Source: A&W Magazine

Bangalore Bicycle Championships The Bangalore Classic Road Race

It was really early on 16th July 2017, Sunday morning that we drove towards Century Sports Village, the starting point of Bangalore Bicycle Championships – Bangalore Classic Road Race. The Facebook page for the event said the elite and masters Categories were a mind blowing – 132

kilometre race! The Under 18, Women’s and Amateur categories were also awe inspiring – 72 kms!  Yes that’s right… ON A BICYCLE! We thought there would be just a handful of people on cycles.  Boy, were we sorely mistaken!

Driving towards Century Sports Village a beautiful property nestled just off the Bangalore Hyderabad Highway, near Devanahalli, a few kilometres ahead of the Kempegowda International Airport which was quite a distance away for us “City slickers”.  We could see cars with some professional Bicycles hitched on them, cars with cycles hitched behind them, and some cars with cycles inside them, but imagine our surprise as we drove by lots of people cycling from the city to the venue even before the sun had even peeked over the horizon!! That’s some serious enthusiasm!!

We parked our vehicle and headed to the start line as the sun started coming up on the horizon.  The contestants were attaching their RFID Integrated Bibs on their bikes, we met the organizers, who were pretty charged up and handling all the nitty – gritties of Pre – race activities with a practiced ease that comes with experience. After a quick briefing from  Mr. Khurram and Mr. Suman of BBCh, we realized there were over 200 participants taking part in 5 categories.

Quickly jotting down the numbers we couldn’t help but shake our heads in disbelief at  what we were about to witness. A whopping 230 people had registered for these distances willingly?!

1) Distance – 132.6 kms : Elite & Masters (40+)

2) Distance – 72 kms : Amateurs, Women & U-18

Out of the 230 registrations – 51% was in Amateur category, 24% in Elite, 10% in Masters, 8% in women, and 7% in the U-18. The turnout was 210 participants out of the 230 registrations!!!

We walked around, overwhelmed momentarily, though getting a feel of a brilliant day that lay ahead. We could see contestants tinkering with their cycles, making adjustments with a focus that meant business. Teams that huddled together in a sense of belonging to one single unit.  Some contestants were quickly warming up, stretching, the nervous enthusiasm was infectious. We interacted with a few contestants as we clicked pictures of them.  All of them seemed determined to get the race going, looking forward to adding a scalp to their belts!

Before we knew it, It was 7 am and the Elite and Master (40+) categories were lining up at the starting point. The seasoned and determined athletes looking quite focused.  A quick run through and brief about following rules, and it was Flag off time!!! And they were off!

And as soon as the Elites and masters set off… the Women, U-18 and the Amateurs lined up for start.  And at 7.10 am they were flagged off too…

The riders placidly rode behind the safety vehicle till the highway and a quick left turn. Strategically placing themselves in the formation to start pedalling away at a furious pace in a well strung peloton battling strong winds that were descending from the cloud covered Nandi hills.

To make the term familiar to the reader a peloton (from French, originally meaning ‘platoon’) is the main group or pack of riders. Riders in a group save energy by riding close (drafting or slipstreaming) near (particularly behind) other riders. The reduction in drag is dramatic; in the middle of a well-developed group it can be as much as 40%. Exploitation of this potential energy saving technique leads to very complex cooperative and competitive interactions between riders and teams in race tactics. The peloton travels as an integrated unit (similar in some respects to birds flying in formation) with each rider making slight adjustments in response to their adjacent riders (particularly the rider in front of them). Riders at the front are fully exposed to wind resistance, hence experience much higher fatigue loads. After a period of time at the front, they will manoeuvre farther back in the peloton to recover.

The riders set off at a blistering pace, battling strong headwinds and crosswinds. On an open highway as the heavy traffic zipped by, curiously staring at bunches of professional riders in a formation on bicycles.

We followed the cyclists in our car clicking pictures, stopping at strategic points on the highway to get some shots of the racers in action. We could see some riders setting up the pace. Some struggling to keep up with the pack. And there were some riders who were taking the race at a more sedate pace.

With volunteers in ambulances rescuing cramped up/injured riders, support vehicles accompanied racers, topping up their water sippers in regular durations, boost their spirits, fixing up bikes  and sometimes protecting the peloton from traffic. Each one of them efficiently handling the daunting tasks assigned to them.

There were refilling stations kept at the u-turn points where some participants were able to grab a much required sip of water to keep themselves well hydrated and some snacks to keep them going for the rest of the race. And as soon as they hit the u-turn, it was a different race all together, with riders breaking formation to take a lead.

Among nearly 10 women category starters, the three who led right from the start were Vicki Nicholson (Spectrum Racing), Lena Robra (Team Crankmeister) and Samira Abraham. They not only stayed with the amateur category peloton but drove the pace from the front for the majority of the race.

In the 72 kms race, Kamalino Ramodass and Darshan Rajgopal went on a two man breakaway after the U-turn at 36 km mark and rode away from the peloton. Vicki, Lena and Samira kept working at the front of the peloton and kept chipping away against the strong battering crosswinds. They worked strong together, made the race and almost caught up with the two men ahead at the finish line. Towards the end Samira Abraham sprinted to take the win while Lena finished second and Vicki rolled in at third. The Grit and passion these women have for the sport is quite inspiring!

In the amateur category, after breaking away with Darshan Rajgopal, with more than 30km to go, Kamalino Ramadoss of Bangalore Mavericks Racing took the win by barely managing to keep the fast approaching peloton away. Solvin Tom of Cochin Bikers Club – Tarmach1, who was in the peloton beat Darshan to the line by a bike length and took 2nd place. Darshan finished 3rd after a hard fought race.

In U-18 category, in a very close fought race Anirudh Arvind took the win with Charan Karthik of Team Mongrels taking the 2nd and Gautam David of Veloscope Racing finishing 3rd.

In the Elite and masters category the pace was quite high right from the beginning. Riders like Maninder Singh, Ben Joseph and Sampath Valluripalli were the pace setters initially. Around 25km, Vinesh Chawla, Tarun Rao and Ben Joseph ended up breaking away from the peloton and with more than 100km more to go, no one saw any threat from the break. The peloton let them hang out around 0.5-1 km in front before eventually catching them up after 10 km.

After the peloton caught up, a young rider from Pune Wolfpack team, Rhishabh Hattarki put in a big attack and went on a solo break. He gained a bit more than a minute lead but the time gain was kept in check by the peloton. After he was caught just after the u turn, there was a brief lull in the race before the actual attacks started, and the riders kept dropping off the back. With 80 kms to go there were just 20 riders in the peloton.

And with 30 kms to go, Craig Raynes of Masters (40+) category cranked up the pace a bit by pushing ahead on an incline and only Aman Punjani and Kiran Kumar Raju managed to keep up with him. The lead group of three worked together and kept riding at a furious pace almost to the finish. With 500 metres  to go, Aman Punjani of Ciclo Racing went on a long solo break away to finish in style with a bunny hop, about 20 meters ahead of Craig Raynes of Spectrum Racing who finished 1st in Masters and 2nd overall. Kiran Kumar Raju of Trek India finished 2nd in Elite and 3rd place overall soon after him. The next rider to cross the finish line was Sreenath L of Scott Sports India at 3rd in Elite category.

In the masters category, Vivek Radhakrishnan rode a solid race, setting the pace at times, chasing the breakaways , but eventually suffered cramps for the efforts and had to slow down to recover. He finished 2nd almost 12 minutes after Craig. Sanjay Krishnamurthy of Team Wheelsports finished 3rd a few minutes behind Vivek, still fresher than most other racers after a strategic and smart race.

The winners were awarded medals at a presentation ceremony post the cut off time at 12 30 pm.

Hearty congratulations to all the winners, and the finishers. The whole long race was detailed and curated to a very professional standard.

The best part was being to witness the spirit of the sport in action, the passion and determination of riders to get across the finish line, helping fellow contestants motivating each other to finish the race even after a fall. To those contestants who had never pushed themselves to such distances before, the ecstatic experience of getting across the finish line was totally worth the gruelling pain and the mind numbing cramps! A wonderful end to a brilliant day of cycling!!!

About BBCh

“Bangalore Bicycle Championships” is most popularly known as “BBCh” among friends in and out of bicycling communities in India and around the globe. BBCh is the only premier racing platform in the country which offers 10 different formats of bicycle racing at 10 different locations in Bangalore throughout 10 months in a year which constitutes a whole season of racing extravaganza. BBCh has enriched and enriching the cycling culture in India continuously for last 9 years and has paved a glamorous way to enter in its 10th anniversary next year in 2018. BBCh is for everyone who loves a Bicycle in which so ever way it may be, and is fuelled by the cycling community of Bangalore and driven by a set of volunteers.

Just to look back to trace its origin, BBCh was started way back in 2009 by a bunch of friends just for fun to see who could go faster for a particular distance. Then it turned out to be a major hit among the Bangalore cycling community who loved to race and BBCh started becoming very regular. Over time BBCh started organizing different formats of race which are quite popular in many parts of the globe such as Individual time trial, Team time trial, Nandi Epic, Bangalore Classic, Criterium, Circuit race, Cyclo Cross, Down Hill etc. As a committed organisation, BBCh started publishing a year long calendar which nobody else in India does even today, and that helps the riders to plan their long term training schedules.

Just by the enthusiasm, it has become a community event driven by volunteers for a very long term vision. In BBCh there has not been any intention so far to push the growth of number of participants as they believe in organic growth and the subsequent effect of that for the betterment of the sport. BBCh has been seeing a steady growth of around 10-15 % in participation every year. BBCh has a plan to cap the number of participants once it hits a certain number for various logistical reasons and more over it wants to discourage mediocrity in order to excel in promoting the core of the game.

BBCh’s whole and sole goal is to providing an international level platform to the riders to grow the sport of competitive cycling in the country. BBCh has a very long term plan in place and the Operation Council is working really very hard on that voluntarily. Keeping the long term vision in mind, BBCh has introduced the BBCh Academy recently. The BBCh Academy will provide a real- time support to the pool of talented riders to achieve the best at national levels and international platforms in future. It is at a very nascent stage at the moment and BBCh wants to grow it in a structured way to sustain it longer.

BBCh Operation Council is a highly self motivated set of volunteers who see through a bright future of cycling in India and wants to walk through an uncharted path to establish a “LEGACY”.