murali and Vinayak on his wheel. Earlier in the race, he almost single handedly got KKR to the Peloton after his nature break, then set the pace at the front, made the break happen after the U-turn with some monstrous pulls at the front and kept at it for most of the time in the break. Even after so much work, after he got distanced at 75km mark, he didn’t sit back but kept time trialing away with Murali on his wheel. Watching his unbelievable capacity for pain was awe inspiring.
     Naveen Raj on the climb with Murali on his wheel
Craig, KKR, Sarvesh and Parshu were the only guys in the break now and it seemed to have settled the top 3 of elite podium and the top step of the Master’s. Behind, Arvind was riding alone in no man’s land with the pace picking up in the chase group.  At one point he had 3mins advantage on the chase group but that quickly shrunk to less than a minute as they approached the base of the hill. He was struggling and chances of him staying away from the chase group to take second in master’s kept diminishing. His own teammates, Hari and Mohan, unknowingly contributing the pace of the chase group didn’t help his cause.

Dancing With The Wind:
The front four hit the climb and it exploded once again. KKR, who hardly took the wind until he lost Naveen Raj, took off like the wind as soon as he hit the climb. He disappeared around the first bend up the hill with Parshu a little behind him followed by Sarvesh. Craig had no illusions of his chances on the hill against these featherweight climbers. He played to his strengths driving the pace on the flats where he distanced all the other master’s contenders and built a buffer of more than 5 mins for himself. He had a strategy and he executed it to perfection. It was now only a matter of making it up the climb and the top step of the Master’s podium.

The fight for the elite podium, however, was very much on. With 3km to go on the climb, KKR had a huge lead. Parshu was behind him with Sarvesh well behind him. Behind them Naveen Raj and Murali were making good progress.

KKR was in his zone. His journey started on the same hill 5 years ago where he raced on a borrowed bike in sneakers to finish 5th overall. He kept chipping away at this race moving up the ladder finishing 4th the next year, until he finished 2nd last year. This year, he was determined to finally crack this prestigious race and he had roped in all his friends towards that goal. They had delivered him to the base. It was now up to him to deliver. He was keenly aware of all the work Naveen Raj and others put in to get him there and he was paying their services proper homage in his suffering. He charged up the hill taking the inside line on even the steepest of the hairpin bends.
     KKR with his beast mode on! Charging up the hairpin bends!
When The Going Gets Tough:
Parshu was around 500meters behind him with 3kms to go. He managed to put in a big gap on Sarvesh and others. He was in pain but he was in his element on the climb. He was slightly behind the leader but was ahead of 80 others. It was eerily calm except for his own heavy breathing. Then he heard something. Snap. His bike’s rear derailleur broke, breaking his rhythm and brought him to a standstill. He furiously tried to see if he can set it right and quickly realized he could do nothing. With 2 more km to go, he threw the shoes off and began to run up the hill with the bike.

One by one Murali, Naveen and Sarvesh went past him as he continued to run up in desperation to finish the race. With one kilometer more to go to the finish line, a rider(Gaurav Bhatla) coming down the hill offered his bike to him. He thanked god and the godsend rider and got on the bike. He began riding in his socks. He was back in his element again. Ahead, he saw Sarvesh who went past him as he was running with his bike. He caught him and passed him just before the last bend. He battled through pain, on a borrowed bike, riding in his socks and crossed the line. Elated, dejected and totally spent! He finished 4th overall. Just another performance in an epic race!

Murali, who managed to hang on to Naveen’s wheel after they got dropped from the breakaway and stayed with him until halfway up the climb, went past him on the steepest part of the hill with 2km to go. He finished a couple of minutes behind KKR in second. Naveen Raj despite all the work he was doing all day, finished 3rd just a few seconds behind Murali. Sarvesh finished 5th just behind Parshu. Parshu was unlucky. His crash at Nandi turn-off cost him more than a bit of skin. It cost him his second spot as it resulted in the rear derailleur breaking at a crucial moment in the race. But his indomitable spirit won him a lot more than a spot on the podium.
Elite Podium! Naveen Raj(3rd), Kiran Kumar Raju(1st), Muralidharan(2nd) from left to right!
In Master’s Category, Craig finished comfortably ahead of all the competitors. Arvind paid for all the matches he burnt in staying in the breakaway in the form of severe cramps as soon as he hit the climb. All the advantage he had before the climb fritted away as Nigel and Richard went past him and finished in 2nd and 3rd spots in Master’s category respectively. Hari and Mohan paid for the efforts of driving the pace on the highway. They ended up bringing their rivals fresh to climb and had them walking right over them. They finished 4th and 5th respectively.
        Master’s podium: Richard(3rd), Craig(1st), Nigel(2nd) from left to right!
In the 60km Amateur Category, Tarun Rao of Ministri racing won comfortably with Veloscope rider finishing 2nd. Vinod Pillai of team Madrascals finished 3rd.
     Amateur podium: Vinod Pillai(3rd), Tarun Rao(1st) and Siddarth Krishnan(2nd) in that order!

In the women’s category, Lena Robra of Team Crankmiester finished first with Aarthi Srinath of Team Madrascals at 2nd and Nitya Srinivasan at 3rd.
                                   Women’s category winner, Lena Robra with her podium loot!
In U-18 category, Hyderabad boys Raj Kumar and Tanishq of Maxwell Trevor Cycling Acadamy finished 2nd and 3rd respectively with G.T. Gagan Reddy taking the win!
Under 18 podium! Tanishq(3rd),Gagan Reddy(1st), Raj Kumar(2nd)from left to right!

Thanks to all the volunteers and the core committee of BBCH, for another exceptionally executed race and season. Thanks to all the sponsors that back BBCH and the cycling community of Bangalore!
Khuram K, Promise, Marghoob and Suman Paul: The core committee at BBCH!
Pic Credits: Sports Anonymous

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Spectrum Of Attacks, Strategies and Team Work!! BBCH - 100km Road Race May 2016!

The Flag Off to the Sufferfest:
The countdown has started and we were flagged off at exactly 7am for our 100km race that had 40 participants in Elite and 20 participants in Master's category. The 60 strong peloton was dominated by one big team put together by Srinath Rajam of Chennai for Peak India Racing. It had 10 of the most strong riders from all over the country brought together specifically for this race. With 10 riders, they made 25% of the Elite field. Two more strong teams looking for strong results were my team, Spectrum Racing and Pune Wolfpack. Wolfpack had 4 riders in Elite and Spectrum had 3 riders plus an ally in a rider(Nikhil Ram Mohan) from Team Crankmiester. So, effectively 4 each, or 10% each in the Elite field. 
Elite Peleton! Pic: Veloscope
At Spectrum, we were placing all our bets on our sprinter, Gaurav Duggal. Rishav Mallik, Nikhil and I were on domestique duties for him. Wolfpack had the young talent, Makarand Mane(all of 18 years) and the super talented and experienced Michale Lehnig to play with while Rajat Subra Roy and Rishabh Hattarki(also under-20) were there to help them when needed. At Peak, almost everyone is a star. They had many cards to play with in riders like Sandesh Uppar(current National MTB champion and U-23 road race champ), Naveen Raj(ex U-23 National road race champ and ex-SKCT), super talented brothers from Bangalore, Sarvesh and Vishwesh Sangarya, young talent from Hyderabad, Parashuram Chenji(HRL), Anubhav Karmakar, seasoned national level riders, Ramswaroop Jakhar, Jetharam Gat and a couple of strong talented riders in Anoop Adhur Kutty and Shaun from Trivandrum Roadies. Amongst them, Jetharam Gat was the sprinter and Ramswaroop is his main lead out man.  

The Peak Attack Festival:
With the kind of strength that Peak had both in sheer numbers and the fire power, forming a strategy is not going to require a degree in rocket science. Attack! Attack again! And attack some more! Attack till you weaken the opposition so much that, by the time you get to the finish line, you have no opposition left.

Anoop was setting the pace for the first couple of kilometers. Around 3km mark, Naveen Raj attacked. I got out of the saddle and followed him. Then immediately, Sandesh Uppar attacked with Naveen jumping on his wheel. I hesitated for a brief fleeting moment and they were gone. I settled into a chase at the front of the peleton. Our team strategy was to for me to cover all the attacks and for me to get into a break away if possible with guys in Peak. That will mean guys at Peak and our team Spectrum can relax and stay fresh while others do the chasing. But my hesitation was because I might not have enough big jumps to keep trying if the break was reeled in and there were more attacks. So, I opted to chase instead and try to keep the gap to as small as possible to get our sprinter to the line.
In the pain cave, out on the open road!  Pic: Veloscope
The gap was varying between 30 secs to 1 minute. I kept going hoping someone from the other teams will join the chase. Me looking back and making signs to rotate didn't result in bringing people to contribute to the chase but the photographer jeep crossing us offered me relief by drawing a couple of riders forward. That suited me just fine as long as the pace is high enough to not let the gap increase.

The Spectrum of Pain!

After I got a bit of reprieve from the front, I tried jumping from the group and see if I could bridge but that didn't happen and the peleton was on my tail again. There were occasional jumps from my teammates to just spur the others into action and they helped me sit back for a few seconds. I didn't want any of my teammates to contribute to the chase as I wanted them to stay fresh to help our sprinter in the return leg when the action could get more intense. So, when Nikhil kept coming foward to help, I told him to sit back and stay covered.  

Catching the breakaway early was not important in my view. It is, in-fact, detrimental to our cause to catch them soon as that is bound to result in more attacks and breakaways, tiring out more of us. If I am able to keep the gap small and take the guys as far into the race as possible, it should be fine. The break will eventually get caught and the rest of our guys will be fresh enough to chase any further breaks in the business end of the proceedings.
Off the front in their own pain cave, Naveen Raj and Sandhesh Uppar, the day's first breakaway that stayed away for 54km!

Our Master's rider and domestique, Mohan Kumar was there to help our Master's contender, Dr. Arvind Bhateja. But he came forward occasionally go help me with the chase. Master's contender and super strong rider, Craig Raynes didn't have any reason to work at the front but he graciously came forward occasionally to take a turn at the front as well.

Vishwesh Sangarya and Ramswaroop of Peak India came foward on separate occasions to sit at the front and set the pace. But I was not naive enough to take them to be chasing their own team members. They were trying what is called stalling, which is basically getting to the front and slowing down the pace of the group so that the breakaway gains time. I was quick to read that and took to the front and drove the pace back into the forties.  

I kept taking my Fast&Up energy gels every 20-30mins to keep the energy levels up and kept sipping on the electrolyte water(Reload) regularly as I kept working at the front. I was going very close to my threshold and I knew very well that I could very well not complete the race. But, I wanted to take my teammates as far into the race as possible. As we approached the halfway point, a young rider from Bangalore, Pramod Anantha came forward to help by taking a turn at the front. I could sense that he was soon struggling but the intent to contribute to the race from the younster was heartening to see.

Seeing a spectrum of pain...   Pic: Veloscope
I was surprised to see that we covered almost 41kms in the first hour of the race and the pace continued till after we took the U-turn around 49km mark. At around 54km mark, after about 1hr 18mins into the race, Craig had enough of seeing me keeping the two riders in the breakaway dangling a few meters ahead all the time and put in a surge to bridge the gap. I dropped back slowly as the riders were caught. From the back, I could see that more attacks went flying with Sandhesh who was caught attacking again immediately and Vishwesh attacking immediately after he was caught. That did not fly as well.

In the lull that followed, I managed to come back to the group and tried to make my way up to the front of the group again. I was looking for Michael of Pune Wolfpack to talk to him about contributing to the chase for the rest of the distance at least. I couldn't find him in the group. He apparently had a flat at 40k mark and was left behind along with Rajat who also had a mechanical. So, there is no way we are going to get any help from them. Just then, another two riders from Peak jumped. This time, it was Sarvesh Sangarya and Parashuram Chenji. They were quickly shut down by Rishab Hattarki of Wolfpack and Spectrum's Gaurav Duggal working together.
Mohan at the helm of things chasing the final break... Pic: Veloscope
As expected, they were employing a classic two pronged attacks. First two riders attack to form a break away and force the opposition teams to chase. Once the two are caught, another two will attack and go away forcing another chase again. This will continue until all the opposition riders are totally spent and either their guys in breakaway win or those in the bunch take the sprint.

My legs were stalling from cramps by then and I didn't have the strength to keep up and decided to sit up and go at my own pace. I was cramping up badly not due to lack of electrolytes, as I was taking care of that, but due to the effort that I have put in so far was beyond what my current conditioning allowed. I kept fighting for another 10km before both my legs jammed and I was in tremendous pain. I flagged down the Manchanabele Macha's support car that was being driven by Akash Ananthaswamy. Balu offered to ride my bike back to the start while I sat in the car. 

Anoop and Shaun of Trivandrum Roadies and Peak India Racing in the breakaway! Pic: Veloscope
From Domestique to Director Sportif:
I was fine once I got into the car and wondered if I should have continued. Then, I told myself that I have done my job for the team from the bike and it is now time to see how the rest of the race is unfolding from the car. We went ahead and saw that the peleton was being pulled by my teammate Mohan. We didn't see Craig in the group and learnt that he had a puncture and was behind. 

We went ahead and after a couple of kilometers, saw two orange jerseys of Trivandrum roadies up the road. We reached them. They were struggling but they had a huge gap. Shaun was sufferring with cramps and was asking for Fast and Up Reload. I had none. But I offered him a Fast and Up gel I had and some water. I knew they were working against my team and I'm helping them get their energy back and recover. I felt they would truly deserve the win if they manage to stay away. After that, I asked Akash to stop the car by the road side after we crossed them and started timing the gap they had on the peleton. It was almost 3 minutes by the time peleton crossed us. My jaw almost hit the floor. That was a huge lead for a breakaway with only about 25km to go to the finish. 
The chase was on with Rishav and Nikhil at the helm of things!  Pic: Veloscope
We started the car and started riding up to the group. I found my teammates, Rishav and Nikhil and shouted at them that they better start chasing right at that moment or the race will be lost. They got down to the task. The next time we stopped and did a time check the lead had come down to under two minutes and then under a minute. Every time I dropped back to convey the gap to my team, I kept urging other friends like, Anantha Vishwanathan to take a turn and help the chase. Not knowing that Anubhav was in Peak team as well, I urged even him to go the front to chase. Poor guy must have been confused.
The final breakaway getting caught in the final kilometers! Pic: Veloscope
The two guys getting tired and the team putting their head down to chase shrinked the gap quickly. With 15km to go and the gap less than a minute, Master's category contender, Vivek started working at the front with the goal of dropping the other Master's contenders like our skipper, Arvind and Mahesh Iyer of Pune Wolfpack. But we were not complaining since he was indirectly helping us chase the breakaway in doing so. With about 7km to go Anoop was caught but Shaun kept at it. He was caught soon after and the group shelled a few in the process.
The final selection with Ramswaroop, Jetharam and Gaurav! Pic: Veloscope
The Chaotic Finish!
The last 3km was as chaotic as it can get with jumps from all and sundry from Peak and our guys shutting them down. With 2km to go, Ramswaroop got away with Jetharam and our guy, Gaurav got right onto their wheel. They were trying desperately to shake him off but he clung on. As they approached the line, Ramswaroop lead Jetharam out with Gaurav right on his wheel and opening the sprint. As Gaurav was trying to pass him, Jetharam kept changing the line and moving to the right almost pushing Gaurav into the divider in the middle of the road. Still, it was a photo finish with Gaurav finishing just about an inch behind at the line.

Ramswaroop finished behind them with Makarand Mane of Pune Wolfpack finishing immediately after. It was a heady sprint action at the finish line.

But, the move that Jetharam made during the sprint is illegal. To change the line of sprint like that is illigal and is downright dangerous on open roads. Pavan Muthanna and Monica Pillai of Crankmeister who were doing support duties at the race were filming the finish and managed to capture what happened at the finish line sprint. Our team launched an official complaint with BBCh that Jetharam intentionally blocked our sprinter by changing lanes and pushing the rider into right most lane with flowing traffic. We presented them with the video evidence. The case was immediately reviewed by the race officials and Jetharam had been disqualified for unsafe sprinting. Gaurav was announced winner. Peak India racing team manager, SriKumar Natarajan who was at the scene was very professional and conveyed full support to the decision that BBCh took.

Edit: Here’s the relevant UCI rule on safe sprinting:
2.3.036 SprintsRiders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others.
Edit: It is important that we look at the action and judge it and not the person. I have known Jetharam for quite sometime now. He is an excellent rider and a very nice person. The move he made in the heat of the race was considered dangerous. Not him. 
Video: Team Crankmiester 
In Elite category, with Jetharam's result being disqualified, Gaurav Duggal of Spectrum Racing took the top step followed by Ramswaroop Jhakar of Peak India Racing at 2nd and Makarand Mane of Pune Wolfpack at 3rd. It was super satisfying for Spectrum Racing to take the win in the Elite category in such a strong field. It was an example of what team work and execution of strategy can acheive even with limited resources. Special thanks to our friend Nikhil for working with us and helping us in a major way.
Elite Podium!  Pic: Veloscope
Master's Category: Spectrum Racing skipper, Arvind Bhateja won in Masters category having negotiated all the surges and finishing with the main bunch behind the sprint. Vivek paid for the effort he put in to shake Arvind off and finished a minute behind in second. Craig managed a wheel swap after his puncture and rode back alone to finish the race at 3rd in Masters. What a guy! He was undoubtedly the strongest of the bunch but an unfortunate puncture cost him the win.
Master's podium!   Pic: Veloscope
Amatuer Category: Phanibhushan Mahapatra of Team Crankmeister took the bunch sprint in Amatuer category by a long shot and finished first. His teammate, Riyaz Mohammed finished second with Team Ministri Racing's Azhar Mohammed finishing 3rd.
Amateur category finish! Phani finishing his sprint way ahead of the rest! Pic: Veloscope

Amateur category podium  Pic: Veloscope
Women's Category: Spectrum Racing's Shilpa Deo helped us complete a clean sweep of all the categories we participated in by finishing first in women's category. Kshama Muralidhar of Team Cadence 90 finished 2nd in the category.
Women's podium!  Pic: Veloscope
In U-18, there were 9 participants for the 50km race. Tanishq finished first with Niranjan finishing second a couple of seconds behind him. 
The 70 year old Russell Bell from Goa who raced in Masters category, handed over the prizes for U-18 podium! Pic: Veloscope
A BIG Thanks To Volunteers And Organizers: There were a record number of particpants(167) for this race. Amateur category had 80 riders. U-18 and Women's category had 9 riders each. Automated timing chips were used for the first time at BBCh for a mass start race to track finish. The traffic was very well controlled on the open roads for the race. The volunteers and organizers ensured that the race was executed to perfection and started on time and finished well. 

Thanks to volunteers and organizers and the sponsors for another brilliant race at the BBCH!

Thanks to Veloscope for the lovely pictures!

The next race at BBCh is a Downhill race near Nandi. Refer to for more details! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bangalore's Race Against The Clock!! BBCH Individual Time Trial - 2016

Bangalore's Race of Truth!
Time trial. The race against the clock. It is a race that can be bloody hard both mentally and physically. In my view it is more demanding mentally. It is just you and your thoughts against the clock and the elements. If your thoughts work with you, encourage you, or just let you be and let you focus, you have a better chance of doing well. Otherwise, it's not just the elements you are fighting but your thoughts as well and that is not an easy fight.  

No drafting. No tactics. Just you, your legs, your bike, your thoughts. Against, the wind, the terrain, the elements. That is why the time trial is often referred to as the race of truth.
Women's champion, Vicki Nicholson, on her ITT effort! Pic: Veloscope
A record number of 121 participants lined up for their own race of truth at the Bangalore Bicycling Championships Individual Time Trial for 2016 season on Sunday, 17th April. The atmosphere was very festive with hundreds of riders lined up at Emerald Isle, Hoskote, from where the race started. 

The organizers have done a fabulous job of assigning race start timings for all the participants and published that a day in advance so that they can time their warm up, nutrition etc instead of endlessly waiting and wondering when they are going to start. 

I have used this to get my nutrition, hydration and warm up right. With my start time scheduled at 8:05 am, I had a good breakfast at 6 am before starting to ride to the venue. Then started my warm up at 7:40 am for about 15 mins. Then hydrated with the pre-workout drink from FastAndUp, Activate. Just as I approached the start line, I took a FastAndUp energy gel and saved one for the half way mark. May be that much was not needed for a 33.5km TT but I wanted to be sure I was not low on energy and am experimenting on what works for me and what doesn't. 

The course is the same 33.5 km course that we have been using for the last 3 years for these time trials. Having a constant course allows us to gauge our performances over the years.

A Stormy-Calm Start!
I was the second last person to start. The count down began..5,4,3,2,1, Go! I push forward with my right leg clipped in, clip in the left and try to sprint up to speed. The right leg came off the pedal. Dang! Luckily, I could balance and stay on the bike. I always seem to have trouble starting out. Thankfully, I manage to clip in immediately without panicking. After ensuring I clipped in properly, I sprinted up to speed and settled into the saddle. "This is going to be a long one. Calm down", I told myself.

I reminded myself of the golden rule of time trial pacing. Don't start out too hard. It is very easy to get carried away at the start with the adrenaline flowing and go into red quickly. So, I kept giving my power numbers a quick glance to ensure that I stick to my pacing at least for the first five minutes.

The first 4 km has a couple of gentle uphills that can get you pushing too hard. I made a conscious effort not to push too much on the uphills which could result in me not being able to put in a proper effort on flats and downhills. I was just above the planned wattage at the end of the 5 minutes but within an acceptable range(less than 5% over).

The pacing notes I made to myself were to go slightly above the threshold on the uphills, stick to threshold on the flats and go slightly easier but not too relaxed on the downhills. I have also decided to go a bit harder on the way out and see how it goes on the way back. 

I was not looking at the average speed and didn't wear heart rate strap having decided not to rely too much on data and go by the feel. But I kept peeking a glance at power once in a while just to calibrate against the feel. I kept shifting gears up or down based on the feel in the legs and the occasional glance at the cadence field on my Garmin. At 10 mins and 15 mins into the race, I seemed to be in a far better position on the course than during any of my previous rides on this course. I figured there must have been a good amount of tail wind on the way out.

Midway Through - Cat And Mouse!
I went past a couple of riders but none in my category(just like last year, I've signed up to compete in elite instead of in Master's category this year at BBCh). As I approached the half way mark at Confident Amoon Resort, I turned back to see if there is any traffic coming before I took the U-turn. I noticed, Naveen Raj, a former U-23 national road race champion, was fast approaching me. He started one minute after me and was the last guy to start. Just then the current National MTB ITT champion, Kiran Kumar Raju(KKR), who started 1 min ahead of me took the U-turn and was on the other side of the road. As I took the U-turn, Naveen Raj went past me. He put in more than a min half way through the race and by the looks of it, I seemed to have gained about 30-40 seconds on KKR. That meant I wasn't doing too shabbily. I just need to consolidate my position and keep going as hard as I could.
Aero or not, this was my best TT effort till date!  Pic: Veloscope
I decided to take a couple of seconds to have the FastAndUp Energy gel and a couple of sips of the Reload(electrolyte) drink. After taking the gel and electrolytes, I started afresh mentally on the 16.7km journey back to the finish line. I could immediately feel the headwind after the U-turn. 

The going against the wind wasn't easy and having Naveen Raj a few meters in front threw my rhythm off a bit. I didn't want to be close to him and find myself in his draft which is illegal. I didn't have enough juice to go past him and play cat and mouse with him. After remaining steady for a couple of kilometers, the distance between us kept steadily increasing and he slowly got out of sight. That actually helped me as I could focus back on my pacing. I was going a bit under threshold but I kept going counting down each passing kilometer. KKR was no where to be seen. That meant he was gaining on me on the return leg. I made a mental calculation if I could keep going at the same effort which was slightly lower than that on the onward leg, and try to bump the effort up for the last 5km, I could still manage to keep a slender lead on him.

The Flourishing Finish!?
As I approached 5km mark, I saw Muralidharan on his Cervelo P2 in the distance ahead of me. I crested the last hill and on the downhill, I went past Murali. I had the weight advantage over him on the downhills and I put it to good use there. I tried to go as hard as I could on the downhill but I could see that the headwind was a big factor. Thanks to the downhill section the 1km to go mark approached quickly enough.

I saw the distinct black jersey of Sarvesh Sangarya a few meters ahead of me as I approached the finish line but this time, on the uphill finish, the young man put his weight advantage to good use and I couldn't go past him although I put all the effort that I could. The finish line seemed to have moved a few meters as I remember the previous finish line to be a bit before. Those extra couple of seconds felt like an eternity but I was happy with my effort as I crossed the line.

I was exhausted but was also elated that I after goofing up in the last couple of years during this event, I could finally give everything I could give. It was one of those rare days where the mind was calmer and let the body do it's job and the body was up for the challenge. Focusing on the process of pacing instead of worrying about the result also helped.

After spinning a couple of kilometers in cool down, we rolled back to finish line which had nice tents installed by BBCH to protect the riders from the blazing sun as we waited for the results to be announced. 

In the Elite category Naveen Raj finished way ahead of everyone with an average of 44.5kmph. I came in second with an average of 42.3kmph while KKR finished just 14 seconds behind me with an average of 42.1kmph. 

What was a big surprise for me was that I finished almost 1min 30secs ahead of the strong riders in the master's category. From having massive doubts about my readiness to race to having finished the second fastest on the day with 121 starters, it was one hell of a roller coaster day for me. Thanks to my teammate, Vandit Kalia, for loaning me his TT spare bike and my skipper, Arvind Bhateja for lending his aero helmet. I couldn't have done well without the support of my team, Spectrum Racing!
Elite Category podium! Pic: Veloscope
In Master's category, Vivek Radhakrishnan, Ronny Schrijvers and Craig Rhynes finished first, second and third in that order. They were all within a few seconds of each other. 

Results! From
In Amateur category, Vinesh Chawla of Ministri Racing finished first followed by Leander of Team Crankmeister and Pramod Anantha at second and third respectively.
Amatuer Category Podium! Pic from Ministri FB Page
In Women's category, Vicki Nicholson of Spectrum Racing finished a couple of minutes ahead of Tim Tim Sharma who was second. Kshama Muralidhar of Team Cadence90 finished third.
Women's podium! Vicki who was first had to leave early.. Pic from: Cadence90 page
In Under-18, Niranjan finished at top followed by Rishabh. It is heartening to see youngsters participate in these races but we need to see more of them come and participate.  

Winners got gift vouchers from Adidas and Nomadic destinations along with BBCh certificates and medals.

Volunteers and organisation:
BBCh delivered yet another flawless race with brilliant execution. The start time and order allotment well in advance that they started last year continued this year too and is very good. The breakfast sandwich was yummy and the arrangement of tent at the finish line to offer shade to the exhausted cyclists is well thought out. The start and finish were on time and the results were out on time. We could look at speeding up the presentation ceremony a bit although it is difficult to do with so many categories to be covered as well as so many sponsors and volunteers to thank for. Thanks to all the volunteers and BBCh committee for all the hard work put in to deliver another great race. Thanks to Team Crankmeister who took the responsibility of the race and helped team BBCh for this race. Next race is the 100km road race on Mangalore-Hassan highway with Manchanabale Macha's sharing the responsibility along with BBCh. Looking forward to it.

Thanks to the awesome folks at Veloscope who covered the race with brilliant photography and also provided free downloads of high resolution pics for all the participants of BBCh.  

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