A Carnival of Indian Cycling!
The 22nd Indian Road Cycling National Championships started on 28th October at Jamkhandi, Karnataka. The buzzing town in Bagalkot district of this North Karnataka is just 60km from Bijapur which is considered Belgium of Indian cycling for it’s teaming cycling culture and the sheer number of champions it has produced over the years. Everyone in the area seem to revere cycling and cyclists get a preferential treatment wherever they go.
The roads have been freshly paved. The hundreds of speed breakers and potholes that pepper the roads disappeared. Over 600 cyclists from all over the country were warmly welcomed into this quaint little town along with hundreds of their support staff and supporters. The hostels, schools, lodges and hotels in the town and surrounding towns are overflowing with cyclists and their cycles. The carnival atmosphere around the event is something to be seen to be believed. Only the amateur world championships I have been to Denmark in 2015 comes close to this in my memory.
The events kicked off with Individual Time Trial. The Race of Truth where the man and his machine race against time and elements! On the first day of nationals, although the warmth of the locals was very pleasing, it was the heat of the region that bothered the contestants.
The main contenders in Men Elite were the same from the last few years. Naveen John the two time Individual Time Trial Champion was the hot favorite along with his Ciclo Racing teammate and Railways contestant Arvind Panwar. Barring a mechanical, they were set to storm the podium and they didn’t disappoint. NJ added a third gold in the event and Arvind picked up a silver.
In the women’s field, the girl that’s been racing for the last 13 years, Rutuja Satpute from Maharashtra was the hot favorite. The girl who rode into a bronze medal performance at Nationals last year, merely a few months after picking up a bike, Samira Abraham from Karnataka, was her main competition. They battled the heat and each other fiercely to finish within 16 seconds of each other on a 30km course to take Gold and Silver respectively.
The Under 23 men‘s race was fiercely contested with Rajbeer Singh from Punjab taking the gold by a more than a minute but with only 6 seconds separating silver and bronze. Aman Punjani from Telangana took silver and Punay Pratap Singh from Delhi took Bronze. After the first place the top 10 in the category all finished within a minute. It was all that close.
In U-18 boys category, Maharashtra took the gold with Haryana and Rajasthan walking away with the honors of silver and bronze respectively.
In the U-18 girls category, Maharastra took the gold again with Karnataka making the rest of the podium it’s own!
Team Time Trials!
With the Individual Time Trials out of the way on the first day, the second day was set aside for Team Time Trials. The discipline has been a strong hold of the Services and Railways teams for a long time.
The Railways team consisted of stars like multiple time National champions Sridhar Savanur and Arvind Panwar. They are pitted against an equally strong Services team. Although the local team of Karnataka lacked star power, with guys like Naveen Raj and Asif Attar in it, it didn’t lack the raw power.
The 60km TTT was done in two laps of a 15km out and back course. The services team started blazing down the gates as the hot favorites of the event. However, around 15km into the course, they had a huge setback with a couple of them crashing resulting in a broken disc wheel and torn kits. They quickly changed wheels, dusted themselves and started riding with road rash and torn kits. At the halfway point they were already behind a few teams including the railways team which was firmly in the lead.
But in the second lap the Services team made up the time they lost due to the crash and managed to move up the positions to eventually finish second. It was incredible to see them finishing so strong despite the crash. With Railways taking the Gold and Services taking a well earned Silver, Punjab completed the podium with Bronze. Karnataka managed 5th behind Rajasthan.
With the elite team returning empty handed for Karnataka, the hopes were pinned against the U-18 boys team with very promising kids, Raju Bhati, Sanju Nayak, Venkappa Kengalagutti and Gagan Reddy. They were up against pretty stiff competition from super strong teams like Punjab and Rajasthan.
With BVCoaching and Spectrum Development team rider, Gagan being part of the Karnataka team, you could tell where my allegiance was. I looked at the teams and knew right away that Punjab and Rajasthan were the main competition for Karnataka. I started my timer as soon as Punjab started. They started 3 places ahead or 6 minutes before Karnataka. Rajasthan was lined up to start 2 places or 4 minutes behind our guys. For their 40km TTT, they go down 10km and come back to the start to take a U-turn and do another lap of the same route to complete the race. So, it was easy to do a time check at halfway point etc.
At the halfway point, Punjab was about 8 seconds behind our guys and Rajasthan was about 15 seconds behind. So, with 20km to go, our boys were in virtual gold medal place. All of them were around 25:xx for 20k which was 45kmph+. These youngsters were going fast!
By the time Punjab finished, they seemed to have lost their pacing in the second lap and finished much slower. The next 4-5 minutes were me staring at the clock and into the horizon of the course and pacing up and down. They came in pretty much with an even pacing in 50:47 seconds. That meant only Rajasthan had a chance to beat them. But after another 4 nervous minutes, it was clear they were almost a minute behind Karnataka. It was time to jump and up and down and celebrate with the young boys! The effort they put in was evident in the pain written on their faces at the finish. But that was quickly replaced by the joy when they heard they clinched gold for their state!
It was a tiring but super satisfying day. With the time trials out of the way, today is the day road races for all the categories happen. I’m really excited and looking forward to watching the races from close quarters.
Hopefully will bring you more good news tomorrow.