The group hit the base and immediately got shattered into pieces. A peloton of about 8-10 disappeared around the first bend on the hill at a furious pace. Some groups of two or three riders formed behind them which quickly became groups of two and eventually of one each. It was each on his own for the riders behind. The screaming muscles in the taut legs, the heaving breath and the pounding heart, the pouring sweat and the burning eyes were ample company as each rider fought gravity and gradient on the famed hills. Welcome to Nandi hills, where the disparity between ones ambitions and possibility is amplified through the simple math of power to weight ratio. Welcome to the BBCH Nandi Epic 100km road race! The grand finale to the road racing season in Bangalore!
|Sabina of Team Velohankan’s gritting it out on an hairpin curve! Pic: Veloscope!|
Let’s Rock ‘n Roll!
The left lane on the Hyderabad highway beyond the Bangalore International Airport was flooded with the 65 odd riders in Elite and Masters categories at 7 am on the overcast Sunday morning. We rolled from the start line opposite CCD on the Hyderabad highway at around 7:20 am after the automated timing chip transponders from ProElite were fixed on our bikes. It was the first time that the professional sports consulting company and the Official TAG HEUER Professional Timing Distributor for India, has sponsored the timing services at BBCh and it is hopefully the start of a long and fruitful relationship.
|Spectrum Racing and HRL at the front! Pic: Veloscope|
The start was a little hectic as the bunch negotiated the speed breakers near Devanahalli and went past the Nandi turn off dodging an occasional truck. The group then settled into a nice rhythm with an occasional acceleration up the inclines to shell a few passengers. The easier pace combined with the slightly delayed start(around 7:20 instead of the planned 7:00 start) meant the liquid intake plans of some of us went a bit haywire and oldies like me ended up having to relieve themselves much earlier than planned(i.e., at end of the race). I saw Naveen Raj of SKCT adeptly moving to the side of the road and doing the job while still riding the bike. I quickly made a mental note of training for that for next season and decided to stop for a bio-break 26km into the race.
Got To Go!!? The Post Pee-break Chase!!
The first mistake I did was not informing any of my team members about my intent to stop. I slowly moved to the back of the peloton and stopped for relieving myself. When I tried to get back on the bike after the job was done, the chain fell. I had to tinker with it for a few vital seconds. Then I heard, “Venky, let’s go”! It was the Specialized master’s contender, Vivek Radhakrishnan who also stopped to do the same, a little further down the road. After having spent the precious few seconds getting the chain back on, I joined him to begin our chase back to the peloton!
We could see the peloton around 700m to 1km away. We wanted to get back to the group as soon as possible but it was the strength of the group versus the strength of two. I had certainly under estimated the effort that is required for such a chase. I see the riders falling back from the peloton with mechanicals in Pro races and catching back drafting the team cars etc. But BBCH being stricter than UCI in enforcing the rules, I didn’t dare ask my team car to help me as it went past after asking if I wanted any water.
As we kept going, I could see that we were getting closer to the peloton as it crested an incline in the road but the rubber band effect was making sure the distance increased again by the time Vivek and I reached the top. It was frustrating to keep seeing the gap remaining almost constant. We kept passing riders who got dropped from the peloton. The number of riders who were dropping off the peloton also indicated an increase in pace from the peloton. That meant we needed to go even faster to catch up.
|Vivek and I during the post-pee chase of the Peloton! Pic: Veloscope|
As we kept increasing the pace in the effort to catch up, my HR went into red. Such an effort this early into the race means that we were going to pay the price during the business end of the race when the climb starts. But if we didn’t go as hard as we could, we would end up dangling in the no-man’s land for the entire race and effectively end our race. Having trained really well during the last three months for this race, I refused to have a DNF against my name if I could help it. So, as we approached the last climb before the U-turn, I have put in a massive dig determined to catch the bunch before they start descending. I managed to make contact right at the top of the climb having navigated through the support cars at the back of the pack. My legs were screaming by that time! It took us about 23mins and 14.5km of chase to get back to the group. If we saved that effort and used it on the climb, who knows, I might have had a personal best on the climb! All the ifs and buts aside, I was glad my race didn’t end half way through the race and we got back to the bunch.
Just as I was beginning to breathe a sigh of relief and started to descend the incline with the group, we were ushered into a U-turn two kilometers too early by the volunteers. Having spent considerable time marking the route the previous day with my fellow volunteers and riders Anantha Vishwanathan and Sunil Nanjappa, I knew exactly where the U-turn was. I was not sure why we were being directed well before the U-turn. The same happened during the last Nandi race where we were misdirected 5km too early. This time it was 2kms too early. That meant the race would be 95km instead of the planned 99km. I was cursing the volunteers for rendering our route marking efforts useless but that meant the 2km climb immediately after the U-turn was cut short to about 500m.
|Wolfpack captain/Coach Micheal Lehnig at the front! A bit of calm before the storm!! Pic: Veloscope|
Thankfully the pace wasn’t too high immediately after the U-turn and I was able to hang on and regain my breath.
HRL Pace Setting!
Team Hyderabad Racing League’s red kits were prominent at the head of the peloton right through the race. They were setting the pace and were nullifying any attacks. They were doing a brilliant job of controlling the race for their skipper, Jetharam Gat. Spectrum racing’s new addition Gaurav Duggal was doing domestique duties for the team and was animating the race from time to time. The Pune Wolfpack was right in the thick of action at the front of the group sitting behind HRL. They were working for their young climber, 17 year old, Rhishabh Hattarki. The other contenders, the Spanish pocket rocket, Enautopoulus Gonzalakis, SKCT’s Kiran Kumar Raju and Naveen Raj, the tiny climbing package from Hyderabad, Anubhav Karmakar, Manchanabale Machas’ skipper, Rajanikanth Puttabuddhi, the Belgian workhorse, Ronny Schrijvers, Spectrum master’s contenders Arvind Bhateja, Mohan Kumar, Shankar Jayaraman, Spectrum Elite bet Rishav Mallick and Gaurav Dwivedi were all there in the thick of things.
|HRL at the helm of the affairs right through! Pic: Veloscope|
There were a couple of huge digs from HRL and the Wolfpack riders during the return leg to force the pace and distance a few contenders if possible. But those infusions of pace only managed to drop a few more passengers. All the contenders were able to stay in the bunch as we approached the base. Water was dumped from the bottles to make the bike lighter for the climb. Furious shifting of gears to get into the right gear for the climb happened as we took the right at the bull statue at the base of the climb. Wheels to follow were chosen and all hell broke loose!
The Grand Finale: Nandi Climb!
The group hit the base and immediately got shattered into pieces. A peloton of about 8-10 disappeared around the first bend on the hill at a furious pace. Some groups of two or three riders formed behind them which quickly became groups of two and eventually of one each. It was each on his own for the riders behind. The screaming muscles in the taut legs, the heaving breath and the pounding heart, the pouring sweat and the burning eyes were ample company as each rider fought gravity and gradient on the famed hills.
I found myself with Ronny after the steep first bend and rode with him for a minute. I forced the pace a bit and went ahead for a few meters. The legs were feeling the effects of the earlier effort to chase back to the peloton. I was grinding unusually higher gear but kept at it as the legs refused to spin faster in a lower gear. Ronny got back and passed me. I stayed with him for a few meters and then slowly went past him grinding the same high gear. I kept seeing the lead bunch disappearing at a distance and saw that my teammate Rishav was at the back of it. That gave me some heart as I wanted him to do well in this race. He had been very disciplined with training right from the start of the year and had been unlucky with earlier races ending up with a couple of DNFs.
|It was a race made for the climbers! Rishabh finished 5th and Anubhav finished 6th! Pic: Veloscope|
I kept going and was going past Naveen Kumar of Team Kinshi when he asked if I had any salts with me as he was cramping up terribly and had no liquids on him. I shared my bottle of energy drink and he took a couple of swigs. He felt a bit better and I moved ahead. I kept grinding as the sweat poured into the eyes. Savoring the burning sensation in the legs and the eyes, I eyed the wiry youngster, Vishwesh Sangarya ahead of me. I bridged up to him and stayed with him for a while. Then I slowly moved ahead. He was on my wheel as we made it through the 4km mark and then 5km mark.
After the steep section of curve 33 was done I increased the tempo a bit and didn’t hear the rhythmic breathing behind me. I kept seeing the red jersey of a HRL rider a few meters ahead of me and that kept me focused as I suffered through the last km or so. I went past a couple of more riders from the Amateur and elite races but the red kit kept evading me.
As I approached the final hairpin curve the entire road was jammed from both sides with vehicles trying to make their way up and those that were trying to come down. May be my daily commutes through traffic have helped as I somehow managed to sneak through without having to stop. I got out of the saddle and crossed the Nandi arch and stopped there relieved that the suffering was finally over after spending exactly 26:00 on the climb.
As I was crouched on the handlebars and was catching my breath, someone came and told that the finish line was up ahead beyond the arch. I was confused and ran with the bike to cross the wires so that the transponders pick up and register my time. It was later clarified that ProElite was not allowed to set-up the finish line near the arch as they needed to park the car with the timing equipment nearby. It was later clarified that the positions at the arch were considered final as they were taking the positions at both the points.
The Spanish rocket, Enaut managed to clinch the victory on his final race in Bangalore before he goes back to Europe after two years in India. It has been a great joy having him here. He showed us how to race aggressively and smartly at the same time. He had great things to say about BBCH. Kiran Kumar Raju of SKCT finished a close second after a brilliant climb while Jetharam Gat of team HRL finished third. The furious pace on the climb by these guys have left others behind. The top 3 finished the climb in 21 mins and a few seconds.
Rajanikanth of Manchanabele Machas’ finished first in Masters. But, registering in elite category by mistake and not clarifying with the registration desk before the race start, costed him his first win at BBCH. Nonetheless, he had a brilliant race and finished in top 10 overall. Spectrum Racing master’s contenders Mohan Kumar and Shankar Jayaraman took two steps on the podium while Vivek Radhakrishnan finished a few minutes behind them.
Women’s Category:SKCT’s Fariyal Jamadar took the win in Women’s category with Carola of Velohanka finishing second in her first race in India on only her third day in the country. Lena Robra of Team Crankmiester finished third.
Karan Kumar of Team Giant-Just Buy Riders finished first in the Amateur race with PBS Mahapatra finishing second and Santosh CS finishing 3rd.
Ghajendran of Giant-Just Buy Riders finished on the top step of the U-18 podium while Sharath M.V. Jamadagni of Cyclopedia Mysore finished second followed by his teammate Tharun Shiv at 3rd.
Volunteers And Sponsors!
Thanks a ton to all the volunteers and organizers who were there and made this race happen. Thanks a ton to all the sponsors including the nutrition partner Yoga Bars, Medical partner Sita Bhateja Hospitals, Physio partner Spectrum Physio, professional timing sponsor ProElite and photography team at Veloscope. All you guys make it happen! Thank you!
This brings an end to the road season at BBCh. Hopefully the same energy and enthusiasm continues through to the MTB season that starts next month!
PS: With the crazy traffic that turns Nandi hills into MG Road every Sunday these days, it is better to move the race to a Saturday next time!
PPS: I had a great time training for this race for the last three months or so with the goal of a top 10 finish in this race. I didn’t quite meet that goal. But, boy! Did I have a blast trying! The process of the disciplined and structured training with my teammates was itself a great learning and probably worth more than the goal itself. Thanks to Rishav Mallick, Gaurav Duggal, Arvind Bhateja and all of my team members at Spectrum Racing for the constant company and motivation to get better!
Photos: Here are a few awesome snaps from Veloscope.
Keep an eye on bbch.in for complete results which will be out soon.