BBCH Nandi Epic – 2018!
This year, the most prestigious race on the Bangalore Bicycling Championships Calendar has been saved for the last! The 112km Nandi Epic race finishing on the top of our local hill, the 7.3 km long 5% climb, Nandi Hills, causes as much dread in the minds of the riders as it raises excited anticipation. Every year it brings together lean climbers from all over the country into Bangalore for a show down on the hill. This year, it being slated within a week of the Indian Cycling National Championships, made the participation of the top climbing talent difficult. However, there were still 160 riders who signed up for this prestigious event in various categories!
The race favorite, the current Indian National MTB National Champion(XC), Kiran Kumar Raju(KKR) was at the start line looking to successfully defend his title for the 3rd consecutive time. The other contenders were Lokesh Narasimhachar(Loki) of Cyclopedia, who won this race before, Anubhav Karmakar of Athloft Multisport and Sreenath Lakshmikanth of Ciclo Team Racing Dev Team. BVCoaching athlete, Sreenath’s goal was to use this as a final tune up race before the Nationals next week where he represents Kerala in U-23!
In Master’s category, Craig Raynes of Spectrum Racing and Vivek Radharkrishnan of Bangalore Mavericks Racing(BMR) were slated to fight it out for the glory while others in the category will be fighting for the remaining spots on the podium. My goal for the race was to be there as support for my teammate, Craig, and fulfill the domestique duties as best as I can. I had my teammates Vivek Bhateja and Mohan Kumar to share the load as much as they can. That would leave our Master’s riders, Craig, Arvind and Russell fresh to do their best in the race.
It was a challenging come back race for our skipper, Arvind Bhateja, who had a big back surgery just 4 months ago. Our 72 year young, Russell Bell is fiercely competitive and is always going to battle it out for podium.
The Peleton Rolls!
The race route was same as last year. It started on the Hyderabad highway after the Airport, goes down the highway for about 48km before taking U-turn and comes back to Devanahalli where it would turn towards Nandi for the last 20km leading to the top of the famed hill. The last 10km before the U-turn is mostly downhill making the return an uphill task. It is usually there that the attacks fly and breakaways form. Although this time of the year the winds are not that strong, there is a slight tailwind on the way out and a mild headwind/crosswind on the way back adding to the difficulty.
As we started, I got to the front and began to set a steady pace. One of the old timers in Bangalore endurance cycling and a good friend, Thoudam Opendro Singh of Cleated Warriors team, was racing in the BBCH after a long time and was riding at the front with me for a bit before he fell back during a surge. Apart from the occasional surge on the flyovers, the peloton was content with seeing Spectrum Racing(Vivek, Mohan and me) setting the pace. Others pitched in an occasional turn but it was clear that everyone is bracing themselves for the inevitable attacks that are going to fly after the U-turn.
We made it to the U-turn at about 40kmph. As soon as we got there, KKR and others got to the front and started drilling it. Having been at the front for long and having expected the pace to go up drastically, I was ready to let them go and ride at my own pace. But when I saw a second group forming behind the first one, I put in one hard dig and bridged up to the second group that has Rushit Davda of Team Crankmeister, Russell Bell(Spectrum Racing), Aaron Wong(Shimano), Aditya Kaul and a couple of others. After a couple of minutes we managed to bridge up to the main peloton as well.
The Attacks start rolling!
KKR was surprised to see me back in the group but I knew it is just about time before I will pay for all the time at the front till then. But, that didn’t stop me getting back to the front again and taking the pace up when it relaxed. At 56km mark on the kilometer long climb, Craig put in a massive attack with the intention of dropping his main rival, Vivek Radharkrishnan. That broke group as only KKR, Anubhav, Sreenath, Loki and one of the Ciclopedia kids were able to follow. Having burnt all my energy till then, I sat up and lost the entire group. Tactically, I would have been better off if I rested at the back after I made it back to the group until that climb instead of being at the front again till it started. That way, I would have had a better chance of hanging on to the second group at least. I made a mental note to be less suicidal next time and began my long solo ride back.
At the front, the breakaway group of 6 became a group of 5 with Craig, KKR, Loki, Sreenath and Anubhav. Having burnt a match too many with his massive attack that broke the peleton, Craig paid the price eventually getting dropped from the group of skinny climbers with about 10 km to the Nandi turn-off and 30 km to go to the finish. By that time he managed to put almost 5 mins into Vivek and was continuously gaining.
A group of 5-6 riders formed behind with Rushit, Russel, Vivek Bhateja, Aditya Kaul and a couple of others and they began to make steady progress. By that time a few riders have spent so much energy that one began puking. Being at receiving end of a puke rocket/vomit comet isn’t very pretty but Rushit was the unlucky chap while Aditya was the launcher. They were able to brush it aside and keep riding.
After the long climb, I recovered a bit and began to see a couple of riders ahead of me and slowly began to gain ground on them. I made it up to Andy(LBB Racing). He seemed to be burnt out too much to be able to stay on my wheel. I bridged up to Matthew Twynham(Trivandrum Roadies Club) and sat on his wheel for a bit. But, he seemed to have lost all his energy and I moved ahead. I kept seeing Denil Lobo(Team Veloscope) about a couple of hundred meters ahead of me for a long time but every time I tried to increase the intensity to bridge up to him, I began to cramp up and had to ease off.
After I made it to the Nandi turn off, Sunil Nanjappa who was in a car supporting riders asked if I was okay and offered to take me on board if I wished to call it a day. I was tempted but I told him that I will try and ride till the base and take a call on the climb. I repented that call as soon as he sped away. I was not sure if I could climb with the cramps. But now that the chance of a comfortable car ride moved away, I had no choice but to keep riding. By that time, I was out of water and our support car which had my last bottle of energy drink was ahead with Craig.
As I hit the climb, one of the BBCH organizers, Promise Gangani, offered a banana that I picked up and I kept riding. I told myself that may be the cramps will not bother if I don’t push and climb at a leisurely pace. Thankfully, I received a bottle half way up the climb from my support car and that kept me going for the rest of the climb. I overtook a few riders from the amateur race along with a couple from our group. It was immensely satisfying crossing the finish line and realizing that Craig won the Masters category as per our goal. Russell took 3rd making it two podium spots for Spectrum while Vivek(BMR) took the first runner up spot!
In the Elite category, the quartet of climbers dueled it out on the climb hitting each other with attacks. Anubhav was the first one to break and got distanced with KKR taking the win. Loki finished second at 23 seconds behind KKR and 5 seconds ahead of Sreenath who took 3rd.
In the Amateur category, the field was the biggest with about 60 participants. When women and non-road bike and U-18 categories joined them, the field became nearly 100. With such a big field it was great to note the race went pretty safely.
KV Aditya of Team Crankmeister took the win in Amateur followed by Sanjay of Mysore Cycling Club at 2nd and Shashank K Pal at 3rd.
In U-18, Lakshmisha HR took the win with his teammate at Cyclopedia, Vishwas Gowda took 2nd. Akash Blesson from Kerala took 3rd in the category.
In Women’s category, Lena Robra of Team Crankmeister took the win with Jyotsna of Team BTwin finishing 2nd. Nithya Srinivasan rounded off the podium with 3rd place.
In Non-road bike category P Kishore of Psycliders took the win followed by Firos Ahammed and Daryl Fionn at 2nd and 3rd respectively.