Thursday, July 11, 2013

Race Report , HCCC 2013/4 - Racing on 48x18

As seen by Dharma Teja :
The Race :

It was the 7th day of July, 2013, Sunday.  Stage was set for the fourth HCCC race of the season, the 55 km Medchal Road Race.Racers from different places in the city started arriving at the start point by 6 AM. From TheBikeAffair (  store, a group of volunteers and racers arrived by two cars, followed by a vehicle carrying their bikes and stationery. Few more came riding to the start point which is about 20 km from heart of the city. 

Riders setting up their bike

A chat on race strategies?

                         Race was on open roads on Hyderabad-Nagpur highway, which is a very nice road with  moderate amount of traffic and without any unexpected road surprises. Organizers had shortened the  original distance of 55 km to 44 km to avoid a checkpost on the way. They had also moved back the finish line by 6 km  to avoid the busy Medchal intersection.
Registration Desk, Managed by Sumit and Sarita
                          Registrations commenced by 5:50 am. Inclusion of new category called GLNDY( Got Legs No Drops Yet ) for amateur racers have drawn decent number of riders. There were 3 volunteers apart from The Bike Affair organizers helping out registrations, taking timings and overseeing race arrangements. Manu Balasree and Sarita were snapping  the race proceedings, capturing all the defining moments with his usual zest. 

                        I was on my single speed - the Schwinn Madison. I didn't get to ride or train for the previous 4 days and I had no expectations whatsoever of outspeeding others who were on multispeed road bikes, hybrids and mtbs. Had it not been for Krish who persuaded me to sign up, I would have been volunteering there shooting with Manu or helping out some way. Myself with my Schwinn Madison was just there to see how I could time the distance under  that competitive stimulus. I had done a 200 km on the same bike at an average of 25 kph on the same highway  but  that was about 10 days ago. Having not ridden much before that day,  I planned to ride 20 odd km distance from home to start point, for warming up to the race. But Krish's message that morning announcing that they got bike transport to race point got better of my lazy self.  I dropped at TBA store which was about 5 km from home. Having reached the start point in comfort of Manu's car, I thought of doing my self some favour by stretching out to do some volunteer work. Laid out the  start line and helped with some other minor things.                        
Marking the start line
                        Race started at 6:30 am sharp, by flagging off the amateur racers first, followed by roadies. I was standing last, behind everyone as I knew I would be struggling to get shoes into toe clips.  I didn't want hinder any racers behind me. I put those toe clips only the previous night and didn't even  test ride them. I even took the stock platform pedals along on bike, incase I found toe clips too uncomfortable to complete the race- to quote 'Forrest Gump', “ stupid as stupid does”.  The intention was to prevent pedal slip during high cadence spins.  As I had expected, it took me a few moments after flag off to get my feet into clips and get comfortable. Meantime, everyone else sprinted off the start line, it all was like the repeat of my previous cross country in Feb where I had a pedal seize just after flag off.  But this time a bit luck was on my side.

GLNDY guys, just about to start.
                        With no gears to worry about, all I did was to pedal with my strength  and  gradually  overtook other riders who were still getting into a proper gear suitable for the  initial gradient just after start.  I was a bit surprised with that take off and wanted to continue the lead.  Until then I didn't have a strategy but then I realized that with a dashing take off I could break the strategies of other riders as it is natural instinct to chase anyone going faster than us.
Race Started!
                        Spotted a green jersey in distance and as I sprinted past him, found him to be Srinivasa Hosamane who recently did London-Paris challenge. He maintained a good lead till I crossed him. Looking over my shoulder I found Magin George and Anubhav chasing me. The race distance yet to be covered was considerable and I cannot be sprinting at same pace all the way. Having thought so, I eased my effort to group with Magin and Anubhav. Anubhav on his Trek MTB was leading for some distance. Magin was keeping close on his ACT110. We rode alternating the lead till Medchal after which road started sloping down. Anubhav and Magin quickly outpaced me with higher gears and I responded by spinning faster. My speed is limited by how much I can spin and I knew the max I could do was to spin at about 120 rpm to reach 40 kph. The road after Medchal has a moderate gradient and thats where I overtook the duo. Sprinting up an incline is so much fun on an appropriate singlespeed. 

Magin George powering his way out

Anubhav leading, followed by Sri, Maninder and Eswar
                        Having  done two long rides on that highway previously, I had a fair idea of the terrain and road conditions. I knew the road after turn around point is mostly downhill with moderate climbs here and  there. It is tough to shake off anyone on a geared bike  on such a fast stretch. I thought I have to give my best while it was tough and uphills were my best bet. I kept sprinting up slopes at speeds of 27 kph. Within a short while I had built a good lead and to keep it intact I had spun very fast on downhills.  About half an hour into the race, my average speed was about 32 kph which was the fastest I ever clocked on any bike. That effort tired me and realizing atleast an hour more of race was still on, I eased effort on uphills and kept spinning on downhills. Within a few minutes I started recovering from that initial drain of energy and sipped a few ounces of water. It was difficult to even gulp while maintaining cadence, had to take a mouthful and swallow slowly over distance. 

Vishu and Abhimanyu
                        I never realized when  Krish's car overtook me but I saw them down the road waiting with cameras to snap riders racing. The second time I met them, I faintly heard Krish screaming  that I had about 30 sec lead over Maninder. Looking over shoulder I saw no one in distance and wondered if I heard Krish right. After all, Maninder didn't turn up at the start and maybe it was Magin whom Krish was referring to. Thinking I might have lost too much time, I increased my effort  to better the pace and maintain good  lead. Kept looking  back  and still saw no hint of  any other rider. Was also wondering why it took so much time for road bikers to catch up, later learnt that road bikes were flagged off   some 15 minutes after our take off. Sensing that am going overboard again,  I  eased  my effort to maintain a much more comfortable pace. After all, it is still better to finish race in any position than to carry a DNF flag. I was anticipating that any moment,  roadie jets would  zoom by firing on all cylinders.

Jetharam, Richard and Aditya
                        Road bikers eventually zoomed past me. It was JeethaRam, Richard and Aditya in a tight pace line. A short while later, I saw Chitti Babu going past me and chasing them. I heard later that initially all roadies were in a single pace line but couple of riders pushed the pace to shatter the group. Eventually it was that trio I saw who kept close to one another dropping everyone else behind. Chasing those guys would have been like trying to catch a running train, so I kept riding at my own pace, happy about having lead in amateur category. 
Maninder speeding past other riders on his aero MTB
                        That was until Maninder overtook me. That was a shocker. He was drooping so low that I thought he was trying to pickup something on road while riding. I had no clue how he managed to ride like that on MTB with wide handle bars. (Later learnt that he was riding holding front suspension!!)  And the fact that he didn't start with us also meant he too must be riding at  his limits to  make up for the lost time. So I thought even though I may not  overtake him immediately, by trying to tail him as close as possible, I may get a chance to sprint on  uphill somewhere close to finish line.  Having set  my radar on him, I tried to keep a constant distance between us. He was riding off the saddle on uphills where I was comfortable sprinting still on the saddle, that's where I used to reduce the gap. He gained back that lead on downhills. 
Anubhav taking the corner at the turn around

                        It continued that way till turn around point after which I had to slow down to get hydrated. I still couldn't manage to drink while spinning. At the turn around point Krish, Manu and others were taking snaps of the riders.  A short while after turning around, Gokul overtook me on his classic Canondale road bike. Didn't knew why his carbon lady was left out. I maintained as much speed I could on every little uphill that came by because on downhills I had a clear speed disadvantage. Kept going like that with Gokul and Maninder in my sights. After going over one such uphill, I  saw only Gokul and wondered if Maninder has used some unseen jet pack to vanish. Going down that slope, I suddenly realized Maninder has pulled over and was inspecting his tires. I screamed out asking if he needs any help, to which he nodded negatively. Knowing he was self sufficient, I continued my effort. For about a few kilometers  it was a very fast downhill as I expected earlier and I topped out spinning at 41 kph. All road bikers including Gokul vanished off. Knowing that less than 10 km to finish line are left, I kept pacing without stretching myself to limit. Having lost Maninder, with a good lead already built up, I then tried to get the best timing for myself. The last 2.5 km to finish line was a gradual ascent which tested rider's mettle and mattered a lot in the finish timings.

Me at the finish line
                        Close to Medchal, at the finish line, I spotted the volunteers and roadie group and was thrilled to experience my first ever podium finish. It was even  more special because it came so casually. I was not even wearing cycling outfit save for the helmet. Didn't have any pain some  butt discomfort  because of intense spinning. Thought it was time I got a good set of bibs.

                        Magin George came second in amateur category followed by Abhimanyu Pamulapati. Abhimanyu started slowly but amazingly maintained a consistent pace to outrun everyone else on  hybrids and MTBs. Maninder fixed his flat and finished after Abhimanyu.  Learned that the first three finishers in road bike category came close at each other heels, literally.   Also heard there were some confusion as some of the road bike riders spotted the finish line pretty late resulting in a very late sprint.

Post race banter
The Support :

                        After all the riders finished their race, we proceeded to start point, which was about 8 km down the road to attend  podium celebrations. A big thanks to Ozone ventures( Distributers of Bergamont bikes, Schwalbe tires and Vincita bags) and HappyEarth (Distributor of polar bottles, park tools,  night rider lights and many more) and Sphere Fitness and Sports( distributor of sigma lights and computers, Ridley bikes, Vredestein tires) for chipping in with the goodies.

Me, Magin and Abhimanyu on the podium

The complete group.

The Result :

Timings of podium finishers in each category: