Back To MTB Fun!
The last time I participated in a trail race was during 2012 and 2013 season at the BBCH. After that, I gave away my heavy full suspension MTB to my cousin and began focusing solely on road biking. Last year when my Spectrum Racing teammate, Ravi Ranjan Kumar, was moving to Europe, he handed me his beloved MTB which was lying unused for more than an year with a broken derailleur. I gladly accepted it, spent a few grand getting it restored to it’s previous glory at Crankmeister Bicycle Works. I even had it converted to tubeless and started commuting on it so that I don’t need to worry about having flats anymore. Although the bike is more than 8 years old, it is a pretty good bike with 26″ wheels. Now-a-days you hardly see any 26ers with the advent of MTBs with bigger 650c and 29″ wheels and higher clearances.
With tubeless conversion, I figured I could use it on an occasional fun trail ride as well. In 2009-10, when I was in Vermont, I used to ride trails regularly with a few friends there who patiently taught me some trail riding skills. I used to have a ball and realized that single track riding is one of the most exhilarating and lively experiences one can have on a bike. There is simply nothing to beat the fun a good trail offers. Since those days, I have become a lot rustier with bike handling on the trail. Riding up and down the highways for the last 5 years hardly helped retain the skills that I need on the trail. But, I have to start somewhere and I decided to participate in all the trail races at BBCH so that it forces me to get to a trail and have fun.
Another Awesome Season Kick-Off @BBCH:
The first race of the season was on a nice and flat trail which was a 3.9km loop in the interiors of Sarjapur, off Kodati Haskur road. The loop starts with a slight downhill jeep track that veers right to go under a railway track to ride into the fields before circling back towards the railway track for a bumpy ride along both sides of the track passing across under it again. Once we veer off the railway track, the trail snakes through an Eucalyptus garden that reminds of one of those garden puzzles that you enter and need to find your way out of. Once you manage to find your way out of the Eucalyptus jungle, the track turns towards the slightly uphill drag towards the start/finish area.
We did a recce lap at a very easy pace but even at that pace, my rustiness on the trail was obvious. I figured I’d get enough practice in the race as the elite category riders get to ride the 3.9k loop a total of 7 times(~27km). The goal was to stay on the bike and complete the race without any big crashes or injuries that would effect the training for next month’s Tour De Bintan.
The race was flagged off at 7:30am sharp and the riders blasted off the start line. It was super foggy I was super cautious as I tried to get familiar with the trail and the way the bike behaves in this terrain at speed. The sharp turns, the loose sand, the bumpy ride along the tracks, everything that felt benign during the slow recce lap seemed something that could throw me off the bike once I tried to go fast. So, I decided to use the first few laps to get familiar with the course and keep getting better at taking good lines.
Craig Raynes(Spectrum Racing) and KKR(a.k.a. Kiran Kumar Raju, Trek India) blasted off and Denil Lobo(Veloscope Racing) and Muralidharan(CycleStation) followed behind. I found another rider in front of me and Raghu Mohan behind me. That was all of the elite field while amateur field had nearly 30 riders.
So, I was 6 out of 7 for more than half a lap before I over took the rider in front of me to move to 5th and started looking to chase those in front of me. Unfortunately, the circuitous nature of the trail meant that I could not see how far ahead they were and once someone is out of sight, it is very easy to give up.
Also, the focus on handling and staying on the bike meant that I couldn’t really go as hard as I would have liked to. So, although the lap times got better and better after the first lap and I began to enjoy the trail and get better at taking fast lines, I wasn’t making much progress in terms of closing the gap to the people at the front.
The next goal became not to get lapped by the leaders but that too went down the drain once KKR and Craig wooshed past me through the Eucalyptus maze towards the end of my 5th lap(and their 6th). It was clear what my goals with these trail races this season needs to be. It is simply try and improve the skills and to not get lapped.
Fortunately, although I wasn’t going blazing fast, I was really enjoying the fact that I was getting better with my handling with each lap. The amateur riders who started 5 minutes behind us were there on the trail to make sure that I don’t feel alone and to give me the roadie satisfaction of passing at least some of them. I even managed to drop KKR and Craig on their cool down lap while I was on my last lap. Tit for tat and all that!
All in all it was a super fun race. Craig and KKR traded places and gave each other company right through the race until Craig took the sprint to the line in the end. There was a close fight between Denil Lobo and Muralidharan for third place on the podium which eventually Denil took. They both did one lap extra(8 instead of 7). I could probably teach them a bit of math skills in lieu of some trail riding skills.
In the Amateur Category, Yuvaraj K of Trailblazers Racing finished first followed by Ashuthos Sabnis from Veloscope. Muddurangan finished 3rd.
In Women category, TimTim Sharma finished first followed by Harshini Rangaswamy and Kshama Veeraendra.
In U-18, Johnson finished first followed by a 15 year old kid from Kerala, George Jeejo!
BBCH organized a fun ride for the kids after all the other category riders finished the race. It was great fun seeing nearly 10 kids having a blast on the bike.
Volunteers and Organizers:
The awesome volunteers from iCycle made sure that the trail is well marked and they were stationed at major junctions to make sure no one was lost on the trail.
The start-line support from BOTS was excellent as usual. The lovely breakfast sandwich provided at the end of the race was a nice fuel for the ride home. Thanks to all the other volunteers and organizers for another great race executed flawlessly!
Look out for pics from Veloscope on http://veloscope.in/
Check out the Vlog from Aj’s Vlog from the day: Here