Hot As The Summer Heat!
The criterium(or crit) is an exciting race format consisting of several laps around a short closed circuit of usually between 1-2km in length. The race is usually short(1 hour or less) and super intense with many corners.
The 2nd race of the BBCH road series this season was a Crit held in Century Artizan near Yelahanka. The 1.3km circuit is a fast and safe course with 6 right angle corners. The corners were swept clean and marked well to guide the riders. The start timings for everyone were announced a couple of days in advance so that everyone could time their nutrition, warm up etc.
Get Set Go!!
I started racing in Master’s category this year(40+). On the day there were only 6 participants in the category so, our race started along with the Elite field. My initial race strategy was to go on an attack early time trial my way around the course and let others chase while my teammates sit in. That strategy went out of the window the moment we got to know that it will be a combined field. In a combined field, if I try to breakaway, the other contenders could just use elite field riders to get back to me without breaking a sweat. So, I decided to play it by how things unfold in the race as I knew I had only two major competitors. One was my friend, Ankush Sharma and the other was Nigel Smith from Mumbai.
As soon as the race flagged off, the pace sky rocketed. I didn’t want to worry too much about the front of the elite field as I knew I have no chance of staying with them on a technical course like this with many corners. I didn’t want to end up burning myself out in trying to be macho about it. I made my way up close to Nigel and Ankush and let things flow. By third lap, Ankush began to ride away and I let Nigel bother about chasing him as I was finding it a struggle to stay with the group. Whatever little warm up that I did before the start seemed like it wasn’t enough and I found it hard to push at such a high intensity right away. It wasn’t even 10mins into the race and thoughts of sitting up were crossing my mind. I brushed them aside and focused on taking the corners smoothly and staying on the wheel in front of me.
15-20mins into the race, I felt a little better with the body warming up well. By that time, Ankush was reeled in and we were in a 2nd group of 10-12 riders. The front of the race was the Ciclo trio of Naveen John, Gagan Reddy and Sreenath Lakshmikanthan who broke away with Naveen Raj of BMR joining them.
Shaun John Verghese, Niranjan Iyer and a rider from Tamilnadu(E-343) were chasing the breakaway initially. After a futile effort for sometime, Shaun and Niranjan dropped back to our group. Our group consisted of Niranjan, Shaun, a couple of scott india riders, Andy, Leander, Ben joseph, Ankush, Nigel, Gaurav Duggal(Spectrum), Kiran Raju(BMR) and myself.
Nigel was using the two Scott riders occasionally if there were any gaps to be bridged. My two teammates Arvind Bhateja and Mohan kumar were already distanced from the group.
Your Move Next!
I asked Gaurav Duggal to stay with me on my wheel in the hopes that I could use him later in the race to help bridge an attack or to help make an attack ourselves. I sat on Nigel’s wheel on all the accelerations after the corners making sure no one comes between him and me. I asked Ankush to not do anything daring like his attack in the first 10mins and wait till the end to make any moves. My idea was if he was there till the end, I could have him attack and go for the last 2 laps forcing Nigel to chase again and tire him in the process. If he doesn’t chase, Ankush would win. I was prepared to lose the race to win it. Only this time my tactics were defensive rather than attacking to neutralize the unfavorable nature of the course.
Unfortunately, Ankush paid for his earlier heroics and got dropped. Gaurav too sat up after a bit. It was man-a-mano with Nigel. I kept following his every move. When he decided to let the group go 30mins into the race, I didn’t chase to go with the group. I knew he would follow me back to the group thus making me burn a few matches in the process. I didn’t want him to dictate how I react and thus giving him an upper hand. I too used the oppurtunity to recover by slowing down with him. 33 mins into the race, the breakaway train lead by Naveen John caught us and Nigel got on the Naveen Raj’s wheel to ride with them for a couple of laps. When they increased the pace, he let them go. When he slowed down to almost a crawling pace testing if I would pick up the pace, I slowed down to a crawl too.
First To Blink…!
As we went past 40mins, they announced last 2 laps to go. We were going at a calm pace. I didn’t see any reason to attack since I knew he would make ground in the corners even if I gain a gap. I decided to leave it to the sprint. I tightened my shoe ratchets and took a gulp of my energy drink getting ready for the sprint. The pace picked up ever so slightly after we went into the last lap. I was especially conscious of making sure that I took the last corner well. With 300m to finish any gap developed there could prove costly. I was right on his wheel.
I waited for him to open his sprint. The tension was thick and I was in the driver’s seat, calmly confident. It was a bit of playing game of ‘first to blink loses’. I waited and waited until I heard the clicking of gears and saw him get out of the saddle to start the sprint. I quickly got out of the saddle and followed him. He was pulling away as the finish line was drawing closer and closer. I pushed with every ounce of energy I could muster at that time and began to go edge past him and just made it as we went past the finish line! I congratulated him on a well fought race and rolled to cool down well satisfied.
In the elite category the breakaway train lead by Naveen John was rolling like a Juggernaut. The two young riders from Ciclo development team and BVCoaching athletes, Gagan Reddy and Sreenath were glued to his wheel as they entered the final laps. Naveen Raj(BMR) was the last wheel in the 4 man breakaway that lapped most of the field. With two laps to go, Gagan attacked out of a corner and rode away. Naveen Raj tried chasing in vain.
Gagan took a comfortable win with more than 200m gap. It came down to sprint for second place and NJ took the sprint despite having worked at the front all the way through the race. Naveen Raj took third just a in front of Sreenath. Shaun managed to stay away and finished 5th.
The first race of the day was for a combined field of Non-road bike category, U-18 riders and women. The pace was hot right from the start and within a lap the U-18 riders formed a front group that set a blistering pace. The only woman that was able to follow the group was Lena while Ivana and Abhirami started chasing a few 100m behind. The young blood of U-18 riders appeared to be boiling over with some of them finding it difficult to let only their legs do the talking. The couple of riders that burnt their energy in shouting matches and ill timed moves off the front paid the price when it came to the crucial time of the sprint. In the end, the kid from Tamilnadu, N Yuvaraj took the win in the sprint while KV Aditya finished 2nd followed by Kerala kid Azeem Shah at 3rd.
Lena took the win in Women’s category while Ivana Rocca lost the sprint for second to Abhirami Sudar from Chennai. It was great seeing the ladies put on a strong show.
In the non-road bike category, Harshit KJ took the win followed by Ajay Aren of Crankmeister!
The Amateur category race had the biggest field in terms of number of participants. A couple of young riders from U-18 also signed up in that category looking for a stronger competition. It was great to see a lot of young riders putting in a great show.
With no one letting any breaks go, it came down to a big bunch sprint. Shrinidhi Urala took the sprint win with BVCoaching athlete Rishab Satyanarayan taking second followed by Sanjay N at third. The only glitch in the entire race was a crash for young Aman Thadani as the group started the sprint. Thankfully only some lost skin was the result.
Thanks to volunteers and organizers!
Thanks to BBCH organizers and volunteers for another beautifully executed race! The venue, the route and the arrangements have all been spot on. Looking forward to the next race which is a Downhill race next month. It is going to be a great race to watch for sure!