A race report from ATH’s Teekling The Top. The MTB race was held in Teekli Village near Gurgaon in March 2017.
Cycling is pretty darn addictive and from the time I bought my new (slightly used!) 29er, I have been enjoying hitting the dirt, sometimes harder than intended! Thanks, in no small part to the Aravalli Trailhunters (ATH). A bunch of really good people, who call themselves ‘junglees’, something they surely aren’t.
After participating in the first race of the ATH season, the Kaladunghi Hill Climb in February, it was time to hit the trails closer home, in the Aravallis. A place called Teekli, a rocky hill to tickle one’s MTB palate.
Early on a Sunday morning it was time to head out for the race. My clean and shiny Scott Scale under me and a smile on my face. Knowing fully well that at the end of the race, there will be neither shine nor smile visible! There were 22 riders at the start ready to have a blast. The route was a mix of a 2 km long rocky climb, where it suddenly squeezed into a single-track navigating through the thorny keekars, sand, rock and bullshit (or cowdung if you prefer!).
A 4 km loop including the climb, with 5 laps for the race and a sighting lap. On the sighting lap it was obvious, that this was going to be far more challenging than imagined. Especially the single-track, which required the rider to go over a few big rocks. Easy peasy for the fast guys, but an exciting challenge for the likes of newbies like me.
The previous Sunday I had ridden the same route. The overgrown keekar had ripped out my flesh. So it was a welcome sight to see the entire place cleared up and made ready to race by the junglee crowd. My intact skin was deeply grateful to all these wonderful people!
The sighting lap ended at the base of the climb and it was time to race.
Teekling the Top: The Race
Finally! Since the race was to be a Time Trial a staggered start was adopted. The winner would be decided by adding the 5 laps. Within the first 30 seconds, the mountain goats took off and disappeared from sight. I laboured on, building a rhythm to climb the hill and not reach the top completely out of breath for the single-track. They were 7 guys who had rocketed ahead, and as I climbed there was no one within striking distance behind me.
The climb was done successfully and I hit the single-track, quite literally. On the first lap, I managed to hit every single tree, rock and pile of poo which was in my path. A bunch of our bovine friends played the role of a road block! The herder advised caution, which I happily threw to the wind, as i remembered my Mongolia ride. If I could herd 50 odd cows there, I could surely manage to navigate through the few in front of me.
On the first lap, that was my only success story, getting past the cows! That allowed Ricky to catch and pass me. He then proceeded to disappear into the distance, while I continued bouncing around as if in a pinball machine from thorn to tree and tree to rock.
Finally lap 1 ended and I could recover my breath as we coasted downhill back to the start for the second lap. With a bit of clear air in front of me and in my head, I tried to recall whatever little I learnt on my previous trail expeditions. Somewhat like Po from Kung Fu Panda, as he remembers Shifu’s teachings of inner peace, just before the final battle!
The second lap started with a much calmer mind as I climbed the hill for the second time with a better rhythm, landing up at the start of the single-track in a better frame of mind. I remembered all the instructions imparted by Gautam and Abhishek on my couple of rides with them and tackled the rocky terrain slower.
By going slower, I finished the segment faster. Sounds like a paradox, but goes to show how important it is to be calm. As my pace improved, I was able to shake off any pursuers and was practically riding alone as I descended for my third lap. While descending, the race leaders were already climbing for their third lap. I was going to get lapped soon if my fat arse didn’t go up the hill faster.
On the third lap, I tried to improve my form and be even smoother through the trail. I hit the same lines as the previous lap, managed to successfully go over rocks which previously blocked me and just when I thought was hitting a higher level of existence, I hit a tree!
Smashed my right hand fingers between the brake lever and the tree and yelped like a stoned dog. This inner peace thingy was having to work overtime. I controlled the urge to get off my bike and kick the tree! Even after spending a few precious seconds getting intimate with the keekar, I managed my personal best lap! Shifu for the win.
On the penultimate lap, I felt a spasm of hunger as my stomach lurched. I was going to puke in 5, 4, 3, 2, hang on wait, there is someone with a camera. Smile, else the pukey face would get recorded for posterity.
As I showed the camera my prettier side, Stephen the race leader, lapped me from the other side. He whizzed past me as if i was standing on the side playing gilli-danda instead of pedalling. Both the camera and my grin disappeared simultaneously. I gritted my teeth with only the desire of finishing the race. With each passing lap, I got better at the tight twisty thorny treat. I was completely spent at the descent for my last lap.
The 5th and final lap was the ‘bring it home without dying on the rocks and getting eaten by buzzards’ lap. I huffed and panted and psyched myself up and successfully rode a whopping distance of 100 metres. After that at every pedal stroke I contemplated walking uphill. When I was ready to throw in the towel, Punay breezed past. Watching him go and seeing Saurabh right on my tail, gave me that extra bit of motivation to complete the climb.
Of course, Saurabh also breezed past me on the climb. The last single-track segment I barely remember, as I could only think of the finish line. Ecstatic is a mild word at the sight of the choona markings which signalled the end. If I had any energy left I would have jumped for joy. I settled for raising my pinky, anything else appeared too brutal!
Some great recovery nutrition later, it was time for the banana podium, an ATH speciality. The race winner gets to hold a bunch of bananas for a photo. After that everyone piles on and finishes off the fruit of his labour!
The race finish also features an an actual jump for joy! A fantastic race with lovely people is the perfect way to start a Sunday and if you were as exhausted as me, then it was also the end to the day! I do not know how good were my lap times, but I did have a great time!
Pictures from Sunday thanks to Gautam Chima and Abhijit.
A short video made by the ATH Crew from the race.