Race report from season finale of Aravalli Trailhunters: Meet the Force. The MTB race was held in Gurgaon on the 2nd of December.
In the first week of November Gautam Chima from Aravalli Trailhunters called me up and told me they needed a hand with the season finale in December. I was more than happy to give a hand, a leg and more…
Work for the finale begins quite some time in advance. Deciding a route, pruning and preparing the trail, contacting and getting sponsors on board, and most importantly getting racers from around the place to come race! Without whom it would be an exercise in futility.
5 days to go and I found myself at GC’s house. Spending the entire evening figuring out where the riders would be on the course during the race. The marshals, photographers and videographers needed to be stationed accordingly.
The final three days saw us spending the mornings on the trails and the evenings in GC’s house. The situation seemed tight
on Thursday morning. There was a lot of marking to be done and no one to do it! Fortuitously a gaggle of mountain bikers got together and made light work of it. The more the merrier is perfectly true when it comes to trail marking and pruning rides!
Volunteers were treated to a display of mountain biking skills by Kiran Kumar Raju. He climbed up drops, dropped down vertical rock and jumped trenches in the midst of ooohs and aaahs from the wide eyed audience. His intention was not showboating, but to give others the confidence, that if he can do it, so can they!
Before the crack of dawn there were a bunch of crackpots congregating at the Aravalli Gaushala. Marshals and the Race Director were the first to reach. The racers were shepherded to the start line as registrations were being conducted there.
The MTB National Champion might have been racing the course, but he wasn’t the only Gold winner in the house! Race Director duties were shouldered by Arvind Panwar, National Road Race Champion and Tirath Singh, ATH’s regular race director and the man behind the energy bars!
Energy bars, drinks and bananas were handed out to the racers at the time of registration. A three hour long race requires nutrition. Though most racers are bananas to consider getting ripped by Keekar fun on a ‘lazy’ Sunday morning! The warm up lap for the 50+ racers was the 2.5 km XCO loop.
The XCO loop a microcosm of the Aravallis. Everything on the big loop was packed tight in this 2.5 km loop. The warm up gave the riders a feel for things to come…
It was time for the race to start with KKR defending his crown while simultaneously aiming for a hat-trick of Aravalli wins.
The Flag Drops…
A quick route briefing later it was time for the flag to drop, done by Viju Varghese, first ATH season winner.
KKR shot off like a scalded cat with Shiven, contender to the crown, hot on his tail as the entire pack flew up Mahadev. Rajat, Ashish Sherpa and Yogesh in close pursuit, as the five broke away with relative ease from the others. At the turn off point for the big and small loop, the leading group were ahead by three minutes.
The finisher circuit wasn’t a walk in the park either. There was some hard riding happening there. Abhishek Purohit (AP) was hammering away and leading the finishers at the turn off. He was battling for first place with Aryan, while Nitin Nagpal and Abhinay Pochiraju were fighting for the final place on the podium.
The Baladas downhill and Damdama climb broke the famous five at the front. Yogesh getting left behind, Shiven getting a small gap, while KKR was stretching the boys from Himachal and Kumaon up Damdama as took the KOM convincingly.
On the end of the first big loop, KKR was leading comfortably, with Ashish Sherpa and Rajat keeping him honest. Yogesh had got the better of Shiven and were not making any impression on the front runners.
While the big guns were blasting through their first small loop. Aryan took the finishers loop honours, closely followed by AP. The two were dominant in this category as they finished the race at the same time as 3rd and 4th placed Nagpal and Pochiraju were starting their final XCO loop. Nagpal had been trailing Pochi, until the latter suffered a puncture and limped over the finish line in fourth, while the former took the final place on the finishers podium.
Showdown in little XCO!
As the laps were ticking off, Shiven was ramping up the power and gradually reeling in KKR, who was having bike troubles. The final three XCO loops saw Shiven dig deep to catch KKR. He closed down the gap from 60 seconds to just about 10 seconds. The National Champion had to ramp up his pace at the end to keep Shiven at bay. The two crossed the finish line in close proximity. Shiven tantalisingly close to KKR. So close, yet so far! Yogesh took the final place on the podium.
The Masters Category saw a resurgent Ricky take the win and the season gold as well. Naoaki and Takahashi, ATH’s Japanese contingent, finished second and third among the Masters.
Silke stayed dominant as she had been throughout the season, taking the win in the women’s category along with the season gold. Gurleen finished second in the race, with the remaining three Schwartzenbergs threw in the towel early and left the final spot on the podium vacant!
Before getting the winners up on the podium, it was time for a Chyma Smash, with a difference though. On this occasion a Chyma cake was cut and smashed on Gautam’s face! A chocolate facial later it was time to hand out the many prizes that the race winners had won.
The volunteers and marshals were called up on stage and thanked. Without them, it is impossible to conduct a safe and good race for everyone.
Arvind Panwar was also presented an ATH jersey for his wins in the ATH road races he had ridden this season.
The final cog in the celebrations was handing out the prizes to the ATH Instagram page contest winners.
Post Race Celebrations and ‘Hydration’
As always the ATH paaaartay was hosted by Silke and Marco. Their hospitality is heart warming and the pool was freezing! After a full MTB race, they were some mad enough to actually play volleyball.
Race Day ended at 8 PM! 14 hours after we met up at the Gaushala…
Read how Aravalli Trailhunters came into existence and grew a vibrant race scene. Also read the race report from ATH 6.3: Stroke Heat VI