Race report from the ATH KMP 100 Road Race held on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway on the outskirts of Delhi.
My first road race and it was as a spectator and motorcycle marshal. My motorcycle had the photographer as pillion as we rushed from the peloton, to the breakaway to those getting dropped. I literally had the best seat in the house to watch the action in this amateur race held in Delhi.
The story started a few days prior on the WhatsApp group where all the racers were present. The wheels might go round and round for both MTBers and roadies, yet the two are chalk and cheese. While an MTB race will see everyone laughing and joking, the serious racers might be extremely focused, yet the atmosphere is forever jovial.
Roadies on the other hand start off sandbagging. Before the race the strongest riders come up with a variety of excuses. “I am running a fever”, “In the last race the other guy beat me with ease”, “I partied too hard during Christmas and am terribly overweight”. The list went on. At the start of the race you could cut the tension with a knife. There was a look of focus and determination on the faces of the racers. The Grim Reaper would appear a newbie in comparison.
An amateur friendly race it was, where the winner would get a dozen bananas! But much more was at stake. Pride of the human spirit. The first 20 km was a warm up group ride for everyone to get a feel for the conditions.
And then when the flag dropped the bullshit stopped. The minuscule air of friendliness that was present, disappeared.
Head down and hammer. That was the order of the day. The group of 30 disintegrated faster than the Titanic. The fast boys took off like their collective tails were on fire. Some brave souls tried desperately to hang on. Hearts throbbing, lungs bursting, legs screaming and this was just the first kilometre. Pride makes man do crazy things, hurting to keep up with the faster group.
From there it was a war of attrition. The train chugged along at speed, the second group with no hope of catching the first. The distance growing. The lead group ruthlessly chewing up the legs of the weak and spitting them out without apology once they were spent. Like the snake from the old Nokia game, the second group would catch and gobble them up. This was no place for a solo ride. Work with the team or get burnt out like a corporate employee.
The halfway mark arrived and the look on the faces of the riders in the lead group was priceless. Some were begging for the torture to end, others were relishing the thought of turning up the wick.
Fatigue was setting in and the pace was hot. Energy gels were being devoured and liquids gulped down. But to no avail. The legs still screamed.
Before you knew the lead group had gone from 15 to 8. They were dropping off like flies. A 15 second burst of speed by a strong rider at the front would see the tired lose 1 metre, 5 and then 10. All that they could see was the lead slipping out of their clutches and there was nothing they could do. Without the help of a draft they hit a wall of solid air!
13 km before the finish line there was a 3 km climb. A couple of kilometres before the climb the pace dropped like a hot potato. Everyone was looking at each other poker faced waiting for the imminent attack. It didn’t come. No one was willing to show their cards.
The climb started. And still nothing.
All of a sudden one rider pulled out of the draft and hammered up the climb. Finally, the attack. Not. He looked over his shoulder and egged his teammates on. They answered the call and the three pulled away from the rest as they crested the climb in quick time. Number 4 tried to hang in there, but the flat after the climb was a mountain! There was no way he was going to catch the three guys ahead working together when he was all alone.
Attrition saw just 3 together as they neared the 2 km mark to the finish line. The podium was decided, it was now time to see the order of the podium. With 1 km to go, one guy took off, but it was too much too early. The two following reeled him in immediately and left him spent. Half a kilometre to go and the question was whether the rider in the wake had left his attack for too late.
He had kept his powder dry and sprang forth like a cheetah sprinting the last two hundred metres to take the win with some gap to spare.
The guy who comes in second is the best of the rest or the first loser? A difficult question to answer when you look at his face!
A video from the race by the ATH Crew