Ah, the reasons to get up at 4 AM are few and far between, but one consistent reason is to go biking. This time it was to take part as one of thousands for the Tour de Delhi Cyclothon 2010.
Despite suffering from a horrible spat of flat tires this past week, my 12 km ride up to Vasant Kunj found me warmed up rather than irritated. There, Deva kindly took the Masi and I into Delhi to meet up with the South Delhi cycling group.
The cyclothon, like other mass rides I’ve partaken in was decently organized. Even at 6 AM, many roads into central Delhi had been closed and soldiers kept unworthy cars off the race feeder streets.
As we made it into the holding area, I still hadn’t gotten my swag bag or more importantly, my bib number. Thankfully, Arif of Track & Trail in Lajpat Nagar was able to quickly fix me up.
While waiting, I couldn’t control my enthusiasm, so I put many locals and expats under the pressure of “Hi, I’m Michael and you are?”
Thank you to everyone who kindly and patiently took time to talk with me today. It’s great to have meet so many people that are excited about biking becoming a larger part of their life, culture and society.
Despite the feel of a long wait and questions about how riders were staged, we were released to start riding on time. I thought.
Actually, seems the starting line was about 400 meters away. So as the young Delhi Riders took off and I avoided the left overs, we suddenly were coming to a halt at the real starting line.
Finally, at 8 AM, we were off. At 8:00:38 I was wondering if I’m going to survive so many pepped up locals as they weaved and wondered every which way. Interestingly, after a few close calls, it seems that the folks realized they could get hurt out here and therefore quickly settled down.
As I’m used to folks just blasting out the starting line and dying within a kilometer or two, I held myself to 35 kph. By kilometer 2, my pace was picking up a tad and I had chased down one rider after another.
In hitting the little rise before Presidents Estate, only two small packs of Delhi Riders and 2 pro-amateur expats were ahead of me. Despite the barely noticeable grade, one pack slowed down and was passed.
In coming down the hill, I gained on the remaining Delhi Rider pack, but decided to settle down and pace them until we were further in.
The course in the beginning was supposed to be a 25 km loop. At some point, it became 12.5 km. In the past few days, it was built out at 9 km, twice. By not knowing this till actually riding the course, my timing and feeling for placement was a bit hazy except for being like the greyhound, chase the rabbit.
As we double-backed and went a little past the starting line, imagine my surprise when a couple of the Delhi Riders suddenly cut across the road and into the corporate riders return lane.
Sadly, my rabbits were now out of the ride.
Vikram Yosef, a middle-aged gent, riding a nice black with red trim Trek Madone 4.5 liked my draft. So much so, he stuck on my tail for next 6-8 kilometers.
Poor Vikram Yosef, just after we chatted a bit, I dropped him as we headed up the Presidents Estate grade again.
Sadly for me, just before I lost Vikram Yosef, a new rabbit blew past me on a slick Bianchi road bike. That rabbit later turned out to be Roopak of Noida.
While my pace was still above 32 kph for the second lap, I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to catch the expats and Roopak. As such, I buckled down and concentrated on safely passing corporate group riders.
In coming down to the finish line, the road that had been open earlier was now blocked off and traffic directed to the left. As I went hard charging into the left turn, I suddenly braked hard to avoid gaggles of standing around cyclists.
After passing through the gaggles, I found the 3 rabbits and worked my ”Hi, I’m Michael and you are?” routine. Turns out that Luca, Italy and Liam, Ireland are part of a Delhi roadie group that knocks out 60 to 90 kilometer rides on the weekends.
Eventually, the South Delhi cycling group got back together and we rode off for a post ride breakfast. For the second Sunday in a row, I could found at Saravanah Bhavan in Connaught Place. This time, I had a very delicious and wouldn’t have minded a second, coconut rava masala dosai. For 80 rupees, it’s a pretty decent way to recover.
Outside the ride, I had many people coming up to me and saying “Hi Michael, I’m ______ and it’s great to finally meet you”. It seems that my online following is larger than I thought.
For the rest of you office guys wondering how to get rid of your Delhi belly, I’m sure one of us would be happy to help get you into cycling.
8/29/2010 – Rupert to Roopak
8/30/2010 – Gurgaon cycling group to Noida cycling group
9/11/2010 – Yosef to Vikram