Friday, 27 May 2016

BBCh 100k road race - part 2

Our main goals going into the race were:

1)      Win
2)      2 in the top 3
3)      6 in the top 10

 The race started off pretty well with Naveen and Sandesh attacking at the 3km mark as planned and getting away from the bunch. Naveen Raj wanted to go on the long range attack because he felt it was necessary to force the other teams to chase us and wear them out in the first half. This was Sandesh’s first race above 80kms in length and it was very brave of him to volunteer to go on the long range attack. The spectrum team started setting high tempo at the front with 2 riders and were joined by Team BOTS occasionally. The gap was never given more than 2 minutes in the break while in the bunch; all of us were marking attacks by other riders. Aggressive on the front, defensive in the bunch.
At one point, Shaun tried to bridge across to add more horsepower to the breakaway but he was reeled back in by the peloton.

At the 53-54km mark, Naveen and Sandesh were caught by the bunch and for a while there was a lull in the race. I attacked with Parashuram. Unfortunately, the bright red jersey of the erstwhile SKCT squad is easily markable and we were quickly brought back by Rishabh (Team Wolfpack) and Gaurav Duggal (Specrum). Vishwesh countered once we were caught and he too was chased back.

Soon, Anoop and Shaun attacked and nobody in the peloton wanted to chase, so the gap grew quickly to over 3 minutes. For a while it seemed like the breakaway would stick. We were planning to attack with 3km to go to get more spots in the top 10, if the 2 up front sticked it. However, at the 85km mark the competition in the Masters’ category heated up causing a massive surge in speed. You don’t need to refer to the ‘Law of unintended consequences’ to realize that the gap reduced considerably quickly to the 2-man tag team up front.

It had been discussed earlier that if a breakaway doesn’t get across to the line, then all the remaining riders would rally up and support Jetharam for the sprint. Due to a slight moment of miscommunication, we lost the plot. 

With 6 km to go, Ramswaroop attacked and Jetharam decided to follow him, unfortunately Gaurav was right on his wheel and got an easy draft to the leading bunch. Parshuram paid no heed to the lactic acid build up in his system and bridged across. But as soon as he joined them, Jetha surged again to try and drop Gaurav and in the process dislodged Parashu.

The leading trio of Jetha, Ram and Gaurav had a 5-6second gap over the second bunch which had 2 riders from Wolfpack, Naveen, Sandesh, Parshu, Anubhav and Me.

In the finish, Ram gave Jetha a leadout. The finish video showed him swerving to the right looking like he was forcing Gaurav to the barriers and this move eventually got him disqualified.

Later, when questioned internally, Jetha  mentioned that he sensed the wind coming from 11 o’ clock so he veered to the right; not knowing that Gaurav was there.

The fact that there aren’t clear rules regarding disqualification or relegation might need to get looked at before the next BBCh race.
From my POV, I was happy that I was able to get Jetha into a winning position. We did have 2 of the fastest riders in the top 3 and we secured 6 positions in the top 10.

The most amazing learning curve for me personally, came after the race. Post-race, everyone in the team were encouraged to introspect and come up with suggestions on how we could have won. The solutions that came up had not even occurred to me earlier. Knowledge level up by 150 points! 
The other epiphany hit me when I noticed how well drilled the winning team was as a result of riding with each other regularly! Now, it is back to the drawing board to see how such a chemistry can be recreated in a ‘virtual’ team like “Peaks India Racing” wherein the team captain had not even seen 3 teammates ride before, let alone figure out their ability and nuances. In the end, it was pretty exciting to be involved in such a set-up!

But, as Yoda rightly quotes..

My preparations for the second stint at the Motherland have been coming along well. 34 days to go! 

P. S. This has been the easiest BBCh road race I've done so far. It's saddening to see that while many conventional teams have been disappearing, setups like Peaks India received flak due to the model on which it was built up on. But as Elon Musk, pointed out, criticism can be used as a very effective tool to attain success. So, if you've got any feedback, opinions, gaaliyas or Gulab Jamuns to share, ping me!

BBCh 100k road race - Part 1

In the days leading into the BBCh 100km road race, I was provided an opportunity I couldn’t refuse –

Hello Sarvesh, how are you?

“I am good, sir. Thank you”

How would you like to get paid to do something you love?

“Is there a Gulab Jamun eating competition coming up?”

No. Racing your bike.

“Oh yeah, that was what I was thinking too. Sign me up!”

My second-most thing in the world, had to take a back-seat.

Mr. Srinath Rajam, who has been supporting many cyclists in the country, including me, for nearly half a decade, had an unconventional but brilliant idea – to set up an ‘experimental team’ for this one race alone, under the title of “Peaks Racing India” wherein some of the best riders in the country would be provided a financial incentive to come and race together. 
The team would have half the riders under the age of 23 and the others above. This was a win-win scenario, because the younger riders would learn the craft from the seniors in the team, who would still get to race their bike while not having to worry about shelling out for travel and accommodation. 
With the roti - kapda- makaan taken care of, the only thing that the cyclists had to focus on was racing their bikes!

A few days later-

Hello Sarvesh, how are you?

“Apart from a shoulder injury, I am good, sir”

How would you like to do something that would help you grow in the sport?

“Is complan sponsoring me?”

No. We’d like you to be the captain of the team!

“Oh yeah, that was what I was thinking too. Sign me up!”

In the days leading up to the race, a strong and young contingent was assembled – Naveen Raj, Sandesh Uppar, Parashuram Chenji, Ramswaroop Jakhar, Jetharam Gat, Vishwesh Sangarya, Anoop Adhur Kutty, Shaun Varghese, Anubhav Karmakar and yours truly.

The role of captain also involved learning each rider’s strengths, weaknesses, tactile agility, tone of communication, ice-cream flavour preferences, etc. Okay, maybe not the last one.
However it wasn’t entirely an easy-going job. The week leading up to the race had me spending over 1.5 hours on the phone each day speaking with each one of the riders discussing about bike racing (fun part) and then coming up with the strategy, which underwent multiple iterations (exciting but not-so-fun part). 

This process had me step out of the comfort zone because 1) There were clearly stronger riders than me and I was nervous how they would feel taking orders from me; 2) This was the first time I had taken up such a responsibility – going for the win. But I jumped at the prospect for a couple of reasons- 1) It would be a great learning experience in terms of how to co-ordinate and lead a group; 2) How many other 21 year olds in the country would get such an opportunity?

 In the next part - raceday!