I grew up in a house full of cats. Seventeen of them, to be exact… tabbies, calicos, gingers, whites, each with their different temperament and personality. They had one thing in common, though- dip the tips of their tails in a small amount of tape-cleaning fluid (Acetone. Perfectly harmless.), and they’d zip off like the road-runner in that lovely cartoon show. All of them. Without fail. I think one or two of them might have even broken the sound barrier. I’ve done some truly evil chemistry as a child.
Funnily enough, this was the memory that kept running through my head as I hammered away on that cloudy morning, gasping like a fish taken freshly out of water. I was in the hardest race I’d done yet, KKR and Murali had attacked, and I was required to break the sound barrier myself to escape getting lapped.
“What goes around, comes around.”, I thought wryly.
9:40 a.m., July 17, 2016.
I felt a chill slither down my spine as I rolled up to the start line.
I’ve always had some serious misgivings about my capabilities as a cyclist. I’m not good at certain aspects of riding, as my more physically endowed friends at IISc never fail to remind me. But I had somehow, unbelievably, done OK at the BAR criterium last month (race report here.), and since none of the boys was racing amateur anymore, it seemed only right that I should move up as well.
So here I was, sitting among the big boys in the elite category, wondering what I was doing here and desperately playing the”Aal-eez-well” mantra over and over in my head. I had three plans of action for the race:
Plan A: Survive
Plan B: Survive
Plan C: Survive
The whole group had designs on Vinesh’s wheel, much to his consternation (Vinesh, if you’re reading this, who asked you to grow so big, you muppet?). The agreement was to race our individual races, but if the Trivandrum guys went on the attack, we were going to work together and reel them in.
9:45 a.m.-10:15 a.m.
I was among monsters. It was the BAR crit all over again, only a mutated and jacked-up version of it. I was sucking in air like a giant vacuum cleaner, my legs seemed to be tearing themselves apart, but it just wasn’t enough! One moment I had the draft, and the very next moment I was frantically groping for it. It was like being stuck on the ends of a spring:
God that hurt!!
10:15 a.m.-10:35 a.m.
Half of the field had been decimated. Phani seemed to be really suffering, somehow, and had dropped out soon after winning the opening prime. Nikhil had vanished, one of the Trivandrum riders had crashed, another had shot off a corner, KKR and Murali had attacked on a bend and had not been caught, Vinesh had opened up a small gap from the main bunch and seemed set on time-trialing away… chaos reigned. And surprisingly, even after all the beating I had taken at the beginning, I felt good. In fact, I’d never felt better. I cast a look around. Only Anantha Viswanathan and Vivek Bhateja left.
“Looks like another team time trial.” I thought with a dry chuckle.
“LAST LAP!!”, the shout cut through my TT-daze like the crack of a whip. I rolled up to Vivek.
He reached out, panting, and gave me a pat on the back.
I’d escaped being lapped. Again.
Quite a few people said I’d put out a good ride, even going to the length of using words like “brilliant” and “awesome” in their kindness. As always, I’d take their compliments with a pinch of salt, but they made my day despite the cramps shooting lances of pain through my legs. Mr. M’s wheels definitely helped a lot. Maaaybe I ought to give myself more credit, but the doubt remains…
I need to teach myself how to corner better and how to anticipate the correct gear ratio for the sprints that follow. But I’m hopeful that would come with experience.
Here’s my ride data on strava if you’re interested.
As a post-script, I’m seriously considering repeating my childhood chemistry experiment on a nameless kitten in a certain bike shop. The fool meows at me piteously asking to be petted, and the moment I succumb to her considerable charms, she tries to take my arm off. Every bloody time. I even have scars to prove it.
Anyway, it’s time to build powah for the TTT, and for some more blogging hibernation. Until next time, then.