Around 60 enthusiastic cyclists assembled, with their cycles, near the forest officer’s office near Chokkanahalli off Chagaletty around 6:30am. The showers of the night before meant, a relatively cooler morning with the Sun playing hide and seek amongst the clouds. It was most certainly a blessing since we’d need every bit of help we can get to endure this Cross Country(XC) endurance race of 60km on some of the most beautiful but open trails with little cover from the elements.
|Racing through the beautiful trails.. BBCh XC Endrance: Photo: RollingShutterz|
The trail was a 15km flattish and fast XC loop that cuts through forest, fields of flower plantations and mango grooves. The loop takes the shape of eight reminding a masquerade mask almost joining at the middle. The race loop had just about 500m of road section on which the race was started and ended allowing for the start line and finish line sprinting.
|15km Race Loop x 4 laps.. Blue markers just a couple of sources of route confusion!|
The race was flagged off with Cat 1 riders starting one minute ahead of Cat 2, U-18 and Women category riders.
Trail Action Heats Up:
The favorites in Cat1 were the usual hardcore MTB guys, Richard McDowell of Team Trek Firefox, Craig Raynes of team Bums On The Saddle (Team BOTS) and K Kiran Kumar Raju of Specialized KYNKYNY Cycling Team(SKCT). The new addition to the cat 1 favorites for this race was Naveen Raj who usually dazzles us on road being part of SKCT. He apparently joined Wheelsports MTB team and lined up as one of the podium contenders for this off-road race.
If anyone was missing the summer heat on the race day, it was made up by the heat of the racing action between the top favorites. It was one heck of a cat and mouse game between the top contenders. With Richard leading the pack in the first lap and Craig taking the turn in the 2nd lap and Kiran taking it up a notch after Richard dropped back with a flat in the third. The occasional MTBer Naveen did a great job sticking in there right through.
|The lead bunch of Cat1 – Craig leading the second lap.. Photo: RollingShutterz|
This Way or That?:
I started with the cat2 bunch and quickly found myself in the middle of a long broken line of riders. This was my first MTB ride in about an year and my only objectives for the race were staying on the bike and not having to ditch the race because of a flat. To avoid flats I ended up putting boat anchor downhill wheels on a hard-tail MTB that I borrowed from a colleague.
I found myself riding with Peter Moeleker and Michael Traesborg who were riding very strong. Up ahead a lead bunch had formed with the only rider on a cross bike, Oluf Kristian Højbjerg Hansen, who landed in Bangalore from Denmark a couple of weeks back, setting a strong pace.
Around 6-7km into the race we saw, cat1 rider, Durgesh Ranadive of team Veloscope racing, coming in the opposite direction and shouting that this is not the route. Peter who was using the race route loaded on his Garmin to guide him, immediately vetoed it saying we were on course. After going down that path for about 3-4km we realized that we were on the route alright but were doing it in the wrong direction.
Instead of taking the right near the joining where the too loops of the eight shape almost met, we ended up going straight. So, we had to back track and get on the correct side of the route. This apparently was a mistake most of the riders did until after the first lap some of the volunteers put a caution tape blocking the wrong turn.
|Peter and Siddarth leaders of the Cat2 race were together most of the race. Photo: RollingShutterz|
About the time we turned back to get on the right track, we met the cat1 race leaders Richard, Craig and Kiran coming in the opposite direction having taken the correct route. Naveen Raj and Oluf who went further ahead on the wrong path joined us and the race leaders on the correct course. Naveen managed to join the rest of the Cat1 race leaders while Oluf began to set pace for a group comprising of Peter, Michael, myself and a few others.
I quickly found myself towards the end of this bunch as I was struggling to keep pace. I put my head down to see if my rear flatted or if there was a brake rub but saw none. But, this was the turning point in my race. When I looked up there was nobody. They were gone. I tried giving chase and increasingly found it difficult.
After a few meters saw that Oluf was fixing a flat on his cross bike. That was the end of the race for him as he apparently got MTB tubes by mistake for spares. I forged ahead in pursuit of my bunch but they were no where to be seen. After sometime, I realized that I lost a turn or two and ended up going back and forth doing a 22km for a 15km first loop. I almost wanted to stop but decided to continue hoping to get in a decent ride at least before getting lapped by the leaders and having to stop.
Towards the end of my 2nd loop the cat 1 leaders Kiran, Craig and Naveen quickly went past me. Another favorite, Richard was conspicuously absent from that group. He apparently suffered a flat tire on his tubeless tires. Since the leaders managed to lap me, I took solace in the fact that I had to do only 3 laps instead of four.
Tubes or No Tubes, Flats Galore:
In the third lap, I rode a bit with Michael Traesborg who despite switching to Stan’s NoTubes(tubeless system for flat resistance) to avoid another DNF result due to a puncture, ended up having a flat. He tried pumping them up every lap and continued riding. He was riding really strong. The couple of times I was riding with him he quickly went ahead dropping me easily. However, his torrid luck with punctures in BBCh off-road races continued. I saw him at the end of the third lap, walking back to the finish line dejected, after the tire lost air completely.
I managed to bridge up to my teammate Mohan Kumar and Somaskanda of BOTS in the third lap and ride with them till the end. They also apparently lost their way in the second lap and ended up riding 6-7km extra. Joining them was a welcome relief in the almost solitary ride losing way all the time.
As the finish line approached at the end of third lap Somaskanda asked if I wanted to contest a sprint. Knowing that it was way too early for any sprint and it hardly mattered anyway, I said no. He quickly sprinted ahead but instead of turning left and going to the finish line, he took the area at the registration desk where the race was flagged off as the finish line. I smiled at him and sped towards the finish line smiling and suffering at the same time to the end a really draining ride.
The Scottish Legend Trail Run!
Richard McDowell has been riding and parcipating in races all around India for the last 3-4 years. At the end of the last BBCh road race, after hearing about my DNF, he quipped that he is pretty happy that his record for races in India so far has been clean in terms of DNFs and he would like to keep it that way if he can. When I didn’t see him with the Cat1 lead bunch which wooshed past me lapping me in my third lap and later learnt that he had a flat, I thought that he was going to open his DNF account.
|The Scottish Legend continues! One tough cookie that never gives up! Photo: RollingShutterz|
But when I saw him running full steam towards the finishline lugging his bike on his side as he ran, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It sounds cheesy but it felt like he was running into enemy lines with his war cry. Only the war cry that I imagined was his panting as he ran. The sword or the war weapon of your choice was his bike beside him. Although I doubt if he would have given it even a second thought, if I were to indulge my imagination and do a pre-battle motivation speech he would’ve given to himself, it could be that scene in Braveheart. Only the dialogue would be slightly different, “These bliddy thorns! They may puncture my tires but not my spirit. They’re not going to see me DNF. Not today! Not ever!”
His tubeless tires apparently punctured at the start of the third lap. After his failed attempts to pump it up using a CO2 cannister, he tried to give the lead bunch of Kiran, Craig and Naveen a chase for most of the third lap on very softly inflated rear tire. 3-4km into the 4th lap, when it completely lost air again, he got off his bike and ran the remaining 11k to the finish in his MTB shoes with towing his bike beside him. Take a bow, Richard! You sure are a winner!
The grueling 60km trail race was won by the K Kiran Kumar Raju of Specialized KYNKYNY Cycling Team, while Craig Raynes of team Bums On The Saddle finished second followed by Naveen Raj of team Wheelsports.
|Cat1 Podium Photo: RollingShutterz|
Category 2 race was won by Siddarth Kansal of Team Trek/Firefox followed by Peter Moeleker(2nd) and Amarpreet Kalkat(3rd).
|Cat 2 Podium Photo: RollingShutterz|
As you know, this year with the help of the lead sponsors LeapStart, a sports management company for young kids in schools, BBCh has introduced the Under 18 category to encourage participation of youngsters in cycling. The under 18 category is won by Nikhil J followed by Mukul P Rao(2nd) and Pranav Ashok(3rd).
|U-18 Podium Photo: RollingShutterz|
Women’s race was won by Sowmya Urs of Team Wheelsports. She was the sole women’s participant and has out done most of the male participants with her pace.
|Women’s Category Solo Winner- Sowmya Urs Photo: RollingShutterz|
Route Selection and Marking:
The route was a fantastic selection. It was a pretty fast trail with beautiful views. Craig Raynes and Aditya Yadav seemed to have scouted the route. It is a fantastic find. Finding such a long uninterrupted trail and getting permissions to organize race there is not a simple job. The volunteers and the organizers have done a fantastic job there.
However, the general feeling after the race was that the marking could have been better. It was not just the directionally challenged roadies like me who got woefully lost, but most of the field ended up taking longer or shorter routes by mistake over almost all the laps. While, filling such a long trail with volunteers to direct or marking heavily to make it idiot proof, is nearly impossible, important turns like that at the junction where the loop almost met and where other obvious alternate trails exist could have been marked better.
Volunteers, Organizers and Sponsors:
Thanks a ton to all the sponsors for the support and the volunteers for continuing to be so awesome and making BBCh more awesome with each passing race. Thanks to the sponsors, Tour oF Nilgiris, HASTPA Leap Start sponsors for BBCh offering prizes for all the winners. Nephrolife sponsored the ambulance support while Sufferfest continues it support with prizes for 4th place. Camelbak continues to support BBCh by offering up its goodies for prizes. Thanks also to the photographers from Veloscope, Rolling Shutterz for covering the race.