And then I tried racing!! Part II – Lets get into it
Like I have mentioned before – the one way to keep the momentum going is to sign up for events – this gives you something to look forward to and keeps the momentum going. As luck would have it, soon after I got the new roadie, I was also made aware of the fact that there were actually quite a few events to look forward to. This is obviously a lot more accessible and easier for me simply because I am surrounded by extremely passionate cyclists and more importantly, I live with one who is just one step away from turning the house into a cycle shop.
Bangalore has two separate organisations which run events through a season – BBCh ( Bangalore Bicycling Championships, which has been around for a while) and BAR ( Bangalore Amateur Racing, a relatively new series of events but one that seems to be gaining a lot of popularity amongst the cycling enthusiasts). For more information about both, do feel free to visit their respective Facebook pages.
The sunday after the brevet ( 1st Feb) was the first event of the BAR season. The season, I am assuming always begins with the event known as the ITT ( Individual Team Trial). In this event, each participant starts individually and races against the clock. A pre-defined route which is usually straight out and back has been shared with the participants. It is a staggered start of 30 seconds between each participant and its all about speed from the word go. Since it is a shorter distance ( in this case, 33.5K), you really do not have time to breathe and its all about moving faster and stronger from the word GO!!
This was the first time I actually competed in a speed race in cycling. I had never quite understood the extreme thrill and constant chatter amongst cyclists about a particular race or the style of a particular rider. Participation in this event changed my perspective – I don’t think I could say I completely understand it yet, but yes, I certainly had a glimpse of it that day. This event for me was pure adrenaline. I know I am just about average at this time. I also know I have a long way to go in terms of technical knowledge and throwing jargon around – but for me on THAT day, I know I did the best that I could and most importantly, I enjoyed it immensely.
The sunday after the ITT ( 8th Feb) took us to Coimbatore for another exciting race. By far my favorite of the lot, The Criterium commonly referred to as a “CRIT” is a time-based event. A mass-start, all participants start together and cover a pre-marked loop. Simple, the person who takes the maximum number of loops in the stipulated time wins.
There is always this moment when you fall in love – this trip was that experience and this event was that moment for me. The trip because everything just seemed to fall into place and it seemed like we were destined to be part of this. Right from getting a bike rack, to fantastic roads to Ankush even driving with one hand broken ( yes! he feels that I am a terrible driver – I disagree but obviously), having a road trip with Geeta after a while to reaching Coimbatore just in time to get some loops of the KARI Race track, meeting with the entire Wheelsports Team – the camaraderie, having the most wonderful host in Sulaiman Bhai of Cycology and his friends Lakshmi and Santosh- the entire trip was, for lack of a better word – perfect.
The event, for me was the right blend of power, strategy, technique and pure adrenaline. To keep up with the lead pack, to get dropped, to dig deep and be able to catch up with them, to increase pace at the right time, to taking the turns and the head winds at the right pace and with the right technique and off course, to be in the same field as probably the best riders in the nation and be able to keep up with them, to have a team, friends and brother out there cheering me on – there was so much going on in that 30 minutes that the body was operating at a completely different plane – oh yes! and it was a lot of fun!!!
Straight after, we went over to Coorg for a day to do the route recce for the Road bike leg of the Coorg Escapade. Aptly known as the Coorg Ascend, this event promises to have 11 Climbs over 40Kms – a climbers paradise and a route not for the faint-hearted. Yes! I had the pleasure and honor of being the first person to ride this route and boy! it definitely taught me the frailty of being human. Also, hills are your best friends, embrace them – don’t try to conquer them because you can never conquer nature.
The Sunday after ( 15th Feb) was the opening event of the BBCh. – you guessed it – the ITT again. It was amazing to be part of the largest Amateur ITT of the country which had 109 registered participants. A bigger field with stronger contenders was another brilliant experience, specifically to be able to see National Level riders like Naveen Raj, Naveen John and Paigambar Nadaf in all their speedy glory. There is something humbling about just basking in the glory of people who cover the 33.5K in 3 quarters of an hour. As I type this, I only wonder what dedication, training and discipline would be required by stalwarts like Mark Cavendish, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Lance Armstrong, Marco Pantani….. to do what they do.
This sunday ( 22nd Feb) we did a ride to Nandi and back ( yes, it includes the climb). We all rode together in a bunch ( around 11 of us) and also had a support crew ( yep, Ankush and Akash volunteered). It was fun yes, but it was a hard ride nonetheless – just the way I like it!
Through all of this, there has been one person who is wholly responsible for making me fall in love with this sport. In all honesty, I must have done some really good deeds to have been blessed with a brother like Ankush. Anyone who knows him vouches for just what an awesome guy he is. As an avid cyclist who is injured he could just as well have been negative about me wanting to start my tryst with the sport while he is down and out. But contrary to that he has been the facilitator and my personal coach. He corrects me when I am wrong and explains why calmly. He ensures that I have all the equipment I need. He is the one who instigated I go in for an upgrade. He facilitated bringing a trainer home so that I could start doing some miles within the safety of home. He is the one who tells me what workout to do when so that I can improve. He comes along as support and coach not just for me but the entire troupe and goes above and beyond anything a brother or a friend could do. He is the one who encourages me to sign up for races. And it is not just now, he has been trying to do it ever since he got introduced to the sport, its just that I showed some interest now. Mostly, the fact that he is a good, caring person, one who is selfless and loves sharing his knowledge and rubs off this passion on others, everyday – is what blows me away. I just want to Thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope that you always stay this way ( might be a little too late for you to change anyway)
And before I sign off: This is a sport with a lot of drama. This is a sport with a lot of flavour. This is a mechanical sport. It is a technical sport. It is a sport which needs finesse. It is a sport which needs heart. This sport has a lot of style. This sport is strife with controversy. This sport will make you suffer and teach you new levels of pain. But at the same time, with each level of pain you will be introduced to your own sense of glory and your own personal achievement. This sport will make you want to travel. This sport will teach you how to explore. As for me, I sure plan to enjoy all that this journey throws at me.