The Prologue: Stage 1: Tour of Friendship 2017 

The Prologue: A Beautiful Course To Kick The Action Off!

The countdown has begun! 3,2,1, go!! Off I went on my first race of the season. The setting couldn’t have been any more perfect. It was on a beautiful course, lined with lush green trees on both sides of the road. The pan cake flat course with smooth sweeping right hand turns on closed roads inside an air force base would be a dream course for a fast paced time trial. It was ideal for someone like me who isn’t exactly thin, can push a big gear and enjoys flat time trials.

A team BDC rider from Bangladesh starting his ITT!

So, usually, an 18 km Individual Time Trial(ITT) on such a course, would have had me jumping up and down gleefully. But, the way my training went leading up to TOF, it is safe to say, I wasn’t really jumping up and down with joy.

The start and finish line were the same as the course was one big loop with mostly right turns. Riders are flagged off from the left side of the road while the riders finishing the loop will cross the line on the right side of the road!

The weather was a bit muggy but because of the overnight rains, it was much cooler than usual. It was a good day to begin the proceedings for the 300 odd participants in this excellent race.

After the count down, I sprinted up to speed, settled back into the saddle and began to spin at a high cadence. I managed to keep the power within my target range for the first 5 mins but I somehow couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm. The power kept plummeting and I quickly understood that, it wasn’t going to be a ‘get into the flow and fly on the bike’ kind of day for me.

This was anyway just the start of a hard 5 days of racing and the real suffering is ahead on longer stages. So, I told myself to calm down, toned down the expectations and let things take their natural course. I took my mind away from the miserable numbers and tried to take in the beauty of the course as I kept spinning the lifeless legs. A couple of places, the Air-force personnel in the cabins by the road side were saluting us as we rode by. I felt guilty that I wasn’t suffering enough to earn respect of those gentlemen in uniform.

As I turned to the home stretch, I saw my Spectrum Racing team skipper, Arvind Bhateja, go past me. I was confused for a bit, as I started 30 secs behind him and didn’t pass him. So, I wondered how he ended up behind me. As it turned out, he missed a turn and rode almost a km extra. He lost almost 80 secs or so in the process. We rode past the finish line close to each other and I was glad it was over.

Arvind and I crossing the finish line as the 50-59 and Master’s category riders were starting the race!

Results:

Among the contingent from India, Spectrumite, Craig Raynes, finished the fastest with a time of 25:24 and finished 5th(out of 50 participants) in his category(50-59).

Naveen Raj finished 1 second behind Craig and finished 19th(out of 70 participants) in Open category. Anubhav Karmakar did an excellent TT himself and finished 28th in Open category with a timing of 26:08 for the 17.8km course.

Rajesh Nair finished well limiting his losses in 40-49 category with a 26:52, 2mins 53 seconds behind the leader in the category, Pavol Krizan(23:59), an ex Slovakian track champion. He finished 21st out of 59 participants in the category.

Russell Bell finished 4th(out of 8 participants) in Masters’ category(60+) with a time of 29:58.

So, Craig and Russell made it to the podium at the end of stage 1 in their respective categories. Hearty congratulations to both! It will be interesting to see who can move up the GC over the course of the next stages of road racing.

The 71 year young, Russell, starting his TT!

Top 10 By Category:

It is humbling to see the timings of the guys racing here. Fastest time for the day was 23:36 by Taylor Price(Open) who finished with an average speed of 45.25 kmph! Michael Anthes and Shamus Christison finished 2nd and 3rd respectively with 23:43 and 23:53! Hard to imagine that these are amateurs with full time day jobs racing this fast!

In Women’s category, there are 24 participants! It is heartening to see so many participating and doing so well. I have to shamelessly admit that I finished slower than a couple of them today.

There were a few U-18 riders and 4 of them finished the race today. The fastest of them, Muhummad Hanafikrueji, finished the course in 25:20 at an average speed of 42 kmph. Phew! Future is fast!!

 

In 30-39 category, Romain Barbier, took the win with a timing of 23:56. David Lloyd, Matt Kinch, Kris Guns and Noel Tanner complete the podium in the category.

In my category, 40-49, Pavol Krizan, an ex-track National champion from Slovakia, finished with 23:59 @ 44.5 kmph. Michael Naert, Clinton Leong, Daniel Amby, Martin Lieberz complete the podium in the category.

In 50-59 category, Tim Carter, won the TT with 24:28 @43.65 kmph. Ralph Sigg, Jens Ostergaard, Nick Adamus and Craig Raynes complete the podium for the category. Proud to see my teammate at Spectrum racing on the podium. Hopefully, he will continue to do well in the coming stages and improve on the standings.

In Master’s category, the 60 year old Adrian Halkes won with 28:06, followed by Melfi Gerard, Satrah Karim, Russell Bell and Roy Tan to complete the podium in the category. Proud to see the indomitable spirit of Russell on the podium!

 

Complete results can be found here.

Official video here

What Next:

Tomorrow is the 120 km flat stage with 20 km of rolling start and 100 km of racing to reach Kanchanaburi. The real action begins tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how the GC shapes up in each category. Dwellers of flatland and bulky power horses might thrive tomorrow but will they be able to lose the stick figure climbers and gain time on them? Let’s wait and watch!

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