|Lined up at the start..|
Vasu flagged it off. Click, click, click. Some 60 odd pairs of shoes clipped in and started mashing on the pedals in a frantic frenzy at the start. A lead bunch quickly formed and were going at a frantic pace. The group was riding with good discipline, signaling and shouting warnings for others behind to watch out for the potholes, the cattle on the road and other such trivial realities of rural India that come in the way of the joys of bicycle racing. The route was well marked with helpful arrows to circumvent craters in the road. But when you are in the middle of a large group going great guns down a hill they might not be visible. So, one had to be be on their toes or risk being on all fours within no time.
Richard McDowell(Origin AbhiBus) was setting the pace for the starting few kms with Darren slowly making his way up to the front with a couple of Specialized KYNKYNY boys to lead the paleton. Navin John, the new guy in the town, was there in the thick of things at the front riding strong. I was trying to hang in there along with a few others like Jeff(KYNKYNY Wheelsports), Ravi(Spectrum Racing), Siddarth(Veloscope Racing) and a lot of MadRascals riders from Chennai. It was a big lead group. But it was not going to stay that big for too long.
You Just Got Dropped:
A small climb at around 5km mark, another at 9km and another around 12km mark quickly broke the large group into a smaller groups. Those short but steep climbs served as reality checks for quite a few. I got dropped from the back of the lead group on the third climb around 12km mark. The next few kms of effort trying to bridge up to them was costly and took its toll by the time I reached the turn around point around 17km. I could see that the guys arranged themselves into a couple of groups already as they were descending after making the U-turn while I was climbing up to make the same turn.
Around that point, a very week sounding and even weaker looking lean figure of Sarvesh(BOTS racing) rode to beside me and was looking for water. I gave him one of my two bottles and told him to keep it. Just a sip of water was not going to hold him for more than 2/3rds of the race that is still to be done. I just hoped that I would be able to survive with whatever water that was left in my bottle. I later learned that the potholes on the route and the speed breakers usually signaling the village limits assisted a lot of riders become lighter for the climbing terrain by helpfully ejecting their water bottles.
Pacing Or Racing?
We took the U-turn and descended to turn left to get back on the road back to Harohalli. We rode together and just as we approached a climb, were almost able to make it to the group in front of us. But just as we finished the climb, the group disappeared into the horizon again. We were then joined by Siddarth(Veloscope) and a MadRascals rider(bib 28), whose name I later learned to be Vijay.
Initially he looked like he was working with us but after some time of sitting on our wheels he quickly jumped to join a passing auto to draft behind it. Then after a bit of distance he got dropped by the auto and joined our tail as we rode past him. Then after a while he jumped on to a passing motorbike and went ahead motor pacing. The same thing repeated more than three occasions. We decided to report him to the organizers. The next time we rode past him, I asked him to feel free to stop racing if he is tired, since anyway, he would most likely get disqualified after we report the motor-pacing.
The Feather Weight Gen-Next:
As Sarvesh, Siddarth and I approached the starting point to take the second U-turn to start the final leg of the race, we saw a breakaway group of 5 Specialized KYNKYNY riders followed by a two small groups of riders. So, our little group was the 4th group. By that time, I stopped entertaining any hopes of catching up with the groups ahead and decided to ride to complete the race as the body began to feel the effects of more than an hour of riding above my threshold.
A bit into the last leg, a rider in the opposite direction shouted a warning, ‘Be careful. Elephant crossing the road’. We wondered if we heard it right and rode on nervously.
Three of us were working well and I was really impressed by the two youngsters with big hearts for enduring pain. On the flats, I tried to set the pace. Siddarth and Sarvesh looked like they were floating effortlessly on the climbs and I was trying hard to catch up. Probably, I got my strategy wrong there. 🙂 Finally, on the second climb halfway through the last leg, I got dropped and our plans of working with them till the final climb didn’t see light. Although I recovered and caught them just before the final climb, the effort taken to bridge combined with running out of water was enough for me to start cramping up.
|Posing with the two youngsters..|
The Summit Finish:
The road began going skywards for the millionth time in the day. The feather weight youngsters started dancing on the pedals and started to move away into the horizon. Again! Thankfully, it would be for the last time for the day. I tried standing up to see if I can make time to move faster. To see if I can get it all to end sooner. To get to the finish line faster. But the cramps had other ideas. They were threatening to make me stop completely. I took one look back and saw no other rider behind me. With the position where I would finish looking safe, I just put an end to the fight and spun slowly to the finish line.
Completing the tough course felt like a victory. So, there were quite a few winners. However, the first few of those made it to the podium. In Category 2, Navin John made it to the top of the podium and was a real threat to the most of the top guys. He was joined by Sachin(SKCT), Sarvesh(BOTS) and Hatim(MadRascals) on the Cat 2 podium.
|Hatim(4th), Sarvesh(3rd), Navin John(1st) and Sachin(2nd) on Cat 2 Podium|
In Women’s category, Vicki(Veloscope Racing) zoomed on to the podium in her first race appearance this year. She was joined by Shilpa Deo(Spectrum Racing), Meera and Manjula(Spectrum) on the podium.
|Manjula(4th), Meera(3rd), Vicki(1st) and Shilpa(2nd) on the Women’s podium..|
The Cat1 podium was hogged by Specialized KYNKYNY team with all four positions donning the red and white kit. Ambi took the top honors followed by Naveen, Loki and Sangamesh.
|Sangamesh (4th), Lokesh Narasimachar(3rd), Ambi(1st) and Naveen Raj(2nd) on Cat1 Podium: SKCT show all the way!|
The Elephant Scare:
The first hot discussion after crossing the finish line was about a rider who was attacked by a wild elephant. Suddenly the warning of the elephant crossing and vague sighting of what looked like a bike in a ditch being looked on by a crowd as we rode on the final leg of the race, made sense. As it turned out the rider, Joe Matthews of GoGreen Cycling was apparently there for a weekend casual ride and was attacked by an elephant crossing the road. He was not registered as a rider or a volunteer for the race and was probably coming to watch the race when the unfortunate incident happened.
|The tusker’s fury.. Thankfully the rider made it out alright : Pic from Hari’s camera on our way back|
The full details can only be heard from him but from the second hand accounts of guys who went and saw him in Harohalli hospital, he was understandably shaken by the experience and had quite a few scratches and bruises but escaped with relatively minor injuries. It would be hard to disagree when one says that he was lucky after looking at the state of his bike. It was completely demolished and beaten to pulp by the tusker. Karan(BOTS) and Sri Ram(KW) were with him in the hospital to oversee the treatment and to help him get back to the city by the time we were driving back home. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Many of my friends ride the route regularly and they never saw an elephant or any other wild animal. I think, it was just unfortunate that Joe’s path crossed with tusker that day.
The Route, Organizers and Volunteers:
The route was an amagingly scenic and rolling terrain containing short but steep climbs with a total elevation of around 710m for the 53km race. The winding and rolling course finished on top of Jigani climb and offered amazing views. Although we hardly noticed the scenic beauty while suffering during the race, and enjoyed the views only when riding back to the cars, the whole experience was amazing. Great job by Veloscope racing team in selecting the awesome and tough route. They have done umpteen recces during the past couple of months and have done a fabulous job of working with the villagers on the route to clean and mark the route the day before. The neutral support vehicles with spare wheels was a nice addition during this race. The race marshals and all the volunteers did a great job in making it another memorable race. Thank you guys!
Teams from Chennai(MadRascals), Hyderabad(OriginAbhiBus) came in so did a sole rider from Gawahati, Gurvinder. It was fantastic to see so many riders with such enthusiasm and passion at one place. Keep riding guys!
More photos from my phone here: https://picasaweb.google.com/102172342564541481938/BBCh5HarohalliJiganiRoadRace
Watch out for fantastic clicks of race action here: https://www.facebook.com/Veloscope