Baton, baton, baton…
The most repeated phrase during Aravalli Trailhunters‘ third race of the season. A relay race in the heat of May in the forest of Asola, Delhi.
‘Left hand’, ‘right hand’ were the other two phrases as teams got their brains and bodies in a twist trying to handover the baton!
Stroke Heat VI: Race Report
First lets rewind a bit.
Aravalli Trailhunters is an NCR based cycling club which has been organising XC MTB races for the last 6 years. The summer race is named Stroke Heat, well, because, obvious right!
On the 19th of May, after 6 long years, ATH had its first race in the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the core members of ATH, Ricky (better known as Tanker Baba), has for long been convincing everyone to race in Asola. He was one happy man on the 19th!
At the crack of dawn 18 riders lined up and were ready to race. 18 might not sound like a big number, but that is the ATH philosophy.
The races should be hard and challenging. If that reduces the number of participants, so be it. The quality will not be compromised in search of numbers.
It was a relay race with teams of two. So everyone was delighted that an even number of people turned up, else we would have had to ask a monkey from the forest to fill in!
The teams were picked by ways of a chit fund scam! Everyone picked a chit and hoped they got a strong rider as a partner. And even though partners were picked at random, the stars aligned to make near perfect combinations.
- Team MnM: Makhija and Marco. seasoned campaigners
- Team Powerhouse: Ricky and Saurabh. Paaji Inc.
- Team Steady and Fast: Tarash and Prateek. The former steady and the latter fast!
- Team Fleetfoot: AP and Arvind. Fast Forward
- Team Sister Act: Julia and Kathi. German precision
- Team Girl Power: Medha and Sophie. Building Indo-German ties!
- Team Electric: Rudiger and Christine. A match made in heaven
- Team Single Bike: Oshi and Naveena. Their bike was the baton!
- Team X: Nitin and Sameer. The only team not matched in heaven!
This Is Why We Race (hashtag!)
The rules were simple. 14 laps per team. The baton, which was a bottle, had to be handed over at the start finish line. A relay of alternating laps between the two riders of the team. The first team across the finish line was the winner and got a bunch of bananas!
A lap was 2 km long, with a tiny technical climb, many tight twists and turns and a highway through the villagers cricket field!
The flag dropped and everyone went rushing through the Asola wall like white walkers from GOT!
By the end of the first lap, Marco was gunning it and leading Ricky through the power field. Which probably didn’t make for good strategy as the effort tired him out for the remaining laps.
The leading duo were closely followed by Sameer and Tarash. Arvind was on a slow first lap.
A 14 lap race with riders of varying skill and fitness isn’t decided on the first lap.
The first couple of laps saw all the riders jostling for position before things settled down a bit. AP was in the driver’s seat, with Saurabh further behind and then Makhija.
The leads were maintained, positions unchanging as the laps ticked down. Everyone was riding conservatively, no one wanting to be drawn into a mistake.
The conservative culture borne out by the fact that there were no crashes, dashes or Chyma smashes!
While the boys out front were pushing it, there were stories at the back as well.
Naveena had bike problems, which saw him share Oshi’s cycle. The two were hindered by this, wasting precious seconds during the transition.
Asola wasn’t the only first for ATH. Two electric MTBs were also present. Rudiger and Christine were riding their electric cycles with the batteries removed, which was a major handicap. The bikes weigh a ton and are far more difficult to ride than a regular MTB.
The small technical climb was only being ridden by Marco and Oshi consistently. Others taking the simpler way out of running up with their bikes.
Prateek rode in typical Thakur fashion. Thakur sahab from Sholay didn’t have arms. ATH’s Thakur sahab believes he doesn’t have a saddle. He was ripping the course whilst standing on the pedals and set the fastest lap of the race in the bargain!
Here’s how smooth (or not) the exchange program was!
Once the pecking order was established in the early laps, there was no change. The leads were maintained till the finish line.
AP crossed the finish in style with Saurabh trailing by 30 seconds and a minute later Makhija secured the final spot on the podium.
The rest finished strong and not too far away from podium pace. The advantage of team racing, it levels out the playing field considerably. It also requires chalking out a winning strategy and not just hammering on the pedals all the way.
Aravalli Trailhunters next race (ATH 6.4) is on the 2nd of June in Asola. They promise it will be much more technical and difficult than the previous few races. Because Marco has plotted out the route!
If you want a challenge, go race with them for bananas…
Photos: Mohit Gena