I read in a delightful book a few days ago about how particles of inspiration continuously zip through the universe; and how, by some quirk of statistics, they make contact with susceptible minds. The results? Revelations in the murk of half-sleep about the benzene molecule being a carbonaceous hexagon; or the X-ray plate revealing the truth about a double helix; or the realisation that there exists an all-pervading force of attraction between any two bodies possessing mass (The legend goes that this particular particle was rather red, and rather tangible.). Things like that. Pretty important, I’d say.

Most are never hit- the book says- while a blessed few are hit once or twice in their lifetimes (And they go on to propound theories that change the world.). But the most unfortunate are those weird particle-magnets who, by some statistical bias, seem to get them all. Like me. When the first one hits, I work out an ingenious method to overcome the problem I was wrestling with. Then the second one hits and my mind, true to its impish nature, begins exploring the ways in which the subject of my project could be turned into a bomb. I work that out and am immediately hit by what could only be called a hailstorm of particles, and the resultant cerebral riot forces me to turn to my blog. Forgive me, netizens, polluting the internet allows me to preserve my sanity. But oh boy, a single particle can cause enough havoc sometimes.

“Looking happy today, Shaunak.”


A rather reckless particle of inspiration had chosen that very moment to dive out of the ionosphere and straight into the right hemisphere of my brain, and was now happily splashing around trying to drown the other, more important, things- like the ITT I was about to start on in a few seconds, and the worries about whether my injured knee would start creaking again- with alliterated nicknames for Craig. (Sorry, mate. I’m ready to die on the next ride.)

“Rocket Raynes?”, the particle ventured.

” Sounds too much like Rocket Raccoon. Get the hell out of my head.”

“One. Two. Three. Go!”

“Who, me? Dammit!”

I pushed off, somehow managed to scrabble on to the saddle without any incidents, and fumbled the clip-in.

“Double dammit.”

I glanced down and realised that I had not started the GPS.

“Triple dammit!”

Gawd I despised untimely hits!

“Ripper Raynes?” the particle insisted.

“Oh, shut up.” I focused on Raghu, who had started before me and was now hammering away tucked in the TT position, about 300 metres ahead. I did not have TT bars, and wondered if I had enough power left after the injury to catch up with him.

“Craig the comet?”

“Stop trying.” I impatiently batted the particle away and focused on my cadence. It buzzed away to a corner of my mind and gave what it obviously thought was a menacing growl. If only it weren’t in falsetto…

My legs were definitely weaker, but my heart was still just as strong. I decided to keep spinning at over 100 rpm and transfer the load to my aerobic engine, and prayed that the result would be the same.

I passed Kartikeya and was almost on to Raghu when Craig zipped past.


“Crusher Craig?” My nemesis was back. And it had a point.

“Yup, definitely. Well done.” I patted the particle. It purred, tried to take an affectionate bite out of my mental hand and melted away.

I heaved a sigh of relief and glanced at my GPS. 9.6 km, 165 BPM and 36 kmph. My knee seemed good. What if I went full-power now?

“Might as well. God mode: Engage.”

Finish line

I slumped back on the saddle and took another look at my data. 24.5 km, 175 BPM, 38.17 kmph and 97 rpm. And my knee didn’t hurt!

Yep. I was happy. Definitely.

BAR crit: Posterior view

I’m not a sprinter. Gosh… I haven’t the faintest notion what on earth I am. I’m too fat to fly up hills, too slow in time trials, and by the time I’ve found the right gear for sprinting, my rivals are already waving like windmills from the podium. Boy, does it get frustrating at times! Well, I certainly am a sucker for punishment, because when I saw the notification about the BAR criterium on the 26th of June , the only thought that crossed my mind was,

“Why the hell not?”

An open category race- on a course with corners tight as a jar lid and headwinds that make you feel like you’re forcing your way through congealed silicone oil- against all the speed-fiends from the darkest depths of Bangalore, eager to dole out unlimited servings of pain… sure, why the hell not?

Laps 1-6

What had I gotten myself into?!!

My heart was bursting, my legs were screaming, my bike refused to respond to sprint efforts, I was on a constant and futile lookout for the draft… I was so out of my depth here!

“Why in the whole wide world did I give those wheels back??!”

Another corner, another speed bump, another surge like the Devil himself were after us, and I was spat out the back like a gob of chewing gum.

“Ach! Great!”

It was carnage. The field was being torn apart by the big guns up at the front. Another half lap, and the breakaway was clear.

“Dang! When would I have an engine like that?”

I began my examination of the debris.

Lap 7


Awesome! My race wasn’t over yet.

Lap 8

“My turn!”, I yelled at Mohan as we cornered into the windy downhill stretch. I had had to sit back for one full lap to recover from trying to chase the break on my own.

“Better start our team time trial now!”

Laps 8-16

The group gathered at the start point seemed to be growing larger with each lap. The break seemed perpetually to be one curve ahead. I kept slipping in and out of a daze, only dimly aware of my surroundings and the sizzle in my legs. It felt weird. Was I chasing? Or was I being chased? I stole a look at the clock on my Garmin. 38 minutes.

‘Just a little longer…”

Lap 17

“It’s over!”, Venky’s shout barely cut through the cobwebs in my head.

“Good one!”, Mohan said as we rolled to a halt and shook hands. Relief washed over me. We’d escaped being lapped.



This was the first criterium I have ever ridden, and it was certainly one for the memory banks! I need to develop a king-size engine to keep up with the big guns, but next time, whatever happens- I puke, I die, I fly off the road into a bush- I’m not riding amateur . “Elite rider” has a nice ring to it. Hmm…

I was a little incredulous when I received a few pats on the back and was told I had put out a good ride. Now that’s not something I get to hear often. 🙂

Oh, did I mention it was Mallick and Duggal’s last race in Bangalore for some time to come? The crit, and the yummy lunch at our favourite local bike shop afterwards was the best way we could have told them to get lost, I guess.


What a day!!


Here’s my ride data on Strava, and now that it’s out of my system, it’s time to go into blogging hibernation again. I got a bleddy PhD to finish!

A thousand deaths

I am a simple man. I see a good road bike, I drool. So when I saw the notification about the BAR 20 km Individual Time Trial (No team support, no protection from the wind, it’s only you against the clock.) on the Manchanabele Machas facebook page (out of the friggin’ blue, as usual.), there was no dilly-dallying the decision. Even the elevation profile of the course was not going to keep me away from the race.

March 13, 7:10 a.m. Distance: 0 km, Average speed: 0 kmph

 I took my position behind Demon Duggal, fighting a nervous breakdown at the sight of the veins bulging out of his ginormous calves, and consoling myself that at least I didn’t have a pink ball with a smiley face dangling from my saddle. He said something about it being a lucky charm from someone (Presumably his girlfriend. I’m the only loser around here, apparently.), or something to that effect. My apologies to the dude, but it looked seriously funny.

7:12 a.m. Distance: 0.5 km, Average speed: 40 kmph

I pushed off into the block headwind rolling over the grey expanse of the road, still chuckling at the memory of Duggal’s lucky charm and at Akshat’s plan to pace himself using me as a reference.

“Bad choice, mate!”

I had the most elementary of plans- get on the bike, watch the distance and hammer till I puke. Shrewd pacing strategies are simply a waste on someone with my weekly training volume.

7:20 a.m. Distance: 6.2 km, Average speed: 36.5 kmph

“What the…!!”

I watched with desperation bordering on panic as Ronny slowly went past, apparently without breaking a sweat. I bit down on my tongue (hard!) and started clawing my way back to him, but my heart rate was telling me I could not sustain this power for more than five more minutes. That left me with two choices- maintain a constant gap with Ronny without drafting him (I was not going to cheat!) and blow up within the next ten minutes, or slither back down to my threshold power level and finish the race. It stank. All of it.

“MAN I got to get stronger!” (But there’s no time to train! *sighs*)

Only consolation (read excuse): the guy’s Belgian!

                                                       Meme credit: Manchanabele Machas

7:27 a.m. Distance: 9.1 km, Average speed: 33.4 kmph


7:28 a.m. Distance: 10 km, Average speed: 33.2 kmph

“Oiii speed up speed up!” I heard, or rather I thought I heard Akshat yell as he crossed me at the U-turn. It was time.

“God Mode: Engage!”

(My personal God Mode does not give me super-strength, but brings my situational awareness down to only the bare minimum required not to smash into anything or fly off the road. The results are a blank mind and almost zero pain. It usually requires a reference point to focus on to, and lasts for about an hour in a TT effort. There are other names for it like digging deep and HTFU, but I think God Mode sounds a lot cooler.)

The return leg was a blur, thanks to God Mode. I vaguely remember zipping past some other racers; drawing level with a mini-truck and leaving it behind, sprinting whenever my God Mode nexus (Akshat’s back) threatened to build up a gap greater than a hundred meters, and WHOA! I was at the finish line!

“What? Already?”

I got the shock of my life while comparing Ronny’s ride data with my own. The bugger clocked an average speed of 39.7 kmph at an average heart rate of 150 bpm; while I died a thousand deaths, heart rate hovering around 177 bpm, to crawl through the 20 km course at 35.3 kmph. Heck, where do I stand in terms of fitness?

Nevertheless, my last season of racing in Bangalore has been a lot of fun so far, and here’s a picture of me in God Mode at the finish line. Heh! Uncool as always. This is starting to get tragic.