Stonehill Calling

We managed to get the route finalized pretty late for the April edition of BBCh12. So I had to rely on the advise of folks who rode around this area last year. After a small email exchange with Suma , I figured we might have a reasonably empty stretch to do a small children’s race. Suma and Arvind volunteered to do a recce mid-week but Suma fell ill. So based on her recollection of the route from last year, we announced it to the community that yes, we would have a children’s race .  I still had to do the recce before the main event to ensure that it would happen and we find a proper safe stretch for the children. So this Saturday morning was different for me , I drove Rohini and Vedant to the venue, met Arvind there and the threesome, ie Rohini,Arvind and Vedant  did a slow recce on the official route posted. Noticed that there were many trucks, so didn’t look like a good venue for a road race. Progress was slow since I was following Vedant and Rohini in a car. We met two Veloscope photographers who were doing a recce of their own. After doing part of the original route, we went back to the start point and did a route that went straight (at the point where the right goes to Stonehill). We took a deviation to the left and came back to the main road. Vedant got tired at this point as it was quite hot. But he did manage 5.2 km out in the open, possibly a record for him. That gave me enough confidence to hold the children’s event, my reasoning being that if Vedant could do it, most of the older other kids would be able to do it. Rohini now continued riding in a faster pace with Arvind to get some practice for the main race on Sunday, doing her own semi-recce, and getting some riding practice. This was quite exhausting, and the heat stifling. We moved on and decided to have breakfast on the way back. After what seemed like an eternity, we found a Darshini on the main road. After breakfast, while backing out and reversing , forgot to sight a pole and got a nice little dent on the back of my car. Dang! Was tired as hell on Saturday after the recce, but cleaned both Rohini and Vaibhav’s cycles , especially the drive-trains and lubcricated them. Packed them on the back of my car and locked them to the carrier overnight. Slept at 1 something, got up at 4 something, and got the rest of the pack ready. Had to give some serious pep-talks to my 8 year old to get him to participate (despite finishing 3rd last month). Younger one of course was eager to ride the same place he rode today. He wanted me to wake him up early morning. So Rohini pitched in with a bit of her own encouragement and Vaibhav realized that he could postpone his sleep. I realized that the rubber straps were missing from the rear carrier. Used some nylon fasteners to put them in place. Given that I did not have lube, used Coconut oil for lubricating the chains and the lift smelled like a Kerala kitchen as I hauled the bike(s) downstairs.

On race day  we started at 6 or so and reached the venue at 7 am. Rohini stood in line to collect her bib and there was a big line, and a mighty gala atmosphere. Vedant demanded his bib then and there, I  had to educate him that his turn would come later along with the rest of the kids. The registrations and bib collections continued till 7:35 or so and soon the race started. It looked sedate from my position and we made sure the kids were safely away from the race arena. Spotting each cyclist as he passed the start/finish line was a real challenge. A whole peloton whooshed past every time. Mansur and Ravindra were in the parking enclosure with the kids, and I was periodically popping in to check if all was well. After the 2nd round , Darren came in and complaining that one of his team-mates had been punched causing a big crash to a peloton. Soon, the race was called off, but restarted soon enough after barring the two teams involved in the scuffle. The race re-started for most of the folks who had come for fun and race, but was now shortened to 3 rounds. Unfortunately a whole set of riders, who were wearing a distinctive yellow jersey dropped out after the 1st incident. This included two women. Either they thought it was the end of the race , or they thought they had seen enough competition for the day. The race now continued in right earnest. Since two of the tightest pelotons had disappeared, spotting the rider numbers became easy for Roshni and SenthilVadivu. I didn’t have to shout out the numbers and avoided distracting Vasu Mishra.
The route contained very little trucks compared to the previous day, and a quick confabulation with Arvind and we decide to hold the race around the same road. I decided to go check the U turn point and just keepthe race from the main start line to the U turn and back. Somebody mentioned that it was about a km. I decided to do a quick recce knowing that all the biggie racers were riding the other side. Was surprised to see the original cleated warrior , Venkat riding alone , away from any Peloton. Went upto the U-turn point, it seemed much more than a km. After I came back to the start point, someone mentioned that it showed 1.7km on Garmin. So a 1.7+1.7 route for the kids seemed a little tough but doable for everyone, save possibly Vedant. I thought I’d still keep this distance, and just let Vedant ride as long as he doesn’t tire. Some more suggestions followed, we decided to move the cone a *little* ahead to reduce the distance. I figured we’d keep the distance to around 2.5 km , not too long but not too short. The young cyclists were aged 4.5, 8.5, 10.5, 12, 12 and 14. Given that the 4.5 year old had rode 5km the previous day in the heat, 2.5 for everyone didn’t feel impossible but it would make the kids pace themselves instead of a short sprint deciding the race. After I came back, as expected, the lead riders crossed the finish line to the last section for possibly a final sprint. There was a big group, I saw Saravanan and Venky in the group but didn’t recognize the others. At that point anybody could have won, the riders were quite close together. The final burst was exciting to watch, I had to push the kids back to ensure they didn’t get in the way of the riders. It was easy to lose track of the fact that riders were riding both sides and in the excitement of the finish, we might get in the way of riders coming from behind.
As in Turahalli, it was decided to call off all the riders who come across the finish line, in the interests of saving time.Timing would be tabulated at leisure by our pro-timers. After the flow of riders came to a trickle, we waited for sometime till we were sure no riders were left. It is tough to keep track of the large number of riders, and on top of that , nobody knew how many folks actually were present for the restart. From Rohini’s accounts there were 7 girls earlier, now there were 5.
So we started the kids race, 3 of us decided to cocoon the kids, the original idea was Venkat in front, I would be in the middle , riding alongside the children and Sreepathi would bring up the rear.

Venkat uncle telling the kids - you should not overtake me okay

Venkat uncle telling the kids (in his singsong accent) you should not overtake me okay

No sooner was the starting whistle blown, the kids just took off.

The kids start off the blocks

The kids start off the blocks

Took off, as in took our designated lead rider , Venkat, the cleated warrior completely by surprise, leaving him behind.The lead kid ( I think it was Aman, Mansur’s son) took off at a speed of 28kmph followed closely by the remaining kids. Vedant was trying valiantly to keep up with them but lagged behind. I’ll attribute it to his small size.

Venkat catches up with the kids

Venkat catches up with the kids, showing why he's a warrior

Also he kept calling out for me, so I had to switch places with Sreepathi. So Sreepathi rode alongside the riders and I rode alongside Vedant at the rear.

And they go off in the distance

And they go off in the distance

The folks disappeared a little in the distance and after some time I saw them coming back up. Rohan had moved the cone to a rather short distance , say 700 meters or so, and the distance felt really short. Aman, who I think was the original lead rider, threw up, possibly due to exertion or heat. Sreepathi was with him, while Rohan and Venkat rode with the lead riders. Seeing the others go the other way, Vedant started turning back, and was promptly prompted by Sreepathi to go to the cone and turn back. He promptly obliged, and came back. For a meoment I thought he might catch up with Aman, but some time before the finish, he got tired and had to be rehydrated with water. The remaining 4 had crossed the line before Vedant and Aman arrived on the scene.

The guy in front

The guy in front

Runner up

Runner up

Number 3

Number 3

Just missed the podium

Just missed the podium

Tough nut, dehydrated but not vanquished

Tough nut, dehydrated but not vanquished

Being the youngest rider, Vedant probably got more than his fair share of shutterbug attention,but he was enjoying everybit of it. He stopped at the finish line like you would at a traffic light(instead of rushing across). It sure didn’t bother him that he finished last.

Posing for the camera

Posing for the camera

The presentation ceremony followed , and started with the Cat2 riders of last race. I have been wondering where the Gatorade satchets were sold in Bangalore. Didn’t realize you have to go the podium of a BBCh race to get it. Put back everything on my car , and drove home. Was pretty dazed for the rest of the day, despite catching some sleep in the afternoon. Look forward to the off road race in May , and more participation, and more action of the relevant kind. Hopefully more kids participate.

All the photographs featured in this blog are from Veloscope. Veloscope on Facebook
Some of the photographers are pretty talented, as you can make out from the photos. Check their FB site for all the race photos.

The next race is likely to be near Decathlon , near the dried up lake close to the tracks. It will be an off-road race, so uneven but no traffic. Hope to see a good turnout there. As always , have fun but be safe.

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