Wednesday, 23 December 2015

#RoadToGold - Weeks 3 and 4

...Recollecting what I did 2 weeks ago seems like a daunting task right now and makes me wish I had not procrastinated when I was supposed to update this blog last week. My instant gratification monkey overpowered me last Tuesday and almost did so today too! But then, the thought of having to recollect 3 weeks' actions brought out the panic monster in me and here I am.

L-R: Panic monster, Instant gratification monkey and Me
The main reason I started this blog is to document stories of my adventures on the bike. When I crashed in November, I had an idea to weekly update my blog which I could use to notice how my thinking processes and thought patterns changed evolved over a period of time, so that one day I can look back and go "God, I was such an idiot!".

A week after I crashed I locked up my instant gratification monkey and started meditating daily. Over a period of time, this tool has given me a better clarity of my thought patterns. By analyzing them, I have been able to oversee the puny problems which I tended to exaggerate. Just how much did I exaggerate? To give you an idea, I spent 2 sleepless nights back in June all the while worried because I was getting less than half an hour in races.  

Over time, I gathered alternative perspectives on my situation which helped me sleep better. That and I improved in races in the following weeks.

Right now, the biggest hurdle I face is procrastination. Many a times , I have found myself either quit halfway through a blogpost or spend twenty minutes staring at the blinking cursor and then calling it quits to watch videos of JacksgapHis videos are dangerously addictive!  Last week, the nerd in me spent 20 hours spread over 3 days reading a 4 part series about Elon Musk. I then spent the next 2 days overcoming an identity crisis.

I now undoubtedly believe that this guy is the raddest man on Earth!

I've realized that this a hurdle and not a wall and I have been reading through tons of articles online to gain a better insight into it's mechanisms which I believe will help me jump above it.

 My ramblings above should tell you by now that I've been off the bike for waaaaaaaaaay too long with waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much free time on my hands.

Back to the domain of bike racing, the 2015 Indian National Championships have been scheduled to take place from the 24th of February to the 27 of February, 2016. No,that was not a typo.
With the inclusion of a 2.5km 4% climb, the racing will surely be interesting. The whippet hound in me wags his tail in agreement!

I got on the trainer for the first time on Monday. The huge void in training has definitely taken its toll on my strength, but I have got 9 weeks to prepare and with the coaching of one of the smartest people I know, I am pretty confident, I will back to shape by then.

Until next time.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

#Roadtogold - Week 2

2 weeks in and the hurting phase of recovery have become episodes of the past.
On a not-so-bright note, the discomfort phase has kicked in. 6 weeks spent wearing a cloth strap around one's armpits? Not fun.

I cursed my situation in the first two days last week for the distress I was in and also on missing out on all the riding I could've done.
On the third day, I switched on the telly and all my worries seemed trivial compared to the horrendous events that the citizens of Chennai have been facing.
All of a sudden, not being able to ride my bike seemed like a pin prick next to spending days without a proper roof or adequate nutrition!
On a brighter note, witnessing (on the telly) the collective coming together of people, caste and creed not mattering, to help each other was the highlight of my week!

Hang in the Chennai! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Cliché, but true.

With regards to my exams, the remaining theory subjects seem dwarfed compared to FEM and I've been tackling them with a clear and calm head, a bit too calm at times! I've got one theory paper and three practical exams (Pfft!) remaining.

I am also pretty excited to get back on the bike which I intend to do so on the 21st of this month. I will not be able to go out on the road for the first couple of weeks, but it beats not riding at all.

Until next week!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

#RoadToGold - Week 1

Sheesh! Has it been a week already?!
Feels like only yesterday, when I was powering on the TT rig at OMR (Old Madras Road).

So, how was week numero uno?

After returning from the hospital, I felt slightly comfortable knowing that I've been through this earlier. I opted for the non-surgical method of treating a clavicle (collarbone) fracture which involves wearing a clavicle brace for 6 weeks along with a hand sling for 3-4 weeks.

For the bone to heal properly, it is necessary to hold it in an outstretched position while also ensuring that it does not support any load.
The clavicle brace is an 8-shaped brace which goes around my shoulders and meets at my back.

Pros of a clavicle brace:
1. It holds the shoulders in a retracted position, aligning the collarbone rightfully.
2. It also opens up my chest, thus preventing Kyphosis.

Cons of a clavicle brace:
1. Armpits are constantly irritated. Every. Single. Second.
2. The degrees of freedom when I am asleep is restricted to 1.

I was mentally prepared to handle the discomfort, but what I had not anticipated was the crippling effect of a nerve being irritated at the junction where the two broken bits meet.
The first two nights can be described as walking through a landmine. A single wrong move or a slight unbalance in the weight distribution would fire up the dorsal horns immediately!

At one point, my eyes began to tear up involuntarily because of the pain! On a brighter note, I am confident I can go harder in future TTs and VO2 Max intervals, having reached a higher threshold of pain.

In the movie "Kung Fu Panda", Po-the Kung Fu Panda is tested in the temple and at one point, he has to maneuvre himself out of a thorny-mechanism-thingy mine field. This closely resembles my third night when an injury on my right hip flared up further diminishing my movement.

On the 4th day, as in life, things started to get better. Having lived in a fool's paradise, i.e., spending 20 hours a day on the bed, the previous three days I was determined to get more proactive and was searching for a source of motivation.

One of the greatest motives is fear and no 4 words scare a 20 year old more than, " Finite Element Methods (FEM) Examination"
This is closely followed by "We need to talk" and "You've broken your collarbone".

FEM is the most annoyingly difficult subject I've faced in the past 7 semesters and I am glad to have gotten it behind me. Here's to hoping that my prayers to the 330 million deities are answered and I clear the exam.

1 exam done. 8 more to go.

Until next week!

P. S. I apologise for the lack of photos. The blogger app is a pain to work with. I'll be launching my own website soon, wherein I promise to put in more pics, gifs and cat videos.

Monday, 23 November 2015

#RoadToGold - Week 0

I stare down at my wrist watch hanging rather loosely on my left hand. The minute hand indicates that I've got less than 2mins left in this effort..

Let's ramp it UP! Time to go Á BLOC!!

The gradient tilts downwards and I shift to a higher gear. At the same time I move back a bit on my saddle to get as slipstreamed as possible on theSpecialised Transition.

90 seconds to go..this tailwind feels so good!

I am less than a feet away from the edge of the road, going at upwards of 45kmph when a lorry begins to pass me on my right side. I remember the pink lotuses in a yellow background painted on the side of the lorry..


..the next thing I remember is I'm lying on the ground, my right cheek in contact with the rough asphalt.

The next 15 to 20 minutes are sketchy because I took an impact on my head and suffered a mild concussion.

..I remember trying to uncleat my left shoe..

..There's a swarm of people around me.

I reach for my cellphone in my back pocket, feeling relieved that it has not been stolen and I call my coach, Naveen, who was following me on a motorbike till he punctured about 30minutes ago.

"Hi Naveen. I've had a crash. I think my right collarbone is broken.."

I don't remember the rest of that conversation or the next 5 phonecalls I make - 3 to my friend Sushant, who had joined us for the session, 1 to my parents to inform them I had an accident and another one to Naveen.

I am confused and slightly nauseating at this point still trying understand exactly what was going on.

I get into an autorickshaw. Right hand on my left shoulder and the left hand holding onto the bike.

Sushant joins me at the car and we load the bike in. I have zero recollection of removing the wheels to fit the bike into the car.

We drive up to Sita Bhateja Hospital, wherein I was successfully treated when I first broke my collarbone back in March this year. My parents are there and an X-ray reveals a broken right clavicle.

I will need 5-6 weeks for complete recovery during which time I will need to wear a clavicle brace and a hand sling.

When I look back now to the first time I broke my collarbone, I feel I wasted a lot of time watching TV and procrastinating. To avoid that I'll be writing here weekly, about my recovery and my preparations for the national championships.

Until next week!

P. S. I would like to thank everyone who wished me a speedy recovery. Your words are truly encouraging and I hope to get back on the saddle and kick ass ASAP.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

A case of 2 criteriums - Part 1

An account of the 2 criteriums I took part in. A sea of difference.

July 17th, 2015 : Belzele, Belgium

In the previous race, I could savor the improvements in my form. I lasted more than 80 kilometres in the race and was super-duper confident that I could carry this momentum to finish my next  race.
Oh, how badly had I underestimated the Criterium racing scene in Belgium.

The course-
A 1.6km course with 3 acute angled turns. While warming up, I made a mental note regarding all the road furniture along the course - 2 potholes and 5 barriers which had extended slightly onto the road.

The race-
I knew the race would be hard considering the sprinting prowess needed to survive and I lined up with a "Can do" attitude backed up by the confidence gained in the previous race.


As the gun went off, the 50 riders (The limit in Belgian criteriums) sprinted to approach the first corner faster than a Perigrine Falcon! Without a proper warm up, my skinny physique floundered to match the massive watt bombs being dropped in the course. Exiting the corner I found myself being the turtle of the race.

No need to panic. Surely, I can move up..

Or so, I thought.

The stretch between the first and second corner was less than 700 metres in length but had 3 of the barriers extending about 5 feet into the road, forcing the bunch into a bottleneck. With the road being only so wide, I found myself facing a wall of riders with no crack to move up ahead.

With prize money on offer for the first few laps, the lead (read: bulky) riders darted when exiting the third corner towards the start/finish line. I was amongst the last 5 riders in the bunch and struggled just to stay in contact with the bunch.

Lap 2 was slightly relaxed because of the absence of the initial acceleration. Despite the reduction in velocity, there was not sufficient time or space to improve my position and I quickly found my self as the lanterne rouge!

No, this can't be happening. I have the momentum from my previous race.

In laps 3 and 4, I was desperate to place myself in the top 10. I divebobmed each corner, not giving mind to the dutch slurs being spewed at me. I almost knocked down a safety barrier. I offered prayers to all the 1 crore (10million) deities of the Hindu religion!

But, it wasn't meant to be. In the 5th lap, no amount of guile nor desperate prayers could save me from the inevitable. My physiology was no match for the job requirement and I had to abandon.

Moral of the day : Momentum is a cruel mistress

To be continued..

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Oudenberg again!

The day after the race at Ursel, I joined the Zappi's pro cycling team for a training ride which included multiple ascents up the Koppenberg! Why multiple ascents you ask? Turns out, the British nationals championships were to be held on a circuit which included and finished on top of a cobbled climb resembling the "Heads Mountain". How cool is that!!

Koppenberg! Literally translates to Heads Mountian!
We started the first ascent, I kicked into a suitable gear and began powering up the climb. Unfortunately, the power I was putting out was too much for my trusty aluminium steed as 50 metres into the 600 meter climb, my derailleur hanger snapped and shoved the derailleur into my rear wheel! Sheise

18th June, 2015 : Oudenberg

My friend and supporter, Prof. Jamie Anderson was kind to lend me his carbon bike with some pretty sweet Dura-Ace components and I lined up for my next race at Oudenberg.

The course was a 6.2km loop. Flat as a pancake. As windy as a Hurricane.

Th start line was the same as the criterium I had done 3 days ago, but after the second corner, we ventured further down the road and turned into exposed country stretches littered with corners and road furnitures.

The field was 50+ riders strong including riders from the An-Post Chain Reaction Cycles Team and the Lotto-Soudal U23 team (These guys are everywhere!!) and also the Estonian U23 National Champion!

As always, the race started with a flurry of attacks from the front, I settled behind the Callum's wheel who is one of the most experienced riders in the Zappi's team. We approached a round about and a few guys took advantage of a bike path alongside and sped on it to position themselves towards the front.

Mental note to self: Use the bike paths whenever you can.

As we took a left turn from the city onto the country roads, we encountered a strong crosswind coming in from 10 o' clock. After the sprint, I latched onto a wheel while being on the right hand side of the field. Riders who were on the left hand side of the bunch were exposed and were constantly trying to move in to se-


A big Belgian dude, probably 80-85kilos bumps into me trying to steal my position. That son of a gun! He did not have the agility of Mark Renshaw and I quickly went offensive, thrusting out my left elbow into his ribcage. He moved slightly ahead of me and tried to butt in his butt onto my handlebars. At that moment, a gap opened up on the right hand side and I sprinted to slot myself ahead of him. Take that! Phew! That was close...and fun! Oh and all of this happened at 45+kmph!

Who says cycling is not a contact sport?!

As we encountered one corner after another, I noticed that the entire bunch ahead was lined out into a single form with a group of 7-8 riders at about 4-5secs ahead. This is going to be hard race.

 Lap 2:

I took the bike path. But in doing so, I was at the edge of my nerves trying not to crash and did not make up much positions exiting onto the road.
I had settled onto the rear wheel of one of my teammate whom I knew was very experienced. Fortunately, there was no argy-bargy...for a while. Entering one of the corners, another teammate of mine swooped in and stole my position. What the? Who the? HEY!
At this point I was furious at him and lost focus in the race, loosing wheel after wheel, eventually relegated to the very last wheel.

Belgium racing lesson number 4 : FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS!

I eventually snapped due to the constant accordion effect taking place and was dropped about 1km from the finish line.

Gutted. Again.

To overcome the disappointment, I decided to ride the 90km back home. I caught up with Flavio and wished him and the boys the best for the nationals and set about finding my way back home.

The way back to Gent was quite enjoyable as I got to visit the picturesque city of Brugge en route and feasted on some waffles mid ride, which I would regret doing so 3kms later.

Wordt vervolgd..


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Zappi's Pro Cycling team and Tools of the Trade

Belgium has one of the, if not, THE toughest amateur racing scene in the world. The tough field, harsh weather and narrow winding courses, make Belgium the perfect university for any aspiring bike racer.

Every year, several teams and riders take upon the pilgrimage to the heartland to throw themselves into the ring of fire and test their physical abilities. One of the teams who do this every year is the Oxford based Zappi's pro cycling team. An U23 elite amateur team mentored by Flavio Zappi, who once wore the green jersey at the Giro d'Italia!
In my 2nd week of my stay at Belgium, I gained valuable insights into the sport by racing and training with the Zappi's boys for a few days.

Zappi's Pro Cycling Team

15th June, 2015: Ursel

The morning of the race day, I caught up with Flavio and rode with the boys (4 that day) to the town of Ursel wherein I lined up for my 5th race.
While pinning on the numbers, I was quite taken aback by the conversation between the Zappi riders-

"I'll go in the first break and you guys cover any counters if I'm caught"

"Got it, and guys make sure someone's marking Mario all the time"

"If it comes down to a bunch sprint, I'll go for it"

 "Sarvesh, what's your plan?"

"Ummm, I don't know. It depends on how my legs feel in the race". I was too embarrassed at that point, to reveal that I'd be happy if I lasted more than 2 laps in the race.

We started the 120km race with 60 odd riders, including a rider from the U23 Lotto-Soudal development team! Unfortunately, Loki had sprained his ankle and could not line up for the race.

I took too long to register and pin on my numbers because of which I could not check out the course. Big mistake! All I knew was that each lap was 6.9kms in length and was "slightly" technical.

We started of by going flying up a 800m incline with an average gradient of 2.5%. I was in a good position at the summit in the top 20 or 25 and I even tried to bridge along with one of the attacks, but my body had not warmed up yet and I settled back into the peloton.

Right hand corner.

Sprint out of it.

200 meters later, repeat again.

I was on the right hand side of the bunch coming out of the corner and was quite horrified upon exiting to find out that the width of the road had narrowed to two-thirds of its initial width! After spending 6 scary seconds trying to balance myself on a gravel section while going at 42kmph, I jumped back onto smooth tarmac. Albeit the damage had been done. While I decelerated to 42kmph on the gravel section, the bunch had powered along at 50+kmph and I found myself in the tail end of the bunch.

Pro Amateur Tip: Check the course before the race

Panic took over my reins and I found it difficult to move up the bunch when the road was only 3 riders wide. For the next 2 kilometers, I was in an agitated state, because I knew that if I did not move up soon, I would get dropped in a corner up front.

I did not move up soon.

We took a sharp acute angled turn onto a a wider road but into a block headwind. I could see a break of about 10 riders up the road with a gap of about 12-15seconds and it included one of the Zappi's boys! Damn, these guys are strong!

Contrary to the racing scene in India, wherein everyone sits up in a headwind section, in Belgium, headwinds are used as a tool to turn the screws in a race. Since physics dictates that you save 30% drafting behind another cyclist, all the riders on the outside of the bunch move inwards in search of the ever precious slipstream. This causes a cascading effect wherein at the tail end of the bunch, a long thin line of riders struggle to hold on.

Tail end was where I had checked in to at this point and my facebook status was updated to "Struggling to hold on".  Neither had my body warmed up yet nor did I have the raw power needed to hold on and my relationship status was quickly changed to "single" as I unceremoniously got dropped soon.

A hundred metres later, the bunch took a left hand turn into the town wherein buildings on either side of the ride negated the effects of the winds. I chased as hard as I could and was just 3-4seconds behind the bunch when we crossed the finish line, but I was burnt by the time I hit the ramp and the broomwagon shot up the road ahead of me.

I was gutted at this point and rather sit around and wait till the race finishes, I took advantage of the headwinds and got in a decent training session.

Rule number 5!

Zappi's team bagged a top 10 and a few primes in the race. The post race ride back home was quite fascinating as I exchanged stories with the Zappi's team about racing and training in the subcontinent.

To be continued..

Monday, 24 August 2015

Oudenberg criterium - Frites and Cornering

14th June - Oudenburg Criterium

I lined up for my first criterium in Belgium at Oudenberg. Typically, criteriums in Belgium start at 7:00PM (Yes, you read that right). The field is restricted to 50 riders and the race distance is 70-80kms. Each lap in this course was 1.9kms in length.

In criteriums, it is essential to know the course, I began warming up 30mins before the start and memorized the entire course well (too well actually) -

  • Start off into a headwind....left hand corner after 100m...
  • 200m later, another sharp left hand corner at the town out on the outside of the curve...
  • 450m long stretch with road traffic on either side of the road..150metres apart...
  • 90degree left corner followed swiftly by a 90degree right corner...
  • 200m later, wide left corner...speedbraker in 50m..
  • Another left corner..I can see the finish line in the distance..crosswinds from 2 o' clock..
  • 200metresfrom the finish, a small roundabout..hit the finish line..

I got in a good warm up and lined up at the start line with 3mins from flag off and I quickly downed a gel (gels are so easy to find in Belgium!!)


As we sprinted off the start line, learning from the previous races, I grabbed onto a wheel heading out of a corner and sprinted....aaaaaaaannnnndd...managed to hang on!!! Yessssss, short term  improvements feel so soooo gooooood!

Approach next corner. Repeat again.

I was in the top 30 position and up front I could see the entire bunch move to the left. That could only mean one thing - Road Furniture!!!

I swerved to the left, 25secs later, to the right.

Pesky little things them Road Furniture!!

In the next corner, the road was pretty wide allowing the riders to take it a high speed, but it requires a level of bike handling skill to do so. Which was made evident when I got overtaken by a Belgian dude who seemed to make it look as easy as eating frites!

Approach next corner. Repeat again.

Damn, I lost 2 positions in 100meters to guys who were not even pedaling when they passed me!

 I held onto my position and as we approached the start/finish line, I could see the peloton stretched out in a single line. Pesky little things them headwinds!

Lap 2:

Pretty much the same dealio, but in the 2 quick 90degree turns, I mimicked the movement of the rider ahead of me to get more speed in the corners. It was not as flawless as his but was an improvement compared to the first lap.

Lap 3:

With primes on the offer every lap, it was tough for a breakaway to form. This was evident as there were constant attacks going off the front.

After the final corner before the start/finish line, I was in about 10th wheel. I was sensing that a breakaway would go sooner or later and when we approached the roundabout, I saw (Super) Mario sprinting on the right hand side of the roundabout. I threw caution to the wind and sprinted towards the left hand side of the roundabout, hoping to catch his slipstream.
Alas, I did not have the required acceleration and was quickly caught by the bunch and immediately spewed to the rear.

Lap 4:

Not having recovered from my dig, I was chewing my front Tyre to stay in the bunch. As soon as we hit the two 90degree turns, I could not hold onto the accelerating wheel ahead of me and let go.

(Heidi Lannoo Photography)

First criterium was done and (left me) dusted. Several important lessons learnt. As me teammate Naveen says, "Onto the next!"

P.S. Naveen went on to finish the crit and also take a prime while breaking away from the bunch for 2.5laps!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Third time Lucky!

7th June, 2015:

 There were only two thoughts in my mind when commuting the 13kilometres to the start of my third race at Marelbeke-Schelderode:
1) I've got to finish a lap in the bunch
2) How the heck on earth has the weather changed so drastically?
It was a bright sunny day with a warm (actual warm) temperature of 25 degrees Celsius!


My knee injury was still persisting, but I was in the right frame of mind for the race, thanks to the arrival of my teammates Naveen John and Lokesh Narasimhachar in the days preceding the race.

Everybody loves "New Kit Day"!

Numbers for the day!
The race was 14 laps of an 8.3kilometres rolling course with a couple of stretches at 2-3% YES! and a 75 metre section of Cobblestones! Oh god, YES!!
I lined up alongside 133 riders, including one U23 Track World Champion, and we were flagged off at 3:00PM. Learning from my previous mistakes, I came up with a gameplan - I would latch onto a wheel while going into every corner and hold on to that wheel while coming out of the corner, even if that meant sprinting my guts out.

The Australian U23 Track team were competing that day!

We approach the first corner, I did not dare to look at my GPS but we were definitely north of 40kmph. My teammate, Morgan, passes me. Target locked! I jump onto his wheel and anchor my position there. Elbows spread out.

I can see the accordion effect taking place up front while I sit at about 10th wheel. I shift down a couple of gears and anticipate the upcoming effort. I take the corner smoothly. Meanwhile the elastic upfront has stretched.  

This is it! 

I get off the saddle and give it all I've got to hold onto Morgan's wheel.

Aaaaarrrggghhh..hhmmppfff....eeeeekkkk!! Phew!

Well, that was easy!

In actual reality, that was the hardest sprint I'd done in the race, Power number wise. We had turned onto a headwind section and the riders upfront had slowed down a bit. I stick my head up and notice attacks going on upfront while I sit at 30th wheel. I look to my right and notice something amazing...stunning...awesome..well, words can't describe it.  We were going at about 45kmph when I see Mario Willems hop onto the bike path and speed past the field to position himself in the first 5 wheels!!

In this section, I took advantage of the mushrooming effect. I sprung onto a Belgian rider and moved up 5 positions while in his draft, before the next corner.

Next corner..

Same drill again.

Aaaaarrrggghhh..hhmmppfff....eeeeekkkk!! Phew!

In the first half hour of every race in Belgium, there are always moves going off the front as everyone and their brother wants to be in the breakaway. A few days later, me too! For now though, I was staring at the sponsor logos of the rider in front of me.

The peloton, encountered, split and rejoined while tackling a section of road furniture. This was on an uphill section of about 2% but at that high of a speed, I did not even notice it!

The next turn we encountered was an obtuse angle turn, meaning the entering and exiting speeds were relatively slower, but with there being a cobbled stretch on the left hand side of the road, "mushrooming" my way forward was tougher.

The cobbled section separated the road from the bike path!

One more right-handed-obtuse-angled-turn later, we hit a stretch of road with tress lined up on the left side of the road, making the wind redundant. Any guesses what happened next? Attacks flew off the front. I could see riders ass far as 200 metres from where I was. Sheesh!

Right turn approaching..

This time, I jumped onto Jacob's wheel while he was mushrooming to the front. Thanks, to the accordion effect there were about 0.78secs of recovery while entering the corner when I could shift to a gear just right for sprinting on exiting.

Enter..Maneuver..Exit..Sprint for 20seconds...aaaarrrgghhhHoldOnHoldOnHoldOnnnnnn...YESSSS!!

Next up on the menu, a forest section with a tailwind section and sketchy roads. The entire peloton was narrowed in at this point due to the high speed. This was a crucial section because if the rider in front of you pulled the plug, then you had dig in really deep to first, overtake him and then speed up to the motoring bunch ahead.

Don't you dare let go off at that wheel!!

2mins and 27secs of teeth clinching, lung burning effort later, we turned left from the narrow forest road to a narrower farm road. I took the turn on the outside and began sprinti- Holy shi-aarrgg..heeekk!Phew! Bloody road furniture!

Somewhere, in the next stretch when we were going at a "relatively" slow pace, I remember extremely cautiously removing my bottle water from the bottle cage..extremely carefully sipping down water...super extremely carefully putting it back. I glanced down at my GPS for the first ever time and notice the speed at 49.7kmph!  

Meh, 0.3kmph slower than I expected it to be.

We approach the end of the section and we hit - COBBLESTONES!!!! We wrestle with our rattling bikes for about 75meters also maneuvering a right hand turn in the process only to jump onto a section of urban pavement/cobbles. Such a bummer!

I see the barricades on both sides of the road. It hits me suddenly, we are less than a hundred meters away from the start line. I just finished a lap..IN THE BUNCH!!!
At this point, I had to work very extremely hard to contain the impulse of performing a victory salute!

What was going on in my mind after one lap!
The second lap was pretty much the same. Until, we hit the forested section. I lost my concentration for a split second and found myself breaking the elastic. I got on the mushroom train again, but at the wrong time. In the next left hand turn, I had to brake almost to a standstill to avoid catapulting over the road furniture. Following this, I lost my rhythm and was at the second to last wheel at the cobbled sector.

I had not yet recovered from my effort to stay in the bunch, when we approached the first corner of the circuit and lost contact being unable to sprint back.

I tried chasing for the next kilometer, but with the headwind, I did not stand a chance. I finished the lap alongside Loki who, despite suffering from jetlag lasted almost 2 laps!

24mins 36secs! Heck Yeah!!!

NJ lasted 1hr 50mins. The longest by and Indian so far.

Next race is on the 13th of June. A criterium. *Gulp*

Until next time! 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

I hate tailwinds..

2nd June, 2015:

I was keen to make amends from Sunday's race and I tagged along with Genadijs and Jacob to compete at a race in Wakken. There were no rains in the forecast, but the 32kilometre ride to the race start did involve riding into a block headwind with the temperature "relatively high" at 18 degrees Celsius!

After an agonizing one hour and twenty minutes, we arrive at Cafe Schaak and sign up for the race. Being a mid week race, the field was shorter with 53 riders in total.

The only photograph I captured that day!
With a shorter field, I expected the race to be easier than Sunday. Oh, How wrong was I!
When the race was flagged off, we blasted down a slightly downhill section of the town. Before I realized it, we took a left hand turn and onto rural roads. The field split to tackle a narrow roundabout and as soon as we converged, we hit a crosswind section.


An attack goes up on the far right hand side of the road, when I was sitting at the left hand side of the peloton in the last but second row. With the wind coming in from the left hand side, this can mean one thing and one thing only..

Rural roads + Crosswinds + Belgian racing = ECHELONS!
Due to poor positioning, I quickly loose gap with the wheel in front of me. Nuh-uh, Not this time! I shift down to the 53X11 and chew my front tire to bridge the gap to the wheel in front of me.



We turn right into a tailwind section. I am in last wheel and there are attacks going up ahead at the far end of the peloton. The elastic snaps and I get spat out the back. Again. 4mins 27secs.

On the way back home, my right knee begins to hurt near the patella, two kilometres into the 32km ride. This has been a day to forget.

The next race I did, has been the most amazing race and also the toughest I've done so far. Stay tuned..

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

First ever!

31st May, 2015:

I wake up at 9:00AM to find it raining outside, the third time in the last 4 days. Sweet! The weather forecast predicts rain for most part of the day with a high temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. "Then his favourite thing happened, it began to rain" -  a line from the documentary "Senna", plays in my mind. I silently pray that the conditions remain the same during the race.

Rise and shine!
5 hours later and 13kilometers away, I arrive at Cafe Vrierdenkring located in the town of Marelbeke. The race is scheduled to start at 3:00PM. I make my way to the registration desk and buy a License to race in Belgium, probably the first time an Indian has done so. This being relatively close to Gent, many supporters of Kingsnorth International Wheelers have turned up to watch us race. The team gets a free coffee and we make our way to the support tent to get changed and pin on the racing numbers.

Racing number and License!

Many of the races are sponsored by Cafes who sell a ton of beer and coffee on raceday!

A very kind couple who are ardent cycling fans and supporters of KIW!

At the support tent!

Our Soigneur, 75 years young!

The New Zealand national team were racing that day! *Gulp*

20mins to start time, I go out for a quick spin to try and warm up. With temperature hovering at 10 degrees and riding into a headwind, I miserably fail to do so. While making my way to the start line, I introduce myself to my teammate, Mario Willems. Mario is a living legend. Having won more than 275 Kermesse races and still kicking ass at the age of 42, he is undoubtedly one of the best amateur racers in Belgium.

"Hello Mario. I am Sarvesh"

"You are crazy, man! Its too warm for leg warmers. Remover them! REMOVE THEM!"


I then go and hide myself somewhere mid bunch at the start line. I had kitted up with every single piece of clothing I could find :                             1 Thermal Base Layer + 
                                                            1 Full-Sleeve Team Jersey + 
                                                            1 Wind vest + 
                                                            1 Half-Sleeve Team Jersey + 
                                                            1 pair of team BIB Shorts + 
                                                            1 pair of Leg Warmers + 
                                                            1 pair of Winter socks +
                                                            1 pair of Shoe covers + 
                                                            Cycling cap

If allowed , I would've gone with a rain jacket too. 

As excited as a schoolboy!

At 3:00PM we are flagged off and escorted by the coolest police motorbike I've seen. We are to cover 20 laps of a 6kilometers course. As we take the first turn, attacks are going off the front and I've positioned myself in mid bunch at about 10th wheel.
The amateur racing in Belgium is the toughest in the world because every one wants to get in the breakaway. Every. Single. Person! Due to the countless attacks going on at the front, the speed is relentlessly high. I averaged 44.5kmph in the first 2 kilometres of the race!Into a headwind section!
 The other factor contributing to the agony, is that when approaching a corner, the riders in the first 2 rows intentionally drop the speed to less than 30kmph and then sprint while exiting the corner. This sets off a huge  accordion effect in the rest of the field with the riders in the last third of the bunch finding themselves sprinting for over 40secs just to stay in contact. 
In the first corner, I move up on the inside corner. Rookie mistake. I had to hit the brakes to avoid crashing and nearly came to a standstill. Exiting, I wrestle with my bike swaying it from side to side, like a mad man to get back to the bunch. 

In the fourth kilometer, I panicked. I switched off mentally and was quickly turned into pack fodder. Rather than sprinting to latch onto a slipstream, I began riding at a Time-Trial pace. Big Mistake! After the next corner, we turned into a tailwind section. I was being passed by all the riders in this stretch. Despite spinning the 53X11 at a 102rpm, I made no grounds on moving up the field, I was spat out the back of the field. While riding at 51.2kmph! I lasted 9mins 02secs in the race.

The second lap, I settle into a rhythm. Clearly, I was out of the race, but I wanted to ride along for as long as the commisaire pulled me out. It was drizzling at this point and into the last corner, my right wheels slipped and I swerved uncontrollably onto the sidewalk. My race was done.

The pack!

The pack fodder!

Updates on my next two races will be within 24 hours. 

P.S. Mario won the race!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Bangalore to Belgium - Kingsnorth International Wheelers

Day 2:

Kingsnorth International Wheelers is an amateur cycling team based in Gent, Belgium offering a pathway for aspiring pro cyclists from the Commonwealth nations. Jack Bauer and Gordon McCauley being the most famous alumni of KIW. I came across Kingsnorth in an online article last year.  I contacted Peter Murphy, the club president, inquiring if I could ride for the team and he was very welcoming.

Jack Bauer. The cyclist, not the counter-terrorism agent!

Jamie lent me his pretty cool looking LOOK Pro 586 (look what I did there?) to ride. Sadly, my shoes and pedals were in the bike box which was scheduled to arrive between 8 and 11PM this day.
Pro Tip: Carry your cycling shoes and pedals in your cabin luggage, so that you can borrow a bike to ride in case your bike box/bag is lost in transition.

Belgium is famous for its cycling infrastructure, with almost every stretch of road having a dedicated cycling lane. This also comes with a 150 fine if you are found riding outside the dedicated cycling lane!
In the evening, I  rode to the Gent Sports Centre with my teammates Michael, Daniel and Genadijs and boy-oh-boy was it amazing to ride on the bike paths. It was slightly scary in the beginning with its twists and turns and plenty of road furniture, but once I got the gist of it, I felt like a fish in water!

GoPro Video coming soon!

The Sports centre is a gigantic expanse housing several sporting arenas including tennis, football, Kayaking & Caneoing, etc. Being the pro cycling fan I am, the only arena which mattered to me was the Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx (Flemish Cycling Centre Eddy Merckx). 

At 10PM, I received a phone call that my bike box had reached the doorstep. "ALLEZ! ALLEZ!" I shouted as I was reunited with my Specialized Allez!

O' How dearly hath I missede thoust!

Bangalore to Belgium - Shocking food at McDonald's

27th May, 2015: 

After 12 hours of travel and 5 (good) + 1 (oh god! WHY?) flight meals, I stepped out to the Düsseldorf airport. The fresh air immediately cured my asthma and increased my VO2 max by 2.3mL/(kg-min).
I was scheduled to land at Brussels, but due to technical issues at the airport, the flight was diverted to Germany.

        Once at the airport, I got a good workout searching for my bike box running around to almost all the cargo carousels. Unfortunately, due to the short layover at Dubai, the bike box had not made it to the Brussels flight in time. Bummer!
Bird's eye view of Dusseldorf!

First touchdown at Europe!

I got onto the shuttle arranged by the airlines from Düsseldorf to Brussels and slept like a baby. 4 hours later, I stepped out onto the heartland of Bike racing - Belgium! At the Brussels airport, I breathed a sigh of relief when they had tracked my bike. I breathed a heavier sigh of relief, owing to my increased VO2 max, when it was assured that my bike would be delivered to team's host house at Gent.

At Brussels airport, my good friend and supporter, Jamie Anderson, provided a car ride from Brussels to my residence at Gent. Sorry Jamie, I was too jetlagged at the time and forgot to take a photograph.
Surprisingly, when we went searching for dinner at 8PM in Gent, almost the entire city was shut down! 
McDonald's came to the rescue and shockingly they had a salad on the menu!!
Back at the house I was delighted to meet the guys at the team following which I navigated successfully despite feeling like a zombie and crashed on my bed. Oh god, YES!


Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Yesterday was my first road race of the season, the Vodafone Cycling Marathon (I can't stand misnomers). It had been exactly 5 months since my last road race and I was quite curious to check my fitness level.
With a big prize money on the offering, the VCM attracts the best cyclists of India and this was the perfect place to test, not only my fitness but also my bike handling skills in the bunch.
The race route
The race route
The race was a criterium where we did a 10.5km loop 6 times, with points on the offer every time we crossed the start/finish line. The terrain was: 1.5km down, 1.5km false flat, 1km down, 1km false flat and up-and-down the Domlur flyover twice before returning on the same route.
The plan was that our team leaders, Naveen John and Loki, would go for the sprints while the rest of us would animate the race to ensure that the other riders suffered enough to switch their sport to ping-pong!
At the start line!
At the start line!
The pace quickly went up to 40+kmph when the gun went off and the first 3-4kms were a bit of a blur as I panicked to figure out what was going on. When there was a lull in the pace, I did not hit the brakes, maneuvered myself towards the front and  regained my composure.

Then we arrived at my favorite stretch of the race – the Domlur flyover. The sharp turns were pretty tricky to descend. I divebombed like a P-51D Mustang – Outside, Inside, Outside, HIT THE THROTTLE! BOOM!
I came out of the flyover with a 2-3 sec lead! Enough to make sure that the other teams wasted their batteries pulling me back.

As, we headed back towards the finish line, I stayed near the front, countering every other attack. I did enough to keep the pace high and not go into the red.
Near the front, but never at the front! (Photo: Flashbuzz photography)
I was not keeping an eye on the distance we had covered and got boxed in with 1k to go when the Indian Railways team surged to the front lifting the pace by 6-7kmph!Damn, That escalated quickly!! They were looking to deliver their sprinter, Shreedhar Savanur, the current national champion, to collect the points on offer.

Lap 2: I’d read an article by Phil Gaimon wherein once he was yelled at by a guy on his wheel to shut down a gap, and at the heat of the moment, it worked! I decided to employ the same tactic. *evil laugh*
Whenever, an attack went up the road, I would move to 2nd or 3rd wheel and scream at the guys in front of me to close the attack.
I had to work very hard to hide my laugh when the plan worked! oh! the beauty of it!

Second time into the flyover, divebombed again. This time with my friend Enautopolous Gonzalakis (the Spanish mountain goat who raced with the likes of Intxausti and Izagirre in his teen years!) in the lead. It was pretty exciting when I looked back to see that we had again distanced the field – two guys on aluminium bikes and training wheelsets, outmaneuvering the best riders of the country on their carbon bling. Provided some much needed confidence for the big races I’m attending in June and July.

This time, when we approached the 1km to go mark, I had managed to place myself in about 3rd wheel (after a bit of elbow shoving). With 800m to go, I wanted to test my fitness and launched an attack moving to the other end of the road. But the pace was too high and I quickly got spat out to the rear end of the bunch, struggling very hard to stay in contact.

Lap 3: Taking advantage of the mushroom effect after an attack was neutralized, I moved towards the front. This time though, a rider from the Railways was setting a quick pace at the front discouraging any attacks.
Enter the flyover. Divebomb. Exit the Flyover. This time with 3 other guys. I was having fun as the “rear-seat driver” yelling at the others to work harder so that we don’t get caught.

With 1km to go, I was at about 6th wheel, when my Team leader, Naveen John wanted me to accelerate with 700m to go to position him near the front, but my attempt to do so failed and I settled at mid bunch.
With 500m to go, we were going at a speed north of 50kmph and with the constant elbow bashing going on, someone was bound to hit the tarmac. Unfortunately, the rider in front of me lost control and went down hard. At that speed, there is just enough time for three thoughts to run through one’s mind –
“Damn, I cant go left…”
“Damn, I can’t go right…”
Lift your front wheel…ok, we’re halfway over him…uh-oh…my rear wheel is lifting…this is not supposed to be happening…THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING…MAYDAY! MAYDAY!
I get catapulted into the air and land on my left shoulder! BAM! My helmet takes a huge impact!
Then the pain rushes in. Every bone and muscle in my body screaming out in anguish. I lay there on the road in a crouched position to protect my head, as the peloton rushes by. Damnit!
As soon as I was lifted off the ground, I knew there was something wrong with my left collarbone. An X-Ray later reveals the clean cut and the displacement.
Rite of passage!
Rite of passage!
2-3 weeks off the bike. 6 weeks for completely recovery.

Until next time.