There goes another attack! I hate these skinny Belgium return lads already! They are actually racing and racing hard. They were killing it on all the rollers and attacking the hell out of each other until the pack is left with no more than 6 of us. There was a fair bit of headwind and the road was by no means flat. The guys were powering up the climbs close to 40kmph and nearing 60kmph on the downhill bits. All against fairly strong headwinds. These lads can clearly ride a bike! I don’t know what I was doing with them! Just about hanging on!
Tour of Glory, the first stage race on road in these parts of the world, was flagged off this morning with 23 riders. It is not a big bunch but we have to start somewhere. I’m sure this will grow into a much bigger race in the coming years and hopefully pave the path for more such races. Got to really appreciate the team who worked tirelessly putting this together and make this work!
The first stage was a 96km relatively flatter stage on Mangalore-Hassan highway starting from Nelamangala. What is lacking in big elevation is made up by strong headwinds for 84kms of the race before we take a U-turn and ride the last 12km to the finish.
As soon as the flag dropped, the riders settled into a nice pace with the local team, Bangalore Mavericks Racing(BMR) and its riders Rajani and Venky Keyframe setting the pace. But as soon as we hit the 2km mark, we saw our MTB champ, Kiran Kumar Raju(KKR), got to the front along with Naveen Raj(BMR) and they began to drill it at the front. The skinny bloke returning from a stint of racing and studying in the Basque country, Sarvesh Sangarya joined them at the front. Adarsh Saxena of Team Veloamici from Chennai was quick notice the danger and quickly made his way onto their wheels.
The pace picked up and I got on Venky Keyframe’s wheel. Rajani was ahead of him and Arvind Bhateja(Spectrum Racing) was there right at the front with the young ones. Shiven, an MTB racer from Team Track and Trail was there as well while the rest got distanced one by one.
The attacks kept flying on and on with Sarvesh, KKR and Naveen Raj turning taking turns to dish out pain to the rest of us. On one such attack, Venky Keyframe(BMR) let the gap grow and I had to jump from his wheel to bridge and join the front group. I was on Rajani’s wheel at the end of the group when he let the group go. I needed to make a decision and quickly jumped ahead to bridge up to the group again. Another couple of km, Arvind sat up on another uphill attack. The gap was quickly growing. It was time for another effort to bridge up to the group. I put my head down, gritted my teeth and got down to it. After a massive dig, I made it to the last wheel. Shiven was on my wheel and made it to the group.
The Break! A Back Breaking Break!
We were now 6 of us. KKR, Naveen Raj, Sarvesh, Adarsh Saxena, Shiven and myself. After a few more strong pulls from KKR, Naveen and Sarvesh to establish the break, we settled into a strong pace and decided all of us take turns and keep the break going. However, I think Shiven initially missed a few turns by just staying at the back and some of the boys didn’t like it obviously. They decided it was time to drop him.
That’s the thing with road racing. Apart from the fact that he was a new entity that none of us knew what to expect of, if he were to take a fair share of the load in the break, he would have earned the respect of the rest of the group and the group could have worked together harmoniously. To be fair to him though, it was his first road race and it was a struggle staying with the group with all the constant attacks and high pace.
Even I missed a turn or two but the guys know me and my limited abilities on the bike to be precise. The young guns had no reason to worry about this 40 year old. He on the other hand was a new guy and others were not sure what to expect. So, they kept trying to distance him. That meant more attacks. I knew it spelt trouble for me. There are only so many matches I could burn to stay with them. I tried to tell them to call off the festivities (attacks) for a bit and settle into some high tempo to increase the gap before trying to drop someone. Shiven was behind me and after my turn at the front when he gets to the front, someone from the 4 would put in a huge dig. The logic was sound but that meant, I would not have enough time to recover after my pull before I had to respond to those attacks to try and stay with them.
If I was not struggling so much to even breath, I would have whacked the boys on their heads to tell them to calm down for a bit. But after what seemed like a million attacks in those 45mins, at 30km mark on an uphill surge, I finally blew up(I think mentally more than anything) and sat up to watch them go. Once I sat up, I lost the rhythm completely and almost came to stand still. I slowly made my way up that incline and started to spin easy to recover from the mad effort a bit.
End of the Party!
There was another 66km to go and I was not sure if I had it in me to time trial for that distance and stay away from other master’s riders that were behind. It was an all or nothing move for me to go with the break with such strong riders. If I manage to hang on for 50-60km, I would take the win in masters and put some time on others. I knew that the courses for day 2 and 3 are not at all suited for me with their incredibly rolling nature. So, I thought if I were to do anything, it was this day. I also knew that the move could spectacularly backfire if I were to burnout in the process which is exactly what happened.
I was in a bit of a quandary as to whether I should keep pushing as hard as I can or wait for someone to catch up and ride with them. I decided to do the later and kept rolling at a sedate pace to allow for someone to catch up. At around 53km mark, Rajani, Venky Keyframe, Kiran Raju and from BMR riding with Arvind caught up. I rode with them for about 10km and offered to set pace until U-turn(84k) along with Venky Keyframe so that Rajani and Arvind can fight for master’s win. I did a few turns with him but once Rajani got to the front on an uphill, I found the pace too much and asked Arvind to go ahead without me.
It is difficult to get into a rhythm both physically and mentally after losing it early in the race. Thoughts of calling it a day came to mind but kept rolling to see it to finish. It was a lot better after the U-turn with a bit of tailwind. Especially towards the finish which was on a slight downhill stretch, I found some ounces of energy to finish with a flourish.
At the front after I got dropped, the action kept going hot but not for long. At about 38km Kiran and Naveen Raj found themselves with a bit of gap and kept going. Sarvesh and Adarsh were holding back to check if Shiven will work to bridge but that wasn’t happening. They then tried to attack and bridge themselves but by then the gap was too big to close. In the process all three ended up separated but Sarvesh waited for Adarsh to catch up and work together. They began riding together while the Kiran and Naveen Raj kept on riding away. Kiran took the sprint to the line and took the win. Naveen Raj was a close second. Although Adarsh was the sprinter among the two, he let Sarvesh take third for doing the lions share of the work getting them both to the finish.
In Master’s Rajani and Arvind rode together and Rajani let Arvind finish ahead by jamming his brakes. It was a nice gesture from him knowing that Arvind almost didn’t make it to the start with bad health last week. He also knows that, the courses for day 2 and day 3 suit him better so he could anyway take the lead.
In Women’s category the lone rider, Vicki Nicholson(Spectrum Racing) rode a strong race to finish 10th over all.
In U-18 category, Prajwal Pingali finished first and finished 13th overall.
Read day 2 report here: https://bvcoaching.in/2017/10/tour-of-glory-day-2-climbing-up-the-stairs-of-heaven-in-hell/
Read day 3 report here: https://bvcoaching.in/2017/10/tour-of-glory-day-3-finishing-on-a-high/