Friday, 11 November 2016

Road nationals - Part 1: Pollution, rats and TT

Race report - National Championships 2016 - Part 1

6 days to road race:

It had been over 3 years since my last trip to New Delhi and I was excited to return and spend a night there before heading to the town of Aligarh where the national championhips was being held.

"Ladies and Gentleman, this is your captain speaking. We will soon be landing shortly at the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi. The visibly is quite low and the air pollution is quite high but that shouldn't cause any delays. Thank you for flying with us."

Living, training and choking on truck fumes breathing in the "Garden" city of India, I've had a history of asthma and sever dust allergies. On hearing the pilot's announcement, my obvious reaction was-

By that evening, I had a headache and felt nauseous. With a heavy heart (and congested lungs), I decided to skip the trainer ride I had planned. In consolation, I did get to go out in the evening, with a pollution mask on, and try out the local cuisine, without the pollution mask on.

5 days to go:

The next morning, I had booked a cab to Aligarh to leave at 7:15AM. The driver promptly arrived at 9AM and soon we were en route to the most hilarious-and-also-scary place I've been to so far.
I slept fot the first hour of the journey and when I woke up, I was mildly surprised to see clear skies. Phew, no pollution here! 

Looks like I rented the right cab!

 A few minutes later, we exited the highway and entered the smaller country roads. Earlier, I thought driving in Bangalore was an indication of how bad it is throughout the country. I thought so so wrong. While it was hilarious to see people driving without any care for lane discipline or rules of the road, it got scary when overweight trucks passed just half a feet away from us with a relative velocity of over 180kmph. I held on to my seat belts tightly and for the first time ever was glad to get stuck in traffic jams.

Passing through towns where there was a clear lack of sanitation and hygiene served as a harsh reminder to take extra care of my health while there. Good thing I'd packed a hand sanitizer which promised to kill 99.999% of all germs! Adding to the hilarious bit were the signboards a-plenty with creative names like:

1. Bhayanak Thand Videsh Bear ka dukan (Translation; Horrifyingly cold International Beer store)
2. Single eye clinic (I'm guessing it was opened by a doctor either when he got dumped or had a freak accident and lost an eye)
3. Sharma Sweets and Continents (where Brexit halva is their latest addition) 

Once at the hotel, it was great to catch up with my former teammates from SKCT - Loki, Naveen & Naveen. As the day passed by, more cyclists and familiar faces began checking in and it was awesome to be in the same floor filled with people who wouldn't shut up talking about bike racing even if you paid them to.

That evening turned out to be quite an adventure too. Searching for a grocery store took us to the extreme opposite end of the city through the second most narrowest roads I've been in (first being the left turn before the Bangalore town hall that most motorbikers take). After much looking, we arrived at a grocery store. Picked up food, while carefully looking at the expiry date. And stepped out. Only to realize that there were rats walking around in the store!

4 days to go-

The next morning, 5 of us, including up-and-coming talent Samira Abraham, decided to head out and reccee the course.

L-R: Aunty Sam, Mr. Collarbone, 100km ITT man, Speculoos fan and Mr. Wattbombs!
After the 4km in traffic, we arrived onto NH34 where the race was scheduled to take place. The race course was a 10km stretch blocked out from traffic.So, each lap would be out-and-back totaling to 20kms in length. A few days ago, NJ had scoped out the course on strava and the profile was pretty flat with a few risers thrown in. This time of the year also ensured that the winds were negligible.

That evening, we drove down to collect our BIB numbers and were in for a surprise to hear that the start/finish line and the course had been shifted. Later, we found out that that course too had a similar elevation profile, so there were no alarm bells going off in the head.
The U23 40km Individual Time Trial was to take place at 3:30PM the next day. Although a line in the circular had me tense, which mentioned - "The organizers hold the authority to change the schedule of the events as and when felt necessary"

Back at the hotel, it was time to set right all the hardware, switch on "Calm-and-focussed" switch and keep the feet up. All the while praying that the pollution doesn't get blown towards here.

3 days to go:

The next day and came and went but as expected, there were massive delays in the start of events in the morning and that cascaded causing mine to be posponed to the next morning.
Unfortunately, my prayers were not answered and in that morning, the air pollution moved towards Aligarh, reducing the visibility to less than a kilometre!

View at the startline. At 11AM.

Meanwhile, Samira rode an impressive race in the women's ITT and scored a bronze! This helped keep the morale high in the hotel and the rest of us were now hungrier to do well in our own races.

To be continued..

1 comment:

  1. Good Stuff! Fun read. :)
    You shouldn't have skipped that trainer ride though.