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First time Criterium racing

October 17, 2017

When the WERC crit race was announced, I was pretty excited. I had just joined as a member of this new club in Mangalore that was trying to make racers of recreational cyclists and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and the professionalism shown by the founding members. Criterium was a type of race that is short and intense and usually will be full of explosive action, something a new cyclist like me wanting to get into some competitive world would love.

 

So I set off on a Saturday morning with a bike in the car and reached Mangalore around 11am, where I met up with Nithin from Taj Cycles and we decided to ride up to the course about 22kms from the city. Immediately on beginning the ride, I noticed how hot the climate was and the humidity was energy sapping. After a short recce of the course, which was basically a straight stretch of four lane road in the isolated layout with two U-turns at either end. The start and finish was about 100 meters from one end of the turn and the finish stretch was all uphill of about 5% after the U-turn. The course itself was rolling, with long gentle climbs and short downhill sections.

 

Sunday began early, me waking up at about 5am, I had my coffee and a small meal of oats and bread and headed to the venue. Ashwath the race director, Sarvesh and Deepak were already there with other WERC volunteers and had set up the registration desk. There was a small drizzle and the weather was perfect but for the humidity. There were two categories - senior (35yrs and above) and juniors (below 35). The prime laps had already been announced and the seniors race would have six laps of 3km each and juniors eight.

As the seniors lined up, there was a palpable nervous excitement in the air. As the countdown began, everyone clipped on and set a rapid pace. Ashok Lobo immediately attacked right from the start line and by first lap had a considerable lead. Ashok was followed by Brijesh and Shyam, who seemed happy to race themselves than chase a fast disappearing Ashok. The prime lap was comfortably taken by Ashok and now Brijesh who had been recovering from an injury began falling behind. This gave Shyam a good distance and he put in a solid effort to remain in second position thereafter. Brijesh rolled in third position as the split field made it to the finish line one after the other. Kudos to Ashok who put in consistent lap times and took a deserving win.

 

Ashok Lobo immediately attacked right from the start line and by first lap had a considerable lead.

 

The prime lap was comfortably taken by Ashok.

 

Shyam put in a solid effort to remain in second position.

 

Brijesh rolled in third position as the split field made it to the finish line one after the other.

 

Kudos to Ashok who put in consistent lap times and took a deserving win.

The juniors race started immediately after the seniors and it had all the participants of Deccan Cliffhanger and they had put in some solid training hours in the last few months. All eyes were on Shashank who held most of the KOMs around the area and Dhanraj who had recently been only one of the two finishes of 1200km brevet. There were four to five young riders below 20 who looked every bit as professional as the official Trek team. Myself and Nithin were the other two DC participants within the group. My plan was to stay with the lead bunch for as much time as possible and if I had the legs to attack in the last two laps. Winning the primes were not on my agenda as sprinting uphill soon after a U-turn was not my strongest point, but I would try nevertheless. It was first time criterium racing to almost all of us as all we knew was from what we had read up on the net or watched on YouTube.

 

As the countdown began, the group were not in a hurry and we set off at a easy pace. Hari Vijay went in a little hard and opened up a small gap. The peloton was about 50 meters behind and the first two laps we made gingerly around the corners as a group. The third lap was a prime lap and the pace suddenly increased with me, Dhanraj and Shashank setting the pace. I could feel the peloton stretch and after the first U-turn we three were followed by Nithin and Achinthya. We opened up a gap on the incline after the U-turn and I could sense an urgency in everybody wanting to be positioned in the front at the next U-turn before the sprint opened. Dhanraj led us to the U-turn followed by myself , Shashank, Nithin and Achinthya. Nithin quickly came around and hopped on to Dhanraj’s wheel and initiated the sprint. I slowed a bit too much at the U-turn and in turn slowed Shashank who could not position himself for a effective sprint. However Dhanraj just managed to out-sprint Nithin to claim the first prime. At the start of fourth lap Shashank attacked and managed to get a decent gap on the group. A gap that he would steadily increase to claim the second prime. The rest of us mainly Dhanraj, myself, Nithin and Achinthya rode another two laps when I felt a cramp on my right ankle. I let off the pace for a few seconds to recover and was dropped from the group. I took few swigs of water and immediately felt better. Dhanraj by now had attacked on a climb and had gained a gap on Nithin and Achinthya. I could see Dhanraj and Achinthya about 50-60 meters ahead and began chasing. The ankle hurt a bit on putting effort but was ok on high cadence. I just concentrated on getting into a low position and spinning. Before I knew it we were on the last lap and I still had about 50 meters to catch Nithin and group. I could now not even see Shashank. Dhanraj was way up ahead. Cursing myself for loss of concentration I was deep in thought when I heard a loud bang. In trying to be in an aero position I had not seen the road cone which was kept to introduce a S-turn I had hit it head on. Luckily I did not lose balance but it did help in recovering my focus. Now I had to chase hard. I put in a massive effort and I could see the gap with Nithin and Achinthya slowly close. With about 300 meters to go I finally caught up with the duo just before the final U-turn. I did not wait to recover behind them and I passed them to hit the U-turn first. The effort to catch up had its effect and I did not have the juice to out-sprint both of them who shot past to finish ahead. Dhanraj had just finished second. Nithin sprinted in at third followed by Achinthya and me. Shashank rode a solid race to claim a unchallenged victory.

 

Hari Vijay went in a little hard and opened up a small gap.

 

The peloton was about 50 meters behind and the first two laps we made gingerly around the corners as a group.

 

At the start of fourth lap Shashank attacked and managed to get a decent gap on the group. A gap that he would steadily increase to claim the second prime.

 

Dhanraj by now had attacked on a climb and had gained a gap on Nithin and Achinthya.

 

Before I knew it we were on the last lap and I still had about 50 meters to catch Nithin and Achinthya.

 

I put in a massive effort and I could see the gap with Nithin and Achinthya slowly close. With about 300 meters to go I finally caught up with the duo just before the final U-turn.

 

Shashank rode a solid race to claim a unchallenged victory.

 

Shashank rode a solid race to claim a unchallenged victory. Dhanraj had just finished second. Nithin sprinted in at third followed by Achinthya and me.

For a first real criterium race participation, I was happy as I now had a lot of lessons that I could take home. The race itself was extremely well organised and went without a hiccup. After the podium ceremony we had a photo shoot for the Deccan Cliffhanger team and we went ahead for a much needed breakfast. This is a race I will not forget in a hurry. Time to train hard and look forward to the Deccan Cliffhanger race.

 

The race itself was extremely well organised.

 

After the podium ceremony we had a photo shoot for the Deccan Cliffhanger team. Time to train hard and look forward to the Deccan Cliffhanger race.

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