Friday, 24 January 2014

365 days ago: Chikmagalur road race

I attended the Chikmagalur district road race last year on this date, here's a recap into it.

I was part of the KW development team at that time and I got a call from a senior rider if I was game to join the main team to race at the Chikmagalur road race taking place on the eve of Republic day. I was looking for an ego-boost after the horrendous experience at the Inter-University games the week before so I jumped on board.

                I had been to Chikmagalur a few months ago, the town is like any other in India, bad roads, noisy, careless driving and delicious food. But, outside the urban area, the place is a treat to the eyes. I was looking forward to some good climbs during the race, more on that later.
             I joined a bunch of other riders heading to the race from Bangalore on the morning of the 24th and reached the town about 7 hours later. After 2 hours of confusion, we finally reached a school about 60kms from Chikmagalur where we were accomodated for that night (its been too long ago to remember the name). The race route and distance were not announced and there were a LOT of rumors being passed around on that night.

Race Day:

I had a quick breakfast, which I am guilty about not finishing, warmed up with most of the riders attending the race for about 20mins and headed to the start line at 8am thinking that the race would start in a couple of minutes. The route had been finalized and the finish was going to be at Chikmagalur.

A couple of minutes passed by.

10 minutes.

45 minutes.

An hour passed by and I was still at the start line with 40 to 50 riders. Apparently the race organizers were waiting for local politicians to arrive and flag off the race. I joined a few other riders for a quick spin at that point.

At about 9:30, the politician arrived and I took a quick loo break thinking that the race would start soon. I couldn't have been more wrong as the politicians took turns to give speeches! 
There goes my warm up!

 The race organizers started to assemble all the riders and we were flagged off at 10:30, finally! 
As soon as I clipped in to my pedals, there were attacks taking place at the front. Thanks to the sleep-inducing speeches,my body had switched to standby mode and I was gasping my breath just to stay in the bunch. 
   Bad breakfast, delayed start, soporific speeches, body in a hibernating state, it couldn't get worse than this, right? Right? Well, 2km into the race, the bunch was greeted to gravel roads. One of the teams with the largest numbers and the best bikes decided to split the bunch and began driving at the front. 8kms in, their tactic worked, there was a group of 14 up the road, with 8 from the same team and I was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was with a bunch of about 8 other riders and the bunch up front was disappearing ! Soon! Because nobody else was willing to work, I attacked and was chasing solo. By this team, the organizers and the press convoy thought the chasing group was not worth sticking behind to and sped off! despite being less than 45secs behind the main bunch! In the next 5km I caught up with 2 separate riders who were dropped from the main bunch, but seeing that I was doing the lion's share of the work I ditched them and went chasing solo.
         At this point I was plain angry, angry at the organizers, angry at the guys who had attacked early, angry that I had to spend to nights sleeping on the floor at the University games! I was yelling at all the vehicles ahead to clear out of my way, screaming at spectators to not come in my way. That's the only part I remember, being angry!
         After the 20kms mark, I was 15 secs behind the main bunch, who were riding like they were possessed! At the 20.5kms mark, the neatly laid roads were a welcoming sight. I took a left turn at a town (whose name I don't remember) and at the bottom of a short climb I could see the bunch right ahead of me, I knew I was going to catch them before the descent.
         5secs later, I saw a teammate of mine standing at the side of the road with a rear tyre puncture. He yelled out to me for my wheel. 
To this day, I don't understand why I did what I did, I gave up! I gave up convincing myself that it wasn't worth doing the race and I'd better give my wheel to him. And that's what I did!

"Sarvesh, you a ride a 9 speed!"

Wait! What?

Turns out my wheel was not compatible with his bike! Without thinking I began putting back my wheel. With my fingers shivering, it took me more than a minute to get the wheel in position and start riding! Anger was replaced by disappointment at this time.

To make matters worse, the traffic was allowed back onto the streets after the first bunch passed through, another session of screaming, yelling and being knocked off the road by a bus followed. 

I managed to calm myself down and told myself to just enjoy being there. The next 25kms were a bit of a blur, I was riding with my head down, focusing on my pedaling, picking up some water at a couple of support station along route. 

With 7km to go, I caught with a rider from the main field (gave myself a pat on the shoulder). After a couple of kilometers I attacked and rode solo to the finish line at 12th position and feeling totally gutted. 
It was a nice feeling to know that a couple of my teammates had finished 2nd and 3rd, but was also filled with a lot of "What if-" thoughts in my head.

Fortunately, I had experienced teammates who gave me important lessons about bike racing after the race. And soon thoughts of quitting the sport were replaced by excitement to look forward and to the next race and also to the theme song of madagascar which was the most played song in the team van. 


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