The countdown has started and we were flagged off at exactly 7am for our 100km race that had 40 participants in Elite and 20 participants in Master’s category. The 60 strong peloton was dominated by one big team put together by Srinath Rajam of Chennai for Peak India Racing. It had 10 of the most strong riders from all over the country brought together specifically for this race. With 10 riders, they made 25% of the Elite field. Two more strong teams looking for strong results were my team, Spectrum Racing and Pune Wolfpack. Wolfpack had 4 riders in Elite and Spectrum had 3 riders plus an ally in a rider(Nikhil Ram Mohan) from Team Crankmiester. So, effectively 4 each, or 10% each in the Elite field.
|Elite Peleton! Pic: Veloscope|
At Spectrum, we were placing all our bets on our sprinter, Gaurav Duggal. Rishav Mallik, Nikhil and I were on domestique duties for him. Wolfpack had the young talent, Makarand Mane(all of 18 years) and the super talented and experienced Michale Lehnig to play with while Rajat Subra Roy and Rishabh Hattarki(also under-20) were there to help them when needed. At Peak, almost everyone is a star. They had many cards to play with in riders like Sandesh Uppar(current National MTB champion and U-23 road race champ), Naveen Raj(ex U-23 National road race champ and ex-SKCT), super talented brothers from Bangalore, Sarvesh and Vishwesh Sangarya, young talent from Hyderabad, Parashuram Chenji(HRL), Anubhav Karmakar, seasoned national level riders, Ramswaroop Jakhar, Jetharam Gat and a couple of strong talented riders in Anoop Adhur Kutty and Shaun from Trivandrum Roadies. Amongst them, Jetharam Gat was the sprinter and Ramswaroop is his main lead out man.
The Peak Attack Festival:
With the kind of strength that Peak had both in sheer numbers and the fire power, forming a strategy is not going to require a degree in rocket science. Attack! Attack again! And attack some more! Attack till you weaken the opposition so much that, by the time you get to the finish line, you have no opposition left.
Anoop was setting the pace for the first couple of kilometers. Around 3km mark, Naveen Raj attacked. I got out of the saddle and followed him. Then immediately, Sandesh Uppar attacked with Naveen jumping on his wheel. I hesitated for a brief fleeting moment and they were gone. I settled into a chase at the front of the peleton. Our team strategy was to for me to cover all the attacks and for me to get into a break away if possible with guys in Peak. That will mean guys at Peak and our team Spectrum can relax and stay fresh while others do the chasing. But my hesitation was because I might not have enough big jumps to keep trying if the break was reeled in and there were more attacks. So, I opted to chase instead and try to keep the gap to as small as possible to get our sprinter to the line.
|In the pain cave, out on the open road! Pic: Veloscope|
The gap was varying between 30 secs to 1 minute. I kept going hoping someone from the other teams will join the chase. Me looking back and making signs to rotate didn’t result in bringing people to contribute to the chase but the photographer jeep crossing us offered me relief by drawing a couple of riders forward. That suited me just fine as long as the pace is high enough to not let the gap increase.
The Spectrum of Pain!
After I got a bit of reprieve from the front, I tried jumping from the group and see if I could bridge but that didn’t happen and the peleton was on my tail again. There were occasional jumps from my teammates to just spur the others into action and they helped me sit back for a few seconds. I didn’t want any of my teammates to contribute to the chase as I wanted them to stay fresh to help our sprinter in the return leg when the action could get more intense. So, when Nikhil kept coming foward to help, I told him to sit back and stay covered.
Catching the breakaway early was not important in my view. It is, in-fact, detrimental to our cause to catch them soon as that is bound to result in more attacks and breakaways, tiring out more of us. If I am able to keep the gap small and take the guys as far into the race as possible, it should be fine. The break will eventually get caught and the rest of our guys will be fresh enough to chase any further breaks in the business end of the proceedings.
|Off the front in their own pain cave, Naveen Raj and Sandhesh Uppar, the day’s first breakaway that stayed away for 54km!|
Our Master’s rider and domestique, Mohan Kumar was there to help our Master’s contender, Dr. Arvind Bhateja. But he came forward occasionally go help me with the chase. Master’s contender and super strong rider, Craig Raynes didn’t have any reason to work at the front but he graciously came forward occasionally to take a turn at the front as well.
Vishwesh Sangarya and Ramswaroop of Peak India came foward on separate occasions to sit at the front and set the pace. But I was not naive enough to take them to be chasing their own team members. They were trying what is called stalling, which is basically getting to the front and slowing down the pace of the group so that the breakaway gains time. I was quick to read that and took to the front and drove the pace back into the forties.
I kept taking my Fast&Up energy gels every 20-30mins to keep the energy levels up and kept sipping on the electrolyte water(Reload) regularly as I kept working at the front. I was going very close to my threshold and I knew very well that I could very well not complete the race. But, I wanted to take my teammates as far into the race as possible. As we approached the halfway point, a young rider from Bangalore, Pramod Anantha came forward to help by taking a turn at the front. I could sense that he was soon struggling but the intent to contribute to the race from the younster was heartening to see.
|Seeing a spectrum of pain… Pic: Veloscope|
I was surprised to see that we covered almost 41kms in the first hour of the race and the pace continued till after we took the U-turn around 49km mark. At around 54km mark, after about 1hr 18mins into the race, Craig had enough of seeing me keeping the two riders in the breakaway dangling a few meters ahead all the time and put in a surge to bridge the gap. I dropped back slowly as the riders were caught. From the back, I could see that more attacks went flying with Sandhesh who was caught attacking again immediately and Vishwesh attacking immediately after he was caught. That did not fly as well.
In the lull that followed, I managed to come back to the group and tried to make my way up to the front of the group again. I was looking for Michael of Pune Wolfpack to talk to him about contributing to the chase for the rest of the distance at least. I couldn’t find him in the group. He apparently had a flat at 40k mark and was left behind along with Rajat who also had a mechanical. So, there is no way we are going to get any help from them. Just then, another two riders from Peak jumped. This time, it was Sarvesh Sangarya and Parashuram Chenji. They were quickly shut down by Rishab Hattarki of Wolfpack and Spectrum’s Gaurav Duggal working together.
|Mohan at the helm of things chasing the final break… Pic: Veloscope|
As expected, they were employing a classic two pronged attacks. First two riders attack to form a break away and force the opposition teams to chase. Once the two are caught, another two will attack and go away forcing another chase again. This will continue until all the opposition riders are totally spent and either their guys in breakaway win or those in the bunch take the sprint.
My legs were stalling from cramps by then and I didn’t have the strength to keep up and decided to sit up and go at my own pace. I was cramping up badly not due to lack of electrolytes, as I was taking care of that, but due to the effort that I have put in so far was beyond what my current conditioning allowed. I kept fighting for another 10km before both my legs jammed and I was in tremendous pain. I flagged down the Manchanabele Macha’s support car that was being driven by Akash Ananthaswamy. Balu offered to ride my bike back to the start while I sat in the car.
|Anoop and Shaun of Trivandrum Roadies and Peak India Racing in the breakaway! Pic: Veloscope|
From Domestique to Director Sportif:
I was fine once I got into the car and wondered if I should have continued. Then, I told myself that I have done my job for the team from the bike and it is now time to see how the rest of the race is unfolding from the car. We went ahead and saw that the peleton was being pulled by my teammate Mohan. We didn’t see Craig in the group and learnt that he had a puncture and was behind.
We went ahead and after a couple of kilometers, saw two orange jerseys of Trivandrum roadies up the road. We reached them. They were struggling but they had a huge gap. Shaun was sufferring with cramps and was asking for Fast and Up Reload. I had none. But I offered him a Fast and Up gel I had and some water. I knew they were working against my team and I’m helping them get their energy back and recover. I felt they would truly deserve the win if they manage to stay away. After that, I asked Akash to stop the car by the road side after we crossed them and started timing the gap they had on the peleton. It was almost 3 minutes by the time peleton crossed us. My jaw almost hit the floor. That was a huge lead for a breakaway with only about 25km to go to the finish.
|The chase was on with Rishav and Nikhil at the helm of things! Pic: Veloscope|
We started the car and started riding up to the group. I found my teammates, Rishav and Nikhil and shouted at them that they better start chasing right at that moment or the race will be lost. They got down to the task. The next time we stopped and did a time check the lead had come down to under two minutes and then under a minute. Every time I dropped back to convey the gap to my team, I kept urging other friends like, Anantha Vishwanathan to take a turn and help the chase. Not knowing that Anubhav was in Peak team as well, I urged even him to go the front to chase. Poor guy must have been confused.
|The final breakaway getting caught in the final kilometers! Pic: Veloscope|
The two guys getting tired and the team putting their head down to chase shrinked the gap quickly. With 15km to go and the gap less than a minute, Master’s category contender, Vivek started working at the front with the goal of dropping the other Master’s contenders like our skipper, Arvind and Mahesh Iyer of Pune Wolfpack. But we were not complaining since he was indirectly helping us chase the breakaway in doing so. With about 7km to go Anoop was caught but Shaun kept at it. He was caught soon after and the group shelled a few in the process.
|The final selection with Ramswaroop, Jetharam and Gaurav! Pic: Veloscope|
The Chaotic Finish!
The last 3km was as chaotic as it can get with jumps from all and sundry from Peak and our guys shutting them down. With 2km to go, Ramswaroop got away with Jetharam and our guy, Gaurav got right onto their wheel. They were trying desperately to shake him off but he clung on. As they approached the line, Ramswaroop lead Jetharam out with Gaurav right on his wheel and opening the sprint. As Gaurav was trying to pass him, Jetharam kept changing the line and moving to the right almost pushing Gaurav into the divider in the middle of the road. Still, it was a photo finish with Gaurav finishing just about an inch behind at the line.
Ramswaroop finished behind them with Makarand Mane of Pune Wolfpack finishing immediately after. It was a heady sprint action at the finish line.
But, the move that Jetharam made during the sprint is illegal. To change the line of sprint like that is illigal and is downright dangerous on open roads. Pavan Muthanna and Monica Pillai of Crankmeister who were doing support duties at the race were filming the finish and managed to capture what happened at the finish line sprint. Our team launched an official complaint with BBCh that Jetharam intentionally blocked our sprinter by changing lanes and pushing the rider into right most lane with flowing traffic. We presented them with the video evidence. The case was immediately reviewed by the race officials and Jetharam had been disqualified for unsafe sprinting. Gaurav was announced winner. Peak India racing team manager, SriKumar Natarajan who was at the scene was very professional and conveyed full support to the decision that BBCh took.
Edit: Here’s the relevant UCI rule on safe sprinting:
2.3.036 SprintsRiders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others.
Edit: It is important that we look at the action and judge it and not the person. I have known Jetharam for quite sometime now. He is an excellent rider and a very nice person. The move he made in the heat of the race was considered dangerous. Not him.
In Elite category, with Jetharam’s result being disqualified, Gaurav Duggal of Spectrum Racing took the top step followed by Ramswaroop Jhakar of Peak India Racing at 2nd and Makarand Mane of Pune Wolfpack at 3rd. It was super satisfying for Spectrum Racing to take the win in the Elite category in such a strong field. It was an example of what team work and execution of strategy can acheive even with limited resources. Special thanks to our friend Nikhil for working with us and helping us in a major way.
|Elite Podium! Pic: Veloscope|
Master’s Category: Spectrum Racing skipper, Arvind Bhateja won in Masters category having negotiated all the surges and finishing with the main bunch behind the sprint. Vivek paid for the effort he put in to shake Arvind off and finished a minute behind in second. Craig managed a wheel swap after his puncture and rode back alone to finish the race at 3rd in Masters. What a guy! He was undoubtedly the strongest of the bunch but an unfortunate puncture cost him the win.
|Master’s podium! Pic: Veloscope|
Amatuer Category: Phanibhushan Mahapatra of Team Crankmeister took the bunch sprint in Amatuer category by a long shot and finished first. His teammate, Riyaz Mohammed finished second with Team Ministri Racing’s Azhar Mohammed finishing 3rd.
|Amateur category finish! Phani finishing his sprint way ahead of the rest! Pic: Veloscope|
|Amateur category podium Pic: Veloscope|
Women’s Category: Spectrum Racing’s Shilpa Deo helped us complete a clean sweep of all the categories we participated in by finishing first in women’s category. Kshama Muralidhar of Team Cadence 90 finished 2nd in the category.
|Women’s podium! Pic: Veloscope|
In U-18, there were 9 participants for the 50km race. Tanishq finished first with Niranjan finishing second a couple of seconds behind him.
|The 70 year old Russell Bell from Goa who raced in Masters category, handed over the prizes for U-18 podium! Pic: Veloscope|
A BIG Thanks To Volunteers And Organizers: There were a record number of particpants(167) for this race. Amateur category had 80 riders. U-18 and Women’s category had 9 riders each. Automated timing chips were used for the first time at BBCh for a mass start race to track finish. The traffic was very well controlled on the open roads for the race. The volunteers and organizers ensured that the race was executed to perfection and started on time and finished well.
Thanks to volunteers and organizers and the sponsors for another brilliant race at the BBCH!
Thanks to Veloscope for the lovely pictures!
The next race at BBCh is a Downhill race near Nandi. Refer to BBCh.in for more details!