Thursday, September 12, 2013

Karnataka State Championships Race Report

The Karnataka State Road Championships were held in Gadag (a relatively small town up in north Karnataka) around the start of this month (Aug 31-Sept 1) . The weekend of racing also doubled-up as state selections for the Indian National Road Championships, slated for the 24-27th, October. It was pretty important for as many of our Specialized Kynkyny guys to nail this weekend so we can take a strong, cohesive team to Nationals. With that goal in mind, six of us packed up our bags, our S-Works Tarmac SL4's, and our Transition TT rigs into a minibus. A little luggage-Tetris and bike-Jenga later, we hit the road.

Laxman hamming it up for the camera with his 1200W smile which he backs up with an equally powerful sprint. I don't know how he's smiling because he was probably sitting on a floor pump, a TT helmet and front wheel skewer. We were packed in there tight! Photo cred: Naveen Raj, Blurry Cam Pic Studios, LLC

On our way up, we made a quick pit-stop for linner at the least sketchy looking dhaba we could find. For those familiar with these highway-side institutions of culinary excellence, feel free to scroll on by this; for the uninitiated, I've got your back covered with some dhaba factoids:
  • The menus offer a range of cuisines to choose from. All of that is moot since all the dishes look and taste exactly the same
  • The contents of the menus at these joints are centrally decided upon by the Dhaba Federation of India (DFI), which explains why all dhabas have identical menus
  • You can find a dhaba along highways in India at the same frequency you'd find a Mickey Dees along a US interstate. Don't expect to find a PlayPlace, though you might find a clown on a bench
  • Sketchyness of a dhaba is inversely proportional to the price of food on the menu
  • Spend a couple extra Gandhi's and pick a non-sketch dhaba to eat at; that can mean the difference between a good race weekend vs. a weekend where everything you eat is racing out the back
  • And finally, dhabas aren't all dha(t) ba(d). Nope, you can't unread that.


We got to Gadag a day early. That gave us time to preview the Crit, TT and RR courses; the course profiles were flat, flat and flat, respectively. We got some very non-exotic lunch, caught a cheesy Hindi movie to ease the pre-race nerves a little, registered for the race weekend, got dinner, shopped for groceries, prepped our race rigs for the TT the next day and hit the sack early.

The coolest thing in Gadag were these ATW's (Any Time Water!) -- which are stand-alone, reverse osmosis based, water purification plants, which dispense drinking water anytime, for a cost of next to nothing. It fills me with a little hope to see meaningful, life-changing initiatives like this in small-town India. You can read more about it here [blogspot.in] and here [stevens.usc.edu]. It even made a huge difference to a small-budget team like ours since we were able to save about 5000 INR (75 USD) on water, not to mention the avoiding the plastic waste of about eighty, 2-liter water bottles. I guess that makes us a pretty lean and green bike racing team!

Individual Time Trial 

The first race of the weekend was the Individual Time Trial (ITT) on Saturday. The ITT was a brief 30km affair on an out-and-back course. Pre-riding the course the previous day allowed me to get a feel for the flow of the course. The course had about 20 gradual direction changes (a.k.a. sweeping turns). The direction changes meant having to deal with changing wind direction. On a windy day, you have to push harder into headwinds and you can afford to lay off the throttle a little with a tailwind at your back. The course also had about eight 1 km risers (a.k.a. hills), requiring you to push harder on the way up and again allowing you to lay off the throttle a little on the way down. The idea is to keep chugging along as close to your target average speed as possible, and in the end, the person with the fastest time, wins. 

Every dog has its day and that Saturday was mine. I defended my 2012 State ITT title by over 1:30 to second place and over 2:00 to third. Specialized Kynkyny secured the top-4 spots with me, Bimshi, Naveen Raj and Lokesh.

I've got a lot of improving to do before Nationals though, but with the help of my coach [pbscience.com] and the schedule I'm on, I've got my sights set on the big one at the end of October. There are a ton of challenges along the way, but I'm checking them off one-by-one, trying to have a plan for every eventuality. Nothing is unimportant -- whether its pre-race nutrition/hydration, tire selection, equipment set-up, trip logistics, pacing strategies, and more; you name it, and I'll be thinking about it.


Sunday was a double-header, with the crit in the morning and the road race at noon. The crit was run in the center of town, going 10 laps over a closed short course, for a total distance of ~34km. It was run in a points race format, with sprint points on the line every other lap and double points at the finish. I decided to sit out this race, but the guys did a great job helping our teammate -- Laxman Kurani -- convincingly defend his 2012 Crit title. In 2nd place was Asif Attar of Team Naesar Racing -- a pretty strong, young bike rider -- who put more energy out his vocal chords than through his pedals in this race. In 3rd place was my teammate -- Bimshi. After the crit, the guys hydrated, fueled-up and power napped before the road race.

Road Race

A bike race is like a book. It's got a beginning -- where you meet the protagonist and antagonist of the drama that's about to unfold. Then, there are the chapters of the book that tell the story with varying pace and intensity, and more generally speaking, this is where shit happens! Finally, you have the ending -- which may or may not be so happy.

The race, broken down into chapters

The road race was scheduled for (a short) 100km, but was further shortened to 65km. The plan was to set-up our rouleur -- Ambi -- for the win. He wasn't the strongest guy on our team but he needed to rack up a win to secure a spot on the state team for Nats. It was my job to shepherd Ambi to the finish in a diminished field, or sneak away in a small break while the other guys on the team "distract" the field.

Chapter 1 - 15min, 38kph, 4 surges: The first 15 minutes of the race, Ambi and I spent tail-gunning the field as some very non-threatening events -- as most events in the first half of a bike race usually are -- played out up front. Pretty tame heart rate (HR in red) and power graph (that's the purple squiggles)

Chapter 2 - 12min, 38kph, 13 surges: A mildly threatening attack went with no Specialized in it, so I responded. At this point I had put myself (and Ambi) out front because I was forced to do so and found it hard to settle to the back of the field. I spent the next 15 minutes wastefully and fruitlessly racing up front, which you can decipher from the jagged edges of the power graph.

Chapter 3 - 9min, 32kph, 1 surge: Flurry number umpteen, but this time, I force myself to holster the BS. Loki countered with a rider in tow and got a gap. Soon after, Bimshi departed with some baggage in tow as well. "Great", I thought to myself, but here is an example of where a race theory vs. reality don't align. Theory: Ambi and I chill - guys who missed the break dig deep to bridge up or close the gap - Loki and Bimshi sit on in the break - field coalesces with break - I counter with Ambi in tow for the winning break and Ambi takes the W! Reality: nobody chases - I have the entire field sitting on my wheel and when I unclip and stop, everybody stops with me! All it takes is a couple minutes of inaction in the field for a break to consolidate an advantage.

Chapter 4 - 33min, 42kph, 3 surges: We had enough of the non-sense so we decide to take Ambi up to the break. I ask a friend to help us freight train the field. With the field moseying into a headwind, we come from the back, up the right, at 55k's an hour. Attacking into a headwind isn't ideal to attempt to wedge a gap; all you end up doing is piercing a hole for riders behind you. But we need to get to that break so Ambi  has a shot at the win. Naveen Raj and I traded pulls to chase back the break (with our team mates in it, who we hoped, weren't working in the break!) and we shelled half the field in the chase.

Chapter 5 - 28min, 43kph, 1 surge: The break was 5 seconds from being reabsorbed and it was the perfect setting for a counter. That was too much to expect apparently and everyone was down to chill. I wasn't, so I kept the pace high all the way to the finish. Coming into the last kilometer, the field is reduced to 5 guys:  2 wily local racers, Ambi, Bimshi and I. 200m to go: Ambi and Bimshi both open up their own individual sprints because leading out a team mate is passe in these parts. 3rd and 4th is what we came away with. On to the next!

We had a categorically unhappy ending to the road race, but a good weekend for the team otherwise.We took 6 guys to the state trials and all 6 have qualified to represent Karnataka at Nationals. In addition, we'll have Dipankar "Dipu Smash" Saikia who'll represent his state, Assam and Omkar "Phablet" Jadhav, who'll  represent Maharashtra. That's a pretty strong 8-man team we'll be packing to Nats, so we plan on bringing back some hardware. I'll try and get a preview of what Nationals in India is like a week before the event. Till then, thanks to all (two) of you who spent the time to read this!

Update: You can check out another account of the weekend by Sarvesh Sangarya. Sarvesh qualified for the KA state U-18 team. He rides on Team Trek Firefox Racing who are doing some ground breaking work for cycling and its athletes in India. 


  1. NJ, love the way you race and bring it to our eyes man! Pretty impressive comeback to fitness and superb performance from you considering you've been faffing around not too long ago! ;)

    All the best for SKCT for Nationals!

  2. Thanks for the report..it was nice read.