The Race of Attrition – BBCh Classic 2023!

He was screaming his lungs out as he started sprinting. His passion and the will to win were echoing back from those screams. He was going all out. And then Sangram opened his sprint. I waited for a few seconds before following him. Our respective support guys on their motor bikes were screaming their lungs out. ‘Come on Sangram. Out of the saddle. Out of the saddle’. ‘Go Venky go! You got this! Come on take him!’ The adrenaline rush from those screams was fuelling the dead legs. He crossed the finish line and I raised my arms victorious as I made it past the line myself! Phew! That was one hell of a race. A race of attrition!

Sangram sprinting his heart out and it looks like I was celebrating with a balle balle dance! 😜 PC: BBCH

BBCh Classic is traditionally the longest race in the Bangalore Bicycle Championships calendar. Typically about 100 miles or 160 km. With each passing year, with the increasing traffic, our race starts are having to be pushed more and more away from the city. So, finding a single 80k out and 80k back became difficult and BBCh came up with multiple loops of 40k out and back course (~80k per loop) in the last couple of years. We were about to use the same course this year.

But when a part of the new highway towards Dobaspet from Devanahalli was opened up, it was worth trying. So, the BBCh team finalized a 15km out and 15k back loop to be used for the race. New roads with almost zero traffic and safe U-turn options from under the flyovers clinched the deal. However, what we did not foresee was the gravel that was spilled during the highway construction work that was yet to be cleaned in parts. It ended up playing a big part in the race result of about 20-25 riders out of about 200 starters across various categories. About 10-12% of the riders ended up with a DNF because of punctures. I’m sure by the next time we use this course it’ll be much cleaner and kinder to our delicate race tires.

Participants in various categories! Growing bigger and better! PC: BBCH

The race course starts from near Aerospace KIADB Phase 2 and goes towards Devanahalli – Doddaballapur. At about 14.5km, the riders needed to take the service road. At 15km riders take a U turn under a flyover and ride back to the start/finish. At about 29.5k riders needed to get on to the service road and take the U turn from under the flyover to complete the loop and start on another loop. On the final lap, instead of taking the service road towards the start point, riders had to continue on the top of the flyover/highway for another 1.5km to the finish line.

The race course on the new highway! PC: Prajwal, OnetoneStudio

Elite and Masters category riders needed to do 5 laps of the course to complete 151km while the amateur and women categories had 3 laps to complete a 91km race. The course had strong cross/headwinds on the way out and cross/tailwinds on the way back.

The boomerang shaped course meant the winds were a bit everywhere!

A few minutes after the Elite field started, the master’s field was flagged off exactly at 7am. At the start, I proposed to the guys that we would do a rotating paceline that we often see the breakaway groups in pro races use. It is a very efficient way for smaller groups to ride in because no rider spends more than a few seconds at a time at the front and the group makes progress at a good speed. With the master’s group being about 15 riders, I thought that would be a great way to tackle the beast of a distance of 151 km.

The challenge would be to get all the riders with various abilities and experience levels to ride in the dynamic formation of the rotating paceline. Rotating paceline has two lines of riders riding next to each other with one line going slightly faster and the rider at the head of the faster line peeling off and joining the slower line as soon as he crosses the front wheel of the rider next to him. When done well, it is a pretty efficient way for the group to ride faster without expending too much energy.

Riders like Akshay Sharma, Sibabrata Pattnaik don’t often ride in groups. But, they understood the formation quickly and managed to ride really well. Rakesh from Trivendrum Cycling Club(TCC) on his beautiful Colnago was another rider who was not used to riding in groups but he too managed to stick to the plan for the most part. At times he used to go off into the distance when he was at the front instead of peeling off to the left and staying in the paceline.

The master’s bunch in the 3rd lap! PC: BBCh

My good friend, Ashwin Vig(LBB Racing), although was brilliant most of the time, had the same tendency of riding away from the paceline when he got carried away with the wind on his back or when the downhill carried his big frame forward. I had to “Bro, chillax” him a couple of times. It’s not just the new riders or riders not used to group riding that could struggle. As riding in such a formation needs focus, even slightly more experienced riders like Vikram Natarajan were leaving gaps in the paceline and spending more energy than was necessary. Maybe it was the inner triathlete in him that was holding him back from being too close to the rider in front lest he should get penalized.

Abhishek Priyadarshi and Sangram Jena of Team BROS, Mahesh Iyer of Pune Wolfpack, Sudhi Chandran Bhagavathi and Rajesh Ravi from Kerala, my Spectrum racing teammate, Dr. Arvind Bhateja and I formed the rest of the group.

Despite the small adjustments we needed to do as a group to accommodate everyone’s different experience levels, we were doing a fantastic job.

Our plan was to keep working together as a group for as long as possible before attacking each other and race to the finish. If we could keep the cooperation going for 4 laps or 120km, the last lap can be no holds bar racing.

Attrition! Natural Selection of Different Sort!

In those first 120k/4 laps, there were bound to be many factors that cut the group down in the racing version of the natural selection.

Right after the first lap, as we took the U turn, we heard a hiss from Abhishek’s rear wheel. That was the end of his race as the rest of the group marched ahead into the headwinds. Another couple of kms in, we heard another hiss and Vikram was the victim this time. After 2 laps were done, Arvind had a puncture and had to abandon the race. The loose gravel took its fair share of our group as victims and we were not even half way through.

Akshay got dropped in the 3rd lap and the rest of us kept on working together. I kept reminding myself to finish at least a bottle with each lap. I came with 5 bottles for the five laps. I was carrying 3 bottles on me and gave a couple of bottles to my motor bike support consisting of my teammate Murthy and my dear friend and training partner, Dipankar Paul(DP). They were carrying bottles for Arvind, Mahesh and for me.

In the second half of the fourth lap, Rajesh put in a strong dig and I was on his wheel. He tried hard to break away but I managed to hang on with the rest of the group closely behind. During this attack Sibabrata and Rakesh got distanced. That signalled the end of any cooperation in the group. Now it was a group of six with Mahesh, Sangram, Ashwin, Sudhi, Rajesh and I remaining. We completed the 4th lap/120km and started the ride into the headwinds for the final lap.

I sat back on Mahesh Iyer’s wheel marking him as I remember him attacking 20k to go in the last race when I was at the front and I didn’t want to miss an attack this time. He began to leave a gap to others trying to force me to go ahead. I didn’t take the bait and he eventually had to close the gap taking me along.

Biding our time on the last lap! PC: BBCH

After about 5km of playing that game, we had Rakesh making it back into the group. I decided to stop playing games to get a result for myself and decided to take it to a sprint and bet on my friend and one of the best masters sprinters, Sangram. I asked him if he was feeling good and he responded in affirmative. I told him I was willing to work for him. If he feels like going away with anyone, I would sit back and not chase him but if he decides to gamble on his sprint as he should, I was willing to let him sit and mark others while I take the group to the line. With that agreement, I went to the front and began to plough into the headwinds.

After a couple of km of me in the front, I heard a loud thud at the back. From the sound, I could make out that someone crashed. I resisted the urge to look back as one of the rules of safety in the peloton is to never look back and cause more crashes. Apparently, Sudhi’s front wheel hit Sangram’s rear wheel and he went down. That’s why I always remind people not to let wheels overlap in a paceline. Ashwin who was on Sudhi’s wheel couldn’t avoid the crash and fell as well. They are both looking good for a good contest for the final.

The group went from 6 to 4 just like that. I continued setting the pace against the wind. In my head, I was going to take the other 3 to the line and they could fight it out for the win. I told Sangram to mark Mahesh and be ready for his attack. Mahesh did not put his nose into the wind even for a second since the end of the fourth lap and was biding his time for his potentially race winning move.

We took the final U turn at 135km and started the final 16k to the finish with the wind on our backs. I kept the pace high. With about 10k to go, Rajesh launched another attack. Sangram quickly got on his wheel with Mahesh following him. I was getting dropped but dug deep to keep them in sight and slowly crawled back on to Mahesh’s wheel. I told myself if I managed to suffer for a few more minutes, it’ll all be worth it. Just as I recovered sitting on the wheels for a bit and started to go to the front, there was another hissing sound. It was Mahesh’s turn to fall victim to a puncture. That was a devastating way to lose a race close to the finish with him fresh and confident.

That left 3 is us. Podium was decided. It was only a matter of deciding who’s on the top step. I was more confident in Sangram against Rajesh with Mahesh out of the picture.

In the last 2k, Rajesh attacked again and both of us were quickly on his wheel. In the final km, Rajesh began screaming his lungs out as he started sprinting. His passion and the will to win were echoing back from those screams. He was going all out. And then Sangram opened his sprint. I waited for a few seconds before following him. Our respective support guys on their motor bikes were screaming their lungs out. ‘Come on Sangram. Out of the saddle. Out of the saddle’. ‘Go Venky go! You got this! Come on take him!’ The adrenaline rush from those screams was fuelling the dead legs. He crossed the finish line and I raised my arms victorious as I made it past the line myself! Phew! That was one hell of a race. A race of attrition!

The feeling when the plan works! PC: BBCh

I was happy to have had the legs to contest the sprint after all the work. Rajesh started his sprint way too early. That forced Sangram to go early as well. He was fading nearing the finish line allowing me to almost catch him.

But, I was super happy to see him take the win. Just a few months ago he had knee surgery for a ligament injury from a crash. To come back from that strong needed a ton of work on and off the bike for him. I’m glad to have played a small part in his comeback during this race.

For me, I crashed in a preparation race just two weeks before the BBCh classic 2022 and fractured my shoulder. So, making it to the start line of this race was special. It felt the same for all the races this season. Making it to the start line was a privilege that I didn’t have last season because of the crash. So, I wanted to not miss any race no matter how the training went. To be able to do reasonably well in all the 3 races so far this season was an extra bonus.

A year between the first 3 and the last picture!

Attrition In other Categories!

There was apparently a good amount of drama in the Elite category race as well with a few flats, a couple of crashes and tons of attacks for break aways.

The calm before the storm in the Elite Peloton! PC: Prajwal, OnetoneStudio

Eventually, Chinmay from Goa took the win followed by Wheelsports rider Nadeppa Savadi finishing 2nd and Joel Sundaram 3rd.

Elite podium! PC: BBCh

In the Women’s race, Tim Tim Sharma (Team Wheelsports) won with a solo break for the last 15k of the 91km race. Priya(LBB Racing) took 2nd followed by Bindiya Surya at 3rd.


In the Amateur category, Mark Jose Fernandes won the race followed by Madan at 2nd and Aleksandr Formin at 3rd.


U-18 race was won by Shaurya Sheoran followed by Ansh Anand at 2nd and Sanjay Ramesh at 3rd. Amazing to see the numbers growing in the U-18 category!


A new category of beginner riders called Pioneer where they are needed to ride one lap of the course(30km). Hopefully, it’ll act as a gateway drug for the new riders into racing!


Thanks to the amazing team at BBCh and the awesome set of volunteers that made another great race possible! We are indebted to them for providing us a great platform to race!

BBCh volunteer force behind the amazing race! Thank you guys! 🙏

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