What’s the best thing about road biking? The wind in the hair (What a load of baloney! Wear a helmet for Heaven’s sake!)? The thrill of the descent? Parading around dressed like a vacuum packed sandwich despite your age and constitution? Or is it simply the sadistic pleasure of dishing out some pain?
Ask this of the 100-odd riders who showed up for the Nandi epic race on the 19th of July, and I am sure all of them would have a different thing to say. But I can tell you with all my supremely annoying self-assurance that they all have one thing in common- they are gluttons for punishment down to the last weedy chap, intrepid hardasses that in spite of knowing in full what the last BBCh race of the season has in store for them, are capable of looking like children about to rip the wrappings off their birthday gifts.
I noticed a tiny kid of six years take his position beside the MAMILs and YMILs and felt a sharp stab of regret at not having registered for the race. The look of focus on his face was identical to this little girl’s. “Oh no you ain’t getting away this time, Peter!” Priceless! 🙂
“Maybe there is some hope for us after all…” I thought with a chuckle.
I leaned my bike against the Nandi arch, wiping sweat off my sunglasses and reaching for the banana in my pocket. It never gets easier, and I did not seem to be getting much faster either. However, the climb through the thick cloud cover over the last three kilometers had been something else!
“They would probably be past the U-turn by now.”
I regretted my decision the instant I hit Nandi 2 for the second time, but I was deliciously warm and sweaty again.
“Definitely better than freezing to death! “
I could hear a car coming up from behind.
Whoever was leading the race had to be on the climb right now! Anxious not to get in the way, I slowed down and veered to the side of the road.Sure enough, five minutes later, a scrawny and bespectacled boy from the Giant sponsored team from Chennai effortlessly danced past me. He would go on to win the race in the amateur category by over two minutes.
“Now where has Phani gotten himself to?”
There he was, with a minuscule U-18 fighting hard to hold on to his wheel. One look at his face, and I knew the whole story.
“Now THAT’S what I call a mask of pain.”
Need I say more?
He would shake the U-18 off his tail at the last corner to take his third podium finish of the season, at second place behind the twig-man from Chennai. Well done, mate!
All of this, the blood, the sweat and the agony, the gritted teeth, the contorted faces, the fights through the red haze of pain, THE RULES, and above all the community of determined badasses- all embody the things that are amazing about racing a bike. Oh, and the outdoors, too! I mean, how can you not want to ride with the knowledge that you could be exploring places that look like this?
Or even begin to appreciate Froomey putting the hammer down if you don’t ride yourself?
And last but not least, Kapil saar, you’re my main man! Thanks for the lift!! 🙂
P.S. The three best things about riding a bike, in my personal opinion-
1. Casually lifting the sleeves of my T-shirt and marvelling at how quickly people’s eyes grow to the size of dinner plates on seeing my tan lines. It’s ten times funnier when done at home.
2. The recovery drink (Fruit juice! Fruit juice!).
3. The license to shave my legs with impunity (Cold water running over bare skin= Heaven. You should try it.).