BBCh Criterium – June 2013 – Pac-Man Racing Action @ Bharatiya City

BBCh Tarmac Series: Criterium Racing Action:
As the riders trickled in into Bharatiya City off Tannisandra main road, Bangalore was lazily waking up to a chilly and windy Sunday morning. The riders however were anything but lazy. They were ready to blaze the 1.4 km butter smooth tarmac inside this developing ‘city’ in the city suburbs. The festivities kicked off with Category 2 and Women’s race. 

The field for Cat2 had 28 riders of which 4 were women. The relatively lower numbers in each category was a blessing in terms of rider safety as every lap of this boomerang shaped loop involved two U-turns and two sharp turns, one left and one right hand turn. So, bike handling, especially cornering and accelerating out of the corners becomes critical to performance. 

Cat 2 field during the early laps..

At the gun the riders accelerated and many of the first time racers were seen leading the pack enthusiastically. They ended up burning too many matches too soon and dropped back while a strong bunch of riders formed a peloton and drove the pace. No one but a few experienced riders seemed to show any intention to conserve. Young riders like Praveen from Student Foundation for Sports(SFS) managed to carry their enthusiasm and energy into the first prime 15mins into the race but soon burnt out. 

Around 20-25mins into the race a small bunch including Sandeep Shet, Hari Menon of Spectrum racing and Arogya Pradeep of SFS formed and was driving the pace. A second group containing Aditya Kaul, Micheal Traesborg, Somaskanda and Vicki along with a few others was riding strongly as well. The second prime was hotly contested by Sandeep, Hari and Arogya and was won by Sandeep. After the second prime Sandeep and Hari rode away from the group with Arogya failing to catch them and ending up in no-mans land. 

It was an interesting duel between the two cat 2 leaders. Sandeep was clearly better at taking the corners and sprinting as seen by the prime, but Hari was able to bridge gaps and even gap the younger rider on the straight stretches only to lose ground in the corners. Hari continued to drill it and managed to gap Sandeep by a few bike lengths by the penultimate lap. However the youngster regained lost ground during the last lap and beat Hari to the line. Third place was a photo finish sprint between Somaskanda and Arogya Pradeep which was won by Arogya by a very narrow margin. 

Cat2 Podium, Sandeep Shet(1st), Hari Menon(2nd) and Arogya Pradeep(3rd)

In the women’s race, Vicki Nicholson of Spectrum racing managed to gap her main rival Gitanjali of Team Wheelsports quite early into the race. Gitanjali apparently started the race on a stop gap bike that didn’t fit her properly as her bike had a mechanical just before the start. She was seen struggling quite early in the race while Vicki was operating quite smoothly and placed herself nicely along with the second bunch of Cat2 riders. 

With every lap the gap just kept growing and it was clear that Vicki is going to clinch it as long as she managed to stay on the bike and kept her pace going. Gitanjali began to work with one of her teammates Saheera Akthar(Team Naesar’s Asif Akthar’s sibling) to try and catch up with Vicki but they were making very little progress. In the end Gitanjail had to stop to get her bike sorted and ended up getting lapped by Vicki during the last few laps. Only Saheera managed not get lapped by her and finished second in Women’s category. 

Women’s category winner Vicki Nicholson of Spectrum Racing receiving a check from LeapStart

This was followed by U-18 race where 18 riders participated. It was certainly heartening to see more young kids turning up for the races thanks to the encouragement from LeapStart which has been sponsoring the prize money for the tarmac races this season. The U-18 boys race was won by Yallappa Shirabur from Bijapur and second place was taken by Lakshmish from Mysore. The U-18 girls race was an all Student Foundation for Sports(SFS) affair with Leelavathi winning the race followed by her teammates Rathi and Mallika finishing at 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. The winners received a cash prize of 10k from Leap Start. The runners up will also receive 5k and 2k. 

Under-18 Boys Podium..
Under-18 Podium!

The Cat 1 Racing Action: 
As the Cat 1 race was flagged off, a field of 28 riders mainly consisting of riders from Specialized KYNKYNY Cycling Team(SKCT), Team Trek Firefox(TTF), Team Wheelsports(TW) and Team Naesar. These guys are some of the best in the country. Sachin Panwar of Team Trek Firefox is one of the best climbers in the country and has spent some time training and riding for a club in France. Sreedhar Savanur is the Under-23 national level road race champion. 

The calm before the storm.. A serene start to the Cat 1 race..  Rolling Shutterz

Riders like Lokesh Narasimhachar(Loki) of SKCT, Asif Attar of Team Naesar, Jetharam Gat of Team Trek Firefox and most of their teammates all rode for their states and/or at national level. In such a field, a couple of Cleated Warrior(CW) riders like Opendro and Nalla Konar, a couple of riders from Spectrum racing, Mohan Kumar and myself and a few others made up the remaining numbers. It was clear for us that with such a field on such a short loop, it is just a matter of how long can we stay away before getting lapped by the leaders. 

Although I started with a swarm of butterflies fluttering in the stomach, the start was gentle enough. The first few turns were taken at a gentler pace and I was there with the lead pack for a couple of laps. Then almost imperceptibly the pace started to raise and the group began to be stretched out long. I was desperately trying to hang on to the bunch but I was losing out on the corners. The guys were so much better. They seemed to be taking the corners with so much ease and accelerating so well out of them. 

Lead pack before Sreedhar and Jetharam broke away from the group.. Photo: RollingShutterz

I would take the U-turn or a corner and immediately notice that the bunch is running away. I furiously try to change gears and spin like crazy to catch up and almost make it to the tail end of the group before another corner comes where they gap me. After 4-5 such energizer bunny type of efforts the gap grew so much that it didn’t make sense to try anymore. It was then time for plan B. I was going to try and stay on the course as long as possible. 

My friend, Vasu Mishra, offered to take a bet that I will last at most 20mins before getting lapped. I told him may be 10mins is a more realistic bet. But since it took 10 mins for me to get dropped, it was going to take slightly longer for me to get lapped. I got into a rhythm and began to turn a big gear. I was right at my threshold and felt good despite the fact I was dropped. I began to see the leaders on the other side of the road now and that pushed me to go harder to keep them that side of the road instead of allowing them back on my tail. 

As it developed at the head of the bunch, a front group of 4 riders formed with Sachin Panwar of Team Trek Firefox, Loki of SKCT, Sreedhar of Team Wheelsports and Jetharam of Team Trek Firefox. Then Sachin produced an acceleration that shook the remaining three off his tail. It was then Sachin ahead followed by the 3 chasers and the peloton. Then there were others like me who ended up solo or in small groups of two or three. 

The moment the race was won! Sachin’s decisive break in action! Photo: Rahul Thomas

Amidst my suffering as I began to observe the other side of the road, Sachin began to get a sizable gap from the rest of the guys. After a few laps the three chasers(Loki, Sreedhar and Jetharam) were caught by the bunch and it looked as though the collective force might try to chase the leader. Then came the move that proved decisive at the end. Sreedhar jumped from the pack and only Jetharam was able to get on his tail. They immediately began to work together to drive the break and managed to create a good gap. 

As the action heated up at the helm, I was continuing my threshold effort and passed one or two riders who were ejected from the group after me. Since I was alone I thought I was probably less apprehensive about the corners and was taking relatively easily. That confidence perhaps made me take one of the easier U-turns with a bit more speed than my skills could handle and I observed in panic that both the wheels slid under me and I hit the tarmac in a second. 

I was worried about the bike and immediately jumped up towards it. A volunteer ran and took the bike up and I saw that it was alright but for both the brifters which bent inwards from impact. The ultra smooth tarmac that caused the slide also helped me escape with very minor road rash. I got on the bike and used the adrenaline to get back on course. 

In the mean time a couple of riders I passed went past me. After riding alone for sometime I noticed Raman Garimella of Team Naesar and Andrew Jerald of SFS, behind and slowed down a little in the hope of working together with Raman. Ironically, after a couple of minutes when Andrew accelerated, Raman was able to respond and get on his tail but I missed the train. 

I kept up the effort until the Pac-Man Sachin wooshed past me. I hit lap button on my Garmin as he went past and sat up. I should have taken that bet from Vasu. I lasted 23 mins. I gave it everything but it was only good enough for being in the race for that much time. Both skill and capacity needs to be worked upon.

Criterium or A Game of Pac-Man?
I rolled towards the start and joined the spectators to watch the remaining race. The spectators were having a ball watching the race and many were delighted seeing that the tables were promptly turned on the SKCT boys since the last BBCh Crit. Chants of “Saaachiiin.. Sachin.. Saaachiiin.. Sachin..“, which usually belong to a cricket grounds around the world where Indian Cricket team played, were heard every time the white and black steak swooshed past the spectators gobbling up(lapping) more riders in the process. There were lot of jokes flying around and Vasu Mishra was heard loudly wondering if this was a cirt race or a game of Pac-Man! It indeed felt like one!

Its a plane.. it is Pac-Man… Sachin Kumar Panwar of Team Trek Firefox at his demolishing best

The race leader’s gap kept ballooning to more than a minute and the chasers, Sreedhar Savanur and Jetharam Gat also built a huge gap from the group which mainly consisted of SKCT boys in red and white and a few guys from Team Naesar. In the desperation to try and bridge up to the chasers, they were giving it all and in the process ended up subdividing into further groups and then regrouping to drive the chase multiple times.

At the tail end more people were being ejected from the group as the chase progressed. Kiran Kumar Raju and Sarvesh were dropped and after a valiant effort to stay clear, they were gobbled up by the leader. The youngster, Sarvesh is going from strength to strength. They were amongst the last few that were lapped. Impressive show by both of them. After them only 5-6 Specialized KYNKYNY boys were left in the third group. Their chase of Sreedhar and Jeetharam wasn’t clearly working and their aim now became avoiding being lapped by the leader. 

SKCT train in desperate chase the leaders! Photo: Rolling Shutterz

Spectators began to time the gaps and were running all sorts of mathematical equations in their minds to see how long the SKCT boys were going to last. Some diehard Bangalore boys hoped that their favorite team will stay in the race by avoiding getting lapped. But the dwindling pace of the pack and the relentless pace of the race leader, Pac-Man, Sachin suggested otherwise. It was 50mins into the race and Naveen Raj and Omkar Jadhav of SKCT went clear of their other teammates in order stay clear. With-in minutes the rest were lapped and had to get out. 

Although Naveen and Omkar were giving it all, it looked only inevitable that they will be swept up by the leader in a lap or two. Only Jetharam Gat and Sreedhar Savanur had any sort of respectable gap to avoid getting lapped. As the bell rang for the last 3 laps, the chase of the Pac-Man continued and he eventually lapped Omkar and then Naveen. He finished the race in his inimitable style, about 1min20secs ahead of the chasers. 

The attention then turned to the fight for the second place. It was a nice little cat and mouse game between Jetharam and Sreedhar as they entered the finishing straight. Jetharam ended up taking the bait and opening the sprint slightly early. Sreedhar stayed a few seconds longer in his slipstream before unleashing his ferocious sprint and won by a couple of bike lengths. 

The sprint for the second place.. Photo: Rahul Thomas

In the end 25 of the 28 who started the race got lapped by the tremendous force called Sachin Kumar Panwar. Tremedous show! If it was a really hard race for the participants, it was a spectacular race to watch for the spectators.

The Cat 1 Podium! Great show! Photo: Team TrekFirefox FB Page

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 location sponsors, Bharathiya City for allowing us to use their track for the race. Thanks to the sponsors, Tour oF Nilgiris, 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, The Con Photographer, Rahul Thomas and many others for covering the race. 

Watch this nice video interview of Sachin Panwar by our Veloscope guys here.

Update: Veloscope also got out a video interview of Sreedhar Savanur. What it here.

Photos from my camera are here.

PS: Although it made for tremendous race to watch, I kept wondering how lovely it would have been if the race loop was slightly longer. 

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