The Kolar Express!
The BBCH Crit for the month got converted into a 100km road race this year. It was a welcome change for those of us who don’t fancy the high intensity and claustrophobic nature of criterium racing.
7 Masters riders joined about 45 Elite category riders for a 100k race while Amateur, U-18 and women category riders did a shorter 50k race.
He almost didn’t make it!
The race was flagged off exactly at 7am and we began to ride at a very sedentary pace. No one was willing to set the pace and the first 2km felt like a recovery spin. That was until 4x Indian National Champion, Naveen John, rode to the front. He apparently missed the start by a few seconds and caught up with the group within 2k. He wasted no time in going to the front and stepping on the gas.
Immediately, the pace shot up and peloton got strung out long! Naveen Raj(BMR), Sreenath Lakshmikanth(LBB/Embassy racing) and a couple of others joined NJ in pace making. Within no time the average crossed 40kmph and it kept going up.
24km into the race, NJ attacked to disrupt the group and a front group of who’s who of young Indian cycling talent formed. I had no intention of making an effort to follow unless one of the Masters riders made it into the front group. No one did and I watched the front group ride away.
A few elite category riders who were hanging at the back and missed the bus, woke up and got to the front to chase. Abhiram Bellur and Siddharth Kansal of Veloscope racing missed the memo when the attack went and were struck with an unenviable job of chasing some of the fastest riders in the region with not many willing souls to help. Hemendra Upadhyay(Team Crankmeister), another young rider from Mysore’s Cyclopedia and Leander Wheatley (LBB Embassy racing) joined them in the chase and worked hard but the gap only kept growing.
The rest of our group comprised of Arvind Bhateja (Spectrum Racing), Ankush Sharma(LBB Embassy racing), Mahesh Iyer(Pune Wolfpack), Venky Keyframe (BMR) and myself. All of us, Masters riders except my Spectrum racing teammate Vivek Bhateja. We had no intention of chasing or illusions of bridging back to the front group. We were just eyeing each other as we rode on.
The NJ Express In Action:
At the front, NJ attacked again and rode away from the front group. The young riders didn’t just just sit up after he was gone. They started chasing hard.
A chase group of 3 with Sreenath, Naveen Raj and Nikhil Anandsekar(Team Multifit, Pune) formed to chase him.
The rest of the riders became a third group and it had Gagan Reddy(Spectrum Development team), Chinmay Kewalramani(Team Multifit), Aditya KV, Rishab Satyanarayana(BMR), Vaishakh(Team Cyclopedia, Mysore), Faizal PJ(Team Hard Gear+, Kerala).
The trio managed to keep NJ within their sight most of the time as they worked hard together against the lone man ahead. Eventually, Nikhil got dropped and Naveen Raj and Sreenath, both of whom train with NJ, kept chasing their coach.
They had to work super hard to make the bridge. They managed to catch the champ 1.5km from the finish line. When Naveen Raj opened the sprint with 200m to go, NJ was able to follow him and out sprint him to take the win. Sreenath finished a close second with Naveen Raj taking 3rd.
The group behind them had a bunch sprint for the remaining places.
The Wily Old Dogs!
While all this furious action was going on at Elite category race, our group was seeing a bit of our own action with a bit of drama added. Tired with working for the group of old men who were not contributing, the Veloscope duo of Abhiram and Siddharth attacked and rode away hanging in no-man’s land and finishing the race together.
We caught Phanibhushan(LBB) who was dropped from the front group. Phani and Leander rode away from the group as well. So, the group was down to 5 Masters riders (Arvind, Mahesh, Ankush, VenkyKeyframe and I) and Vivek. I’ve asked Vivek to set the pace since all of us were just eyeing each other and no one wanted to burnout. He did a great job until his derailleur cable broke and got struck in the bike. He had to abandon the race.
Around the same time, I noticed that my chain dropped from the big ring to the small chain ring. I tried to shift up but the DI2 refused to shift. I was not sure what was happening. As it turned out, the battery drained and went into default mode. With the bike struck in small chain ring and me spinning furiously to keep up with the group, it was becoming very difficult. I knew my race was over. I told my skipper Arvind Bhateja about the situation and told him it’s up to him to mark others for the sprint. I decided to start working for the group to take them as close to the line as possible.
With 12 km to go, just when I got to the front, VenkyKeyframe came to the front and started riding away. I didn’t make an effort to bridge and let the gap build. I wanted Mahesh to chase so that Arvind can just follow him and take the sprint. But, he didn’t chase. Neither did Ankush. The gap quickly built. After a couple of km of sitting on our wheels, Mahesh launched an attack from the back and started riding away. Arvind tried to jump to follow him but cramps hampered his progress. I began to spin furiously and tried to help Arvind and Ankush bridge the gap. But, with small chain ring and being unable to use the last two cogs, I couldn’t do much. I sat up and let Arvind and Ankush find their own way towards bridging up to Mahesh.
Mahesh, in the meantime managed to bridge up to VenkyKeyframe with 5k to go. Once caught, Venky sat on Mahesh’s wheel and sprinted to the line. Mahesh didn’t realize that Venky also registered in Masters and let him take the sprint. He was crestfallen when he was told that VenkyKeyframe was riding Masters as well. As it turned out, Venky apparently was still under 40 and registered in Masters category by mistake. Later in the day, the organizers talked to him to clear things up and awarded the win to Mahesh. Arvind finished a minute behind to take 2nd and Ankush took 3rd another minute behind Arvind.
The amateur category race had a crash or two due but everyone was safe at the end of the day, thanks to the volunteers and the Sita Bhateja Speciality Hospital ambulance that was there to take care of their injuries.
The race was one of the best races at BBCH and it is great to see some really aggressive riding and tactics coming into play apart from just brute force. Makes for very exciting racing for everyone.
Thanks again to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers for delivering yet another brilliant race this season at BBCH.