Racing Fun Begins At The BAR – Bangalore Amateur Racing!

Bangalore Amateur Racing- The Gang for the first race! Photo: Veloscope
Who/What/Where/Which/Why BAR?
Bangalore Amateur Racing is launched by a group of riders who are keen to have more races in Bangalore. Bangalore already has one of the most active biking scenes in the country with a BBCh race every month. But, roadies like me who don’t participate in MTB events, have to wait for a couple of months for a road race or travel to Chennai or Hyderabad to participate in TCC or HCCC time trials or road races. For many married folks like me, spending the weekend with family and having fun with the kids simply wins over traveling to participate in races in other cities. In such a scenario, it is tough to stay motivated with training for a race that happens once in every two months. 
Then the advent of sponsored teams like Specialized KYNKYNY Cycling Team(SKCT), Team Trek Firefox Racing and Team Wheelsports, which include some of the best riders in the country- who might have spent majority of their young lives on their bikes training and riding at State and National level competitions- meant that the competition levels were getting sky high. 
While it is great to see that the young cyclists are finally beginning to get their due and are being encouraged with sponsorships, stipends etc., with the existing platform, they are being pitted against not only each other but also against the amateur riders like us- who are juggling jobs, kids, family chores and their love for cycling with meager miles as weekend warriors. While I believe in racing with the best to get better, getting dropped in the first five minutes of a race that we spent months waiting and preparing for is not always fun. In such a scenario, it is tough to stay motivated to train even for the most hardened amateur rider.
So, instead of waiting for someone to come and offer us a platform- a level playing field that gives us motivation to train, race and get better with time, we, a few riders from Spectrum Racing and Cleated Warriors, decided to create that platform ourselves. Bangalore Amateur Racing is the result of that endeavor. Our vision is to offer races in a level playing field in which anybody could participate but only those riders who are improving the most in their performances are rewarded/recognized. 
Rajanikanth in his Time Trial avatar all decked up in a BMC kit on his BMC bike! Photo: Shankar Jayaraman
Level Playing Field? How?
Even in amateurs there are a few who manage to put more time for training than others and who could be winning all the races. Will it not be the same thing of just a few winning all the time? An answer to that question came to us in a handicap system. During his initial days in Bangalore(circa July 2012) when I was riding with Naveen John of SKCT, he happened to mention about a series of TTs that he used to help conduct during his club racing in Purdue with a handicap system. 
He later shared a few documents to help me understand the handicap system and how they implemented it at Purdue. The beauty of a handicap system is that only a rider with the biggest quantum of improvement over his last performance will win. I thought this would be perfect to encourage every amateur rider to get out and train to improve their performance and hence perfect to be implemented at BAR. 
Handicap System: How Does It work?
There are a few different ways of implementing a handicap scoring system. Below, I try to explain what we are going to implement. 
The first race of a series would help determine the handicap time for a rider for the second race and so on. To determine the handicap time of a rider, the time of the fastest rider(Y) on the day is subtracted from the riders time(X1). The difference(X1-Y) is the handicap time for the rider for his next race. This handicap time(X1-Y) is then subtracted from the rider’s time(say X2) in the subsequent race. So, in the second race, this rider’s time based on handicap system will be X2-(X1-Y). 
If in the second race also he had the same time as that in the first race, i.e., X2=X1, then his time is equal to Y. Similarly if everyone in the second race in the series had the same time as that in the first race, everyone will have the same time(Y) in the second race. That is the second race will be a draw(level playing field). But since such a scenario is close to impossible, let us ignore that.
Going further to explain my understanding of the system, the time of a rider after adjusting for handicap is X2-(X1-Y)= (X2-X1)+Y. Since Y is constant for every rider(it being the time of the fastest rider), the rider with the biggest difference in time(X2-X1) from his previous race time(X1) will have the shortest time assuming it is an improvement over his previous time.
Let us put some values at work. Let us say X1=60sec and Y=40sec. Now the handicap for the rider for the next race will be X1-Y=20sec. If the rider’s time in the next race is 55sec. Then his time after applying handicap is 55-(60-40) = (55-60)+40 = -5+40 = 35sec. 
Now let us take another rider with time in the first race being Z1=60sec and Y being the time of the fastest rider is still 40sec. The handicap for this rider for the next race is Z1-Y=20sec. Say his time in the second race is 57sec. He improved but only by 3sec as opposed to 5sec improvement of the first rider. Applying handicap to this rider will give us 57-(60-40)=(57-60)+40= -3+40 = 37 sec.
Considering that Y is constant for all the riders, the rider with the biggest improvement will come up as the winner in the second race. 
Phew! Sorry if my explanation made it sound more complicated than it actually is. But, I think it is a pretty simple system that encourages one to focus on improving oneself and takes the disparity in rider levels out of the equation.

What happens when I didn’t attend the first race? You will get normal time for the first race of the series you attend and your handicap for the following race will be calculated based on that.

Time Trials: Races of Truth: The Pain – The Fun!
Time trial is called the race of truth because it is you against the clock and the elements. No hiding behind teammates and no strategy. So, they are ideal to gauge your improvement over a period of time. More so if they are on the same course and distance in similar conditions and bike setup. These are the preconditions for the handicap system to work as well. 
Of course there is always fun in competing with others in the peer group. That is the essence and the fun of racing. There is always that urge to check if I beat my training partner in this race or if I was the fastest in my team or all other teams etc. That can always be deduced form the actual times which will anyway be available. All that fun can be had.

The handicap system simply ensures that we don’t see the same boring faces on the podium because they are just so much better than the rest of the field. By this, if you think the handicap system encourages mediocrity, far from it. It actually encourages and recognizes improvement. Plain and simple.

The Inaugural Bangalore Amateur Race: 21st July 2013:
We kicked off the festivities at BAR with a 24.6km ITT yesterday. The start point was Emeral Isle Resort and the end point was the opposite side of the road. The U-turn of this out and back course was in front of the Volvo factory about 12km from the starting point. 
We got together at the starting point and started bib distribution at 6:30 am and planned to kick off the race at 7am sharp. We missed that deadline. We started at 7:02am instead. 30 participants were flagged off one after the other with a 30 sec gap between them. We were done with the rider flag off by 7:17am. The first rider made across the line by 7:43am and we had the results out by 8:15am.

We are happy that the first race went about very smoothly and with a great turnout. Special mention goes to three riders, Arun Kumar, Prasanth and Aravind Nagaraj, who came from Chennai and turned up for our first race.

Bangalore Amateur Racing official Venkatachalam of Cleated Warriors handing over bib number to the first BAR rider!
The first BAR rider was Arvind Bhateja of Spectrum Racing. He managed to finish the race first too with the fourth fastest time for the day. The young guns from Team Trek Firefox, Siddarth Kansal and Sarvesh Arya finished first and second while Gautam Raja of Spectrum Racing finished 3rd overall.
Bangalore Amateur Racing – First Podium
Men top 10
Men results continued..
Vicki Nicholson of Spectrum Racing finished first among the 3 women participants on the day. Suma Rao of Cleated Warriors finished second while Manjula Sridhar of Spectrum racing finished 3rd.
Vicki Nicholson and Manjula Sridhar of Spectrum Racing- Suma Rao of CW had to leave early! She came second.
We didn’t have any registration fee for the first race but we might look at a nominal charge or a donation concept for the future races. We want to keep the races very lean and easier to organize so that any 2-3 people can conduct the race and get the results out quickly. 
Below is the schedule of the remaining races in the series. Do remember to check out for regular updates on race schedules and results on Bangalore Amateur Racing FB Page.       
Race Schedule of the first series..!
We would like to thank all the volunteers(Ramkumar KR, Kiran Kumar of Travel Through Fitenss, Kiran Kumar(tusker) of Cleated warriors, Shankar Jayaraman of Spectrum Racing, Ajjay Jaywant of Procycle, Amar of SFS and P Dhanumjaya) and the riders who turned up and helped make this event successful. Thanks to Veloscope (Venkatesh Murugesan and Dinesh(?) for turning up and covering the event with great snaps. 
More snaps from Veloscope are here. Photos from Shankar’s camera(BARography) are here. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Racing Fun Begins At The BAR – Bangalore Amateur Racing!

  1. Venky nice cover. I didn't know about this yesterday's event otherwise surely would have tried to turn up but it would have clashed with DH as I was there having fun for the first time. Certainly I'll try to come for the next TT and was wondering is it possible for someone to participate from the second raceor he has to wait for the next series ! And you have mentioned about the FB page to follow but is their any seperate mail group to follow or the updates will be flashing on BBCh mail group ! If there is any seperate mail group then please let me know – would like to follow that.

  2. Hey Suman – The updates are mostly on Bikeszone and Facebook. You will always get to know about this through the two channels… 🙂

    Yes you can come into any race at any time in the series and that will be your benchmark for the next race, is what i understand…

  3. Very well written (as always)!

    My only thought on the handicap system is that it favours people at the bottom of the ladder, more than it does at the top of the ladder. This is probably because someone with untrained legs can gain a significant amount of time with just a little bit of training, but someone with already trained legs may need to put in a huge amount of training to achieve the same amount of delta (law of diminishing returns).

    Not at all bad for people who aren't fast but would like to improve (like me), but you guys need to make sure that people who are already fast don't get demotivated because they don't get onto podiums. Fast people should get onto podiums because they totally earned it with all the training they've been doing over the years, probably more so than those who improve the most.

    Very interesting format nonetheless — both in terms of scoring and it being a series of ITTs. Thanks for putting this together. This might just be what a lot of lazy bums like me need to wake up early in the morning and head out.

  4. @Suman: Yes, like Venkat said, you can come for any race in the series. We'll be mostly using the FB for communication. BZ and BBC list are anyway there as well.
    @Sharath: Yes, it does favor the untrained. With time the untrained do become trained and that is a good thing. First race of a series is anyway there for the trained folks to have their time on podium and the actual times are always there to keep comparing against their main competition(read guys of similar level) and have a virtual podium for themselves. 🙂

  5. The handicap system (described above) in simplified words:
    – One who shaved off the maximum time from his last race timing wins
    – A rider's time after applying handicap system will be previous winner time "minus" the time he shaved off from his own previous timing.

    Of course if one didn't improve his own timing, that "minus" will turn "plus" and add the additional time he took.

    In terms of fairness, I think, it is easier for someone to improve from 25 kmph average to 27 kmph when compared to someone who is trying to improve from 37 kmph to 38 kmph. Considering the scientific fact of wind resistance increasing proportional to square of the speed, we could make the formula like Y1 – sqrt(X1 – X2) in case X1 is greater than X2. Or Y1 + sqare(X2 – X1) in case of X2 greater than X1. This formula should give more scientific measurement of the improvement in strength rather than just the magnitude of improvement in speed. Remember that even strength improvement requires exponential efforts as one nears his VO2 MAX. But we cannot go to that detail. However, I strongly feel that the wind resistance with respect to speed has to be factored in to fairly just the improvement in strength.

  6. Thanks Opendro! I agree with the fact that it is more difficult to improve from 37kmph to 38kmph than it is to improve from 25kmph to 27kmph. The formula you suggested looks interesting and can be looked at for future. We can look to learn and adapt as we go on. This is part of it.

  7. I just realize that the formula I suggested just does not throw up any difference in the result standings though it affects the timings. So, it is of no use unless we start taking gradient scale that would give more weightage towards gains in higher speeds. So, the formula requires a little more thought.

  8. @Shyam: Weight is already be factored in to the performance right? (I guess so does the beer the rider had the previous night etc) 😉

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