Motivation Comments Off on A Cyclist raring to go |

A Cyclist raring to go

Deepthi Velkur talks to an athlete par excellence, Samira Abraham, the national road racing and triathlon champion.

A National Road racing champion, National TT champion, National Triathlon champion, South Asian Triathlon champion and countless club level accolades have not stopped Samira Abraham from yearning for more.

Her goal – develop into a world-class cyclist and race at the international elite level.

FM: For someone who always had a keen interest in sports from a very young age, what was the trigger that made you take up cycling?

Samira: I went to see a BBCH race with a friend in 2016. I wasn’t aware of the racing and cycling community in Bangalore before that. I’m that person who likes to race and not to be on the sidelines and that’s exactly what I did, I raced the next one which was a BBCH criterium. It’s been more racing since then. Two months after I started riding was my first road cycling Nationals which was a valuable experience.

FM: Just 2 years into cycling, you’ve managed to secure two gold medals (Time Trial and mass start) at the 2018 National Road cycling championships. How did you manage that?

Samira: It’s God’s grace. It’s His strength in my weakness. I just did my part of putting to full use what he blessed me with. I absolutely enjoy putting in the work and developing as an athlete. We are all blessed uniquely, and we just have to receive it.

The Double Gold for the TT and road race are really special – I was injured for the large part of 2018 and that was tough. My coach and I focused on working with the situation and getting quality work in. I allowed God to work in my life instead of clutching on to the steering wheel. not fighting it and giving it everything I had.

It turned out way better than I imagined. So, when things don’t go according to your plan, they may end up working out even better, if you allow it.

FM: Do you take assistance from a coach to train yourself? Take us through of how your training week looks like?

Samira: I work with a coach and training is specific to the goals. We work really well together. Excellent communication and trust are crucial.

While I was training for a triathlon, it would be a mix of a swim, bike, run and strength sessions through the week, usually 2-3 sessions in a day. My typical training day went like this:

  • Swim from 5-7 am
  • Bike/run/brick session from 10-12 pm
  • Strength/bike/run from 4-5/6pm

I didn’t have an off day, instead, it would be an active recovery session of swim/ bike/ run. Weekends would have one or two longer sessions a day. The early morning training didn’t suit me at all. Given the training conditions and since I was caught up in getting the work done, it took me a year and a half to say hey, I can’t do this schedule and that my body needed more sleep and changing the sleep cycle is not working. With any kind of training, and even more so when it’s remote coaching, it’s very important to listen to your body. Your coach doesn’t know how your body feels.

I’ve been off the bike for over two months due to an injury which is not yet diagnosed, so currently, my training is to stay positive, be patient, work on mobility and strength. Once I’m healthy and back on my bike, we will revise the race calendar.

FM: What does it take for someone to be as good at the sport so early on?

Samira: A solid foundation, patience, consistency and to enjoy the sport is really important. I’m a strong believer that when you are a kid you should play different sport and not specialize in one too early.

Being in an environment which is conducive to training, regular races, like-minded athletes and people who genuinely want the standard of the sport to improve contribute to developing as an athlete.

In my case, I’ve been training since I was 8 years old, in various sport, so the base has always been there. Track & field and swimming were the constants.

Bangalore has a great cycling community which has helped in my development as a cyclist.

FM: You’ve not only made your mark in cycling but Triathlons too. What piqued your interest in this extreme sport?

Samira: Getting into a human washing machine in open water and try to not get a black eye, jump onto your bike and put down the hammer and run your heart out. What’s not to like in that? :)))

The sport looked interesting and the first race was more of let’s try something new. I love to race, so after the first triathlon, I wanted to race at the National Level and go on from there. I was working towards the 2018 Asian Games since I started the sport. I did get selected but then our team got cancelled.

FM: You prefer doing the Olympic distance (1.5 km swim, 40 km cycling and 10 km run) over any other distance? Why?

Samira: Long course triathlon never appealed to me. I like the speed, intensity and racing format of short course triathlon.

FM: How do you plan and train for both cycling as well as triathlon events?

Samira: I plan my training for the year based on my main races. I was doing both sports till mid-2018. It did take a toll on my body racing both especially since we didn’t have fixed dates for Triathlon National level races. The bike has always been my favourite and in the period of 2 years, it became clear to me that what I love is cycling and I moved purely to cycling.

FM: You went on to win a gold in the women’s category at the Senior National Triathlon Championship at Vizag in March 2018? Take us through your experience of the event?

Samira: It was my first Triathlon National Championship. I was well trained and ready to race. It was a 1.5 km pool swim so there were three to a lane in the pool and the 40 km bike and 10 km run were in a 2.5 km loop. I didn’t have a good swim and was a bit behind but I made up the difference on the bike, for the run, I cramped badly in the beginning. It was just about staying calm and positive and I brought it home on the run.  It felt awesome to win and winning it qualified me to race at the South Asian Championship.

FM: A month later, you were selected to represent India at the ASTC South Asian Triathlon championship? How was it like to participate in your first international event?

Samira: It was awesome! It’s been a childhood dream to represent India and it was so good to win it. It took place in Pokhara, Nepal. We had a lake swim and the bike and run was in a circuit through the town.  I love that as I get to experience new places through the sport.

FM: With the level of physical and mental toughness needed, how do you train yourself to stay strong during the race?

Samira: I’ve never thought of it as a separate element. It’s part of the training for the race. I like training with intent. Every session has a purpose. During the race, keywords help me to remain focused. For triathlon, as there are a lot of changeovers in a race, I run through the race a few times in my head. I really enjoy racing and love pushing myself to the max so it comes naturally.

FM: What role has your family played in achieving what you have today?

Samira: Everything. I’m blessed to have a supportive family. They back me 100 %. My siblings are my biggest fans and likewise. My parents are amazing people with a strong work ethic, combined with always making time for family. My mum has a full-time job but she comes for my main races and is part of my team. My little girl Zoe (her dog) lives with them now since I travel often. Being away from her is the most difficult thing for me, so it’s a blessing that she is well taken care of.

FM: Do you see major challenges/roadblocks of being a professional cyclist and a triathlete in India?

Samira: Yes, there are challenges, especially when it’s an outdoor endurance sport and it’s relatively new. Sometimes it can get overwhelming. I like viewing them as opportunities. It helps to seek out people who have done similar things. A good support system is vital too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Nutrition Comments Off on Fuel your Ride |

Fuel your Ride

Guest Columnist Bikey Venky talks about how you can fuel up so that you have a better ride with better nutrition and hydration.

“Nutrition is a valuable component that can help athletes both protect themselves and improve performance” – Bill Toomey (former Olympic decathlon champion).

The two most important aspects that have an impact on any of your rides are – how you train and how you fuel your ride. While many understand the importance of proper training with gradual buildup of efforts, periodization etc., not many understand the importance of properly fueling their rides.

Fueling for a ride includes both hydration and nutrition. Hydration and nutrition have a big say in the quality of your training or just any riding for that matter. They determine how well you are able to train, recover, or just how you are able to enjoy your ride.

Typically, you would end up burning about 300-600 calories per hour of cycling depending on your body weight, metabolic rate, intensity etc., but we don’t need to replenish all the calories that we burn. At any given point, we have glycogen reserves worth 1200-2000 calories in our bodies. Hence, it is recommended that we refuel our body of about 15-25% of the calories expended per hour. That would mean 90-150 calories per hour assuming you end up burning 600 calories per hour. This roughly translates to about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour and these carbs can be taken in the form of natural sources like bananas, nuts and dates etc., or energy bars made out of slow release items like sources of carbs like oats and dates etc. While this can be your nutrition during the ride, you might have to load up before the ride if you are attempting a long endurance effort.

When you are going for a ride longer than 2-3 hours, it is advisable to have breakfast before you start your ride. The breakfast should ideally be slow absorbing carbs like oats porridge or a bowl of fresh fruits and nuts. This can be 1-3 hours before your ride start time. Once on the ride, you can supply more fuel at regular intervals (every 15-30mins) in form of your favourite energy bars, peanut bars or bananas. This will ensure that there is a constant source of energy to your body and the energy levels never dip. With the right levels of energy, you are more likely to give your best on the ride and enjoy it more.

For intense efforts like races, a quicker absorbing energy source from gels might come in handy.

During the rides, we not only burn calories but also lose a lot of body fluids and electrolyte balance in the body which can be distorted. The resultant dehydration leads to diminishing performance in riders. To keep the performance levels up, we need to restore the electrolyte balance in the body by adding electrolytes to our hydration bottles and drink regularly on the ride. The rate of hydration depends on person to person and the ride conditions. But, in general, about 600-1000ml of hydration drink per hour is suggested.

It is a good idea to make it a habit to drink water in small quantities at regular intervals like every 15-20 mins. Depending on the intensity of the ride, one can use one or two hydration tabs in a 600ml bottle and look to consume one bottle per hour. Something like the Fast & Up reload hydration tabs have all the necessary electrolytes. There are some riders who prefer more natural sources like common salt, lime, and sugar. Whatever is your source, it is important that the body’s electrolyte balance is restored for the body to recover and get stronger.

In summary:

  • Hydration: About 600ml per hour with electrolytes. Electrolyte sources: Fast & Up Reload tabs, Common Salt & lime with or without sugar/honey.
  • Nutrition: 30-60gms of carbohydrates per hour. Sources: Bananas, Peanut bars, Dates & Nuts, Energy bars, Energy gels etc.
  • Post ride: After a hard ride, having a combination of carbs and protein (in approximately 4:1 ratio) for easy recovery. It can be normal food that you take or milkshakes with fruits like bananas etc.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

Bikey VenkyVenky, more commonly known as BikeyVenky in the cycling community, has been riding for more than 10 years. He loves giving back to the community that helped him become a healthy individual in whatever way he can including help organizing rides, races and mentoring young and old riders alike via BVCoaching.in

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Gear Comments Off on The world of Power Meters-Favero Assioma Duo |

The world of Power Meters-Favero Assioma Duo

Deepthi Velkur reviews a power meter that can become your best friend when you are an ardent cyclist.

In the world of cycling, data is your best friend. The more you know about how you are performing, the more accurate and impactful your performance improvement will be.

One of the more popular changes in cyclists’ training over the past few years is measuring your power output.  To be able to do that, you would require a power meter. This brings us to a series of questions: What is a power meter? How does it work? What are the benefits of using one? The different models out there?

In this article, we will cover the basics you need to know, as well as our take on a very popular pedal-based power meter model in the market.

What is a Power Meter?

It’s an electronic device used to measure the power (or torque) that you generate when you turn the pedals. Measured in watts, it is a precise way for you to gauge your effort on a cycle. The data from the power meter is then relayed real-time to the handlebar mounted computer displaying multiple variables that measure performance. You can put power on virtually on any type of cycle – road, track, mountain.

Different types of power meters

There are multiple types available depending on where the power meter is located on your cycle. For example, there is a crank-based power meter, where the power sensors and electronics are built into the crank. Alternatively, there is a pedal-based power meter where the sensors and electronics are located in the pedals.

The Benefits of a Power Meter

  • It helps you structure your training better
  • You can track your fitness more accurately
  • You remove guesswork from the equation
  • The accurate performance data you get show how you have improved and that is very motivating

We have various models of power meters available in the market today such as the Stages, Powertap P1, Power2max, Garmin Vector 3, Favero Assioma Duo, etc. I’ve chosen one of the most popular power meters – Favero Assioma DUO.

The Favero Assioma Duo is a pedal-based power meter designed on the Look cleat system and are quite compatible with the original Look Kleo cleats. It measures power in the pedal body and places its electronics in pods that are mounted on the pedal spindles. These pedals are built better than their previous model, the BePro units which makes the installation on any bike and swapping between bikes, an absolute cinch. Just using a regular 8mm hex wrench along with elbow grease is all you need for installation. This apart, they have added in a companion app and Bluetooth Smart support system.

Features

The Favero Assioma DUO offers all of the benefits of a power meter pedal –

  • Dual-sided power output(watts)
  • Easy to setup and transferable to any bike in seconds
  • Super lightweight (149g per pedal),
  • Start and Stop technology which automatically switches the pedals off when not in use to save power
  • 54mm Q factor
  • Completely waterproof
  • Great compatibility
  • Uses the IAV (Instantaneous Angular Velocity) technology thus making it more accurate (+/- 1.0% accuracy).

Data.. Data.. Data..

The Assoima pedals gathers a lot of data which include: cadence, power output (dual sided), left-right balance (0-100%), smoothness of the pedal and torque effectiveness. The pedals are compatible with majority of head units from GPs computers to multisport watches which can be connected via Bluetooth and are excellent in connecting and transmitting real time data. It’s advisable to do regular updates via the Assioma app which essentially serves as an interface to do updates and check pedal battery life.

Reliability

While riding the Assioma pedals is no different when compared to any other pedal when it comes to adjusting the tension and the included cleats offer 6° of float. They also offer black cleats with no float. Although the Look Keo cleats offers  4.5° and 9° on top of what Favero has which are quite compatible.

Battery Life

Apart from being supremely easy to install not requiring any complex tools at all, the Assioma DUO is powered by a rechargeable battery built into the pods themselves ensuring 50 hours of battery time. A warning light shows up 8hrs before when the pedals need charging and can be charged simultaneously with a magnetic USB charger.

Price

The Favero Assioma Duo(double-sided) are priced at INR 102,577(sale-price) on www.amazon.in (retails for about $670).

The many available features and their attractive price makes them one of the best value deals among power meters out there in the market.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured Comments Off on Raja Partha – The Deca Super Randonneur |

Raja Partha – The Deca Super Randonneur

In a candid tete-a-tete, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan catches up with India’s first and only bike enthusiast to have completed ten Super Randonneurs in one year.

A young engineer from Chennai discovered a passion for cycling after probably not having ridden after his early school days. An air conditioning engineer, who has worked with multinationals in a highly technical sphere in the field, is now an entrepreneur in his own right and has made sacrifices in business and family life in pursuit of his dreams.

FM: So what exactly constitutes a Super Randonneur (SR)?

RP: An SR is a cycling event in which you cover distances of 200, 300, 400 & 600 km in one year. The qualifying timings are 13.5, 20, 27 & 40 hours for each of the distances. The event is conducted by AUDAX, a UK based entity, that franchises it across the world. The annual calendar is from November to October of the following year.

FM: And you did 10 SRs in one year?

RP: (slow smile)… Yes.

FM: Wow! That is a whopping 16,000 km of cycling in one year. More than what a well-used car does in the same period! So what makes your engine run?

RP: (Laughs). Just a need for self-recognition, a sense of personal achievement, nothing based on medals or awards.

FM: So how did it all start?

RP: It started in June 2017, when I decided to accompany a lady friend on a 5 km cycling trip. By the end of the 4th km, I was exhausted and couldn’t go any further, I just gave up. This preyed on my mind so strongly that I wanted to push myself to bigger things. In August, I started out with two friends to do a 100 km trip to Mahabalipuram (56 km from Chennai) and back. The return part was pure hell. I had to keep stopping every now and then. At the end of it, my motivation became stronger and on September 3, I ventured out on ‘Dhatri’, a 100 km ride for a charitable cause. I was doomed to fail again, and quit at Kovalam, after about 65 km or so. This was the final straw and I promised myself that I would stretch my endurance to the limit to complete the distance.

FM: And when did you taste your first success?

RP: I came to know of the Super Randonneur through an organisation called BRM. In November 2017, I finished my first 100 km and the next month I managed 200 km. I also heard of this ace cyclist from Pune who had done a record 8 SRs in a single year, and I decided then and there that I had to break his feat. I even put out messages on social media that I planned to cross 8 SRs in 2018.

FM: That you achieved this stupendous feat is now part of the record books. But how did you actually do it?

RP: In January 2018, I joined the Noida Club team and completed one Super Randonneur in 6 days. This was some kind of world record. I did the event in reverse order, working down from 600 km to 200 km. Between January and October 2018, spread over 45 weeks, I traversed the length and breadth of India, covering 17 cities, in pursuit of my objective. Finally, on October 28, my dream came true. I completed my 10th SR within one year.

FM: What were the highlights of all this cycling across the country? The good and the bad?

RP: The best part was the people, their spontaneous hospitality, help and support. I made several good friends across the country. The organisers were very helpful with travel, accommodation and logistics. A fellow biking enthusiast, Saju Thangappan, was a pillar of strength and support. The elements could be both kind and extremely harsh. I encountered all seasons… rode through heat, dust, cold, wind and rain.

A major setback was on March 17, 2018, when I met with an accident in Bengaluru. I was laid low for one month and at times I felt that I would not be able to recover in time or to regain fitness to complete what I had set out to achieve. By mid-April, the scar on my thigh began to spread all over my leg and sometimes would even ooze liquid. There was a permanent wound for almost seven months. But I decided that this injury would not make me stop. Two doctors, one an injury specialist and the other a dermatologist, helped me immensely in my recovery, with the least amount of medication. To make matters worse, the planning went awry. Even a single missed weekend necessitated careful re-planning of the entire schedule.

(Smiles wryly). But in the end, it all panned out successfully.

FM: What kind of bike and accessories did you use?

RP: I started out with a Firefox MTB but later switched to a Ridley Road bike. I quite liked both, but found the Ridley more suited to my style and my event. As for gear, I never had any specific or special kit. I monitored my schedule on my smartphone and used very basic accessories, more from the safety and comfort point of view than anything else. In fact, I wore sandals most of the time. Many people harbour the misconception that cycling is a costly sport; I beg to disagree. What it needs is just a lot of confidence and self-belief. While accessories are useful, I do not consider them essential for achievement.

FM: What kind of diet and training schedules did you maintain?

RP: Actually, I did not have any specific training calendar, nor did I stick to any kind of special diet. Yes, biking needs a strong core, and I concentrated on core exercises during the week and long- distance cycling on weekends. As for diet, I followed the simple, staple food habits of a typical South Indian. That’s all!

FM: How did you manage family and business commitments?

RP: My working wife and our 8-year-old daughter were not just understanding, but provided unstinted support and encouragement. Nothing could have been possible without this. My business partners were also extremely supportive and looked after all my duties while I was away.

FM: And what next? The Tour de France perhaps?

RP: (Laughs loud). No, certainly not the Tour de France; far from my list of favourites. I also love running and swimming, so a triathlon could very much be in the offing.

FM: One final question. What would your message be for today’s youth?

RP: It’s actually very simple. Do not run behind myths or chase rainbows. Give considerable thought about what you want to achieve and never forget basics. Try out your choices and when you have narrowed down on something, give it your best effort. Understand the difference between being ‘fit’ and being ‘healthy’. This also includes not being carried away by ‘diets’. Each individual has different body constitutions and one must try and understand that in training and in diet, just as in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Featured Comments Off on The experience of competing in the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge |

The experience of competing in the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge

Our Guest Columnist, Sagar Baheti talks about his experience of completing the Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge.

 

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This inspiring line from the former first lady of the United States certainly comes to mind every time I think of the ‘Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF)’.

The ABBF is a non-profit organization that promotes inclusivity through adaptive adventure and sports activities for all people (with and without disability).  They achieve this by creating opportunities for people to come together, experience the adrenaline and camaraderie that only sport has to offer.

The ABBF helped bring me and 7 other fantastic individuals come together so that we could have the privilege of competing in the ‘Deccan Cliffhanger Challenge’  this year and I would love to share my journey on this incredible adventure.

A precursor

The Deccan Cliffhanger challenge is a cycle ride that covers a distance of 643KMS between Pune and Goa and all of it to be done in under 30 hours – simple enough, isn’t it? Hardly, but the gorgeous scenery, verdant greenery, and picturesque locales more than make-up for the challenges this ride has to throw at you.

I was looking forward to the day of the race and also to share this journey with 7 other riders who came from Pune, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Four of us had vision disability (Divyanshu, Sanket, Manasvi, and Sagar) being stokers and four captains (Bharath, Nupur, Kailash and Raju).  Despite the lack of adequate practice, we were all super excited to take part in this ride.

Before the race

November 24, 2018. 04:45 AM

I (and the rest of us) stood giddy with excitement at the start point of the Deccan Cliffhanger ultra-cycling race. I was nervous beyond measure as it was my first tandem cycling event and it mattered a lot to me. But, the excitement of being part of a team trying to attempt such a stupendous task quickly overshadowed my nervousness. We were the only inclusive cycling team in the race and I did not want to let my team down.

Race strategy

Divyanshu and Bharat, the most experienced riders started and the goal was to maintain our speed at 25 kmph and we hoped to achieve this by making quick changeovers.
It was also my first experience of a relay race, which requires you to do your assigned part but also being mentally ready to back-up your team members if need be. The crew and support team play a significant role in making sure that we don’t lose time during changeovers and be alert to handle any unforeseen situations that may come up.

The trail and the terrain

This route can be divided into three parts, 

  1. The toughest of all – maximum elevation
  2. Mostly highway with rolling terrain and
  3. Downhill into Goa with a few small climbs.

The good thing about this course is that the most difficult piece is right up front and you can get done with it when you’re fresh. It is key to maintain a decent pace but also, we needed to be careful that we didn’t push too hard as it is a long race.

For the second part of the race, we had to focus on improving our average speed because this is mostly rolling terrain. However, there is a small challenge – it has to be at night! Your tired muscles aside, the chill of the night makes it really easy for you to fall asleep during the short breaks.

The final leg of the race is mostly downhill which is less demanding but after riding all night, staying on the bike is a challenge itself. As the sun comes out, it makes it even harder but you push on knowing that the endpoint is only a few hours away.

So, how did we do?

Our strategy worked pretty well throughout the race. In the first part, which is the toughest, Nupur and Sanket did especially well despite the steep hills and the sun beating down on them. It was extremely demanding on the legs and it left our bodies severely dehydrated. Divyanshu and Bharat kept the pace up as well and supported Nupur and Sanket. In the second half, Kailash, and Manasvi did a great job while Raju and I kept pushing on to improve our the average speed.

There were times at night when some pairs had to continue longer and we had to make changes in pairs to fill in for each other. Our tired legs and minds wanted to rest and sleep, but we backed each other, the crew motivated us and we also had a speaker held out by one of the crew members playing peppy tracks to keep our spirits high. We held on as a few rested so they could come back in the morning for the last part.

It took a near superhuman effort for us to get through the night part of the race but when we turned off the highway from Belgaum to Goa, there was a sudden burst of energy from us. It was almost like the rising sun had healed our tiring minds and bodies.

With the end point a few hours away, we really pushed on and despite being on track for an under-30 finish, we wanted to achieve our best possible timing. We made some quick changeovers and with each passing kilometre, we felt enthusiastic that we were going to achieve something awesome. We finished in 29hours and 38 mins with Nupur, Sanket, Kailash and our youngest rider Manasvi riding past like they were just getting started! Not a single rider or support crew looked like they had been up for the last 30 hours!

It was finally over and time to celebrate!

In closing

In ultra-cycling and relay racing, the crew and support play an important role. Vaishak, Swamy, Tanya, Nikunj, Sandip, Pavan, Jon and all the drivers who formed the crew and support played an equivalent role in helping us achieve this result. We didn’t have to bother about anything other than riding. Nutrition, bikes and our tempers were all managed perfectly.

I enjoyed every bit of it and was happy to play my part. Like any endurance event, it was mind over body and I think that’s why training your mind is as important if not more as physical training. Being part of a team in an endurance event was new to me and was a great experience.

Tandem cycling is very new in India and we have a long way to go. For many serious solo cyclists, tandem cycling still seems like leisure cycling. It requires coordination between two people and that’s probably more challenging in a race setting. ABBF has been and continues to do a great job in promoting inclusive tandem cycling. And with this achievement, it sure will be taken seriously by all other cycling organisations in India.


So, where do we go from here?

This timing helps our team qualify for the greatest amateur cycling event in the world – RAAM – Race across America. It is a 3000-mile race literally all across America!

Will we go for it? Something for us to ponder about?

GUEST COLUMNIST

Sagar Baheti, an amateur runner and cyclist from Bangalore runs a successful import and export stone business. In 2017, He was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to successfully complete the Boston marathon.

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Motivation Comments Off on Cycle with passion or not at all |

Cycle with passion or not at all

Mohan Subramanyam took these words to heart and over the past 8 years has really made long-distance endurance cycling his calling, discovers Deepthi Velkur.

It was in 2010 that Mohan, an IT professional took to cycling for recreation, later making it his office commute and finally graduating to long-distance endurance cycling about 6 years ago.

With his trusted Trek 3700 (2010) MTB by his side, Mohan has notched 65,000KMs to his name over the past 8 years. This includes six 1000KM and four 1200 KM rides in addition to completing the London – Edinburgh – London ride in 2017 (a distance of 1450KM). Apart from India, Mohan’s cycling journey has taken him to Spain, Australia, and Israel.

His passion for riding doesn’t seem to fade away just yet. He has an impressive list of rides that he wants to complete, noteworthy among them are the IPWR (Australia), TransAM (USA), Japan Odyssey (Japan), the TransAtlantic (Ireland) and the TransContinental (Europe). His biggest worry though – how is he going to make time for this given his work schedule?

Despite travelling the world on his bike, Mohan has a special place in his heart for the scenic and challenging terrains that India has to offer. His hope for the future would be for world-class cyclists to ride in India and create globally popular rides.

His passion for the sport, his trusted bike aside, Mohan has his wonderful wife, supportive friends and family to thank for encouraging and pushing him on this wonderful journey.

Mohan took some time off his crazy schedule to share his thoughts on his cycling life so far.

FM: How did your journey into cycling start and when did you know that you wanted cycling to be more than just a passing fad?

Mohan: My father played a big part in my life and a major influencer for me to pick up cycling. Growing up in the 80s, we only had a cycle at home, and he used to take me along to the movies all the way from Rajaji Nagar to MG road. I also remember cycling around the city over the weekends with my friends – such gorgeous memories that I will cherish forever.

It was in 2010 that I gifted myself a Trek 3700 MTB for my 40th birthday. The idea was that I commute to work and explore rural Bangalore over the weekends, but fate it seems had other ideas.

In 2012, on a whim, I registered for the shorter version of the TFN (a 2-day event in Ooty) and got to meet Sundar Rajan from Chennai who introduced me to Randonneuring (long-distance endurance cycling). My 1st long-distance race was a 200 KM BRM in Chennai and 6 years on, my passion for cycling is stronger than ever.

FM: What is it about long-distance cycling that fascinates you? 

Mohan: Well, I love travelling, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and what better way to do it than on a cycle. Apart from that, long-distance cycling has been very transformative for me, it has helped me move on from being an introvert to someone who is more open. The challenges you face during extreme situations in long-distance endurance cycling and how you overcome them by taking instant decisions or finding alternate solutions has helped me overcome the fear of failure and made me determined to achieve more.

FM: Which was your first long-distance ride? How did you feel pre-race, during the ride and post the race?

Mohan: My first long-distance ride was a 200KM Brevet in 2013 at Chennai and prior to that I did a test ride of 100KM in Bangalore to know if I was ready to take on the challenge. My friend Satish Krishnan and I planned to ride together. At the start line, I was a bundle of nerves but as we started cycling, we had a chance to interact with some experienced riders like Jaya Ramurthi, Sundar Sir from Chennai and Ashok Sir who boosted our confidence. Additionally, the other riders and organizers provided the extra support that helped us complete the ride within the allotted 13.5 hrs. It was my 1st 200Km BRM and it was difficult owing to the headwinds on the ECR, Chennai. At the finish line, it was a sense of joy, achievement and discovering a new self. Though the ride ended on a good note, my whole body was in pain the next day and I could not sit properly due to saddle soars.

FM: You take Randonneuring very seriously. What inspired you to move from regular long-distance cycling to something so extreme?

Mohan: I love Randonneuring since it takes me to new places, meeting different people, seeing the world from a different perspective, interacting with locals, tasting local food and also getting to know the harsh realities. It’s a wonderful world out there to be explored and it wouldn’t have been possible by just sitting in a room. I follow a lot of long-distance endurance cycling across the globe, the riders and the cycling community keeps inspiring to achieve more. Here you are racing against yourself to see how far you can go and I believe there is no end to it as long as you are disciplined and determined to achieve the set goals irrespective of the challenges you face along the path.

FM: How is the world of Randonneuring organized in Bangalore?

Mohan: Randonneuring is long-distance Endurance Cycling with rides of 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1000 km called Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRMs). Audax Club Parisien (ACP) is the international governing body for Randonneuring that administers and oversees the conduct of BRMs worldwide. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount.

Audax India Randonneurs (AIR) is the all-India organization of Randonneurs, which is recognized by Audax Club Parisien (ACP) for conducting and overseeing all Brevets de Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRMs) and Audax events in India. Bangalore Randonneurs is governed by Audax India Randonneurs and Brevets in Bangalore started in 2011 which was conducted by Bangalore Brevets. In the year 2015, it was taken up by Bangalore Randonneurs to conduct ACP authorized brevets.

FM: Do you conduct a lot of Brevets each year – can you give us a count and break-down, please?

Mohan: We do conduct long-distance endurance cycling called Brevets wherein a fixed distance needs to be completed in the allotted time 200Km (13.5hrs), 300Km (20 hrs), 400Km (27 hrs), 600km (40 hrs), 1000Km (75hrs) and 1200Km (90hrs).

We organize 1 or 2 rides over the weekend every month for all categories. The calendar year for Brevet starts from November 1st to October 31st of the next year. We also have a minimum of 3 Super Randonneurs series wherein a Super Randonneur is one who completes 200Km, 300km, 400km and 600km in a calendar year.

A list of all events across India can be found at https://www.audaxindia.org/events.php and specific to Bangalore can be found at https://www.audaxindia.org/bangalore-randonneurs-bangalore-c-9.

Bangalore has good challenging and scenic terrains to be explored. Last year we organized “Gates of Heaven” 1200KM ride which is a Signature ride and had over 50 participants across India. This ride takes riders on a roller coaster ride across the three southern states i.e. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, cutting through the exquisite countryside, climbing through the colossal hills of Yercaud, Nilgiris, Wayanad, Coorg, Sakleshpur, and Chikmagalur. These are some winding and deadly rolling terrain with an overall elevation gain of 13000+ meters.

FM: What are the challenges you face when organizing such events?

Mohan: It’s easier to organize smaller events of 200km,300km or 400km for which you need to be on the course for 24 hrs. Above 600Km it’s quite challenging since you need to be on the road with the riders for 2-4 days depending on the distance. There is a lot pre-work to be done before a ride in terms of logistics and complete other registration formalities. During the ride, we need to ensure the safety of each and every rider until they finish. The weather could play spoilsport to both riders and organizers alike – extreme winds, heat or rain pose a challenge to all. In remote locations arranging food, hydration, resting options and getting permission through forest areas are some of the challenges we face and finding quick alternatives will help to keep the event going smoothly.

FM: When it’s something new you usually see a lot of people attend but the fad passes, and number dwindle. Do you see participation as a challenge?

Mohan: Agree, there are some trails which I believe offers something new every time you ride and there are signature rides like “Anchetty 200Km BRM”, “Gates of Heaven 1200Km BRM” etc where we see the numbers growing and as long as you provide the right spirit of support and motivation you will always have the rider base and don’t really see participation as a challenge.

I personally feel we need to keep constantly exploring new challenging terrains and innovative methods to keep the riders wanting more. One such event we at Bangalore Randonneurs organise in November is the SR5 “Super Randonneur series in 5 days” where riders need to complete back to back rides starting from 600km, 400km 300km, 200km in the stipulated time. Cumulatively it is 1500Km of happiness, 110 hrs of cycling, 9500 meters of elevation and 4 beautiful destinations. This was the first time such an event was organized in India and saw good participation from across India.

FM: What kind of marketing campaigns do you run to educate people and encourage them to attend such events?

Mohan: We at Bangalore Randonneurs have built a culture where we cater to all types of riders in Randonneuring, from beginner to advanced riders and help them graduate over a period of time. We provide Value based Experience to our riders and that’s our selling point and our riders are the biggest campaigners. Gates of Heaven event was sold out in 30 mins when we opened the registration and it had the elite riders across India participate in the ride. Everyone looks for something unique and new and as long as we do that we will have the riders. Sadly, we see a lower number of female riders and hence to promote more female riders to take up this awesome sport “Randonneuring”, we have all female cyclists ride for free and can be a part of any number of events in Bangalore this season. Once in a while, we do encourage deserving candidates’ free registration for our rides.

FM: In your cycling journey you have covered many a mile. Which has been the longest ride you have done so far?

Mohan: The longest ride which I participated and completed was LEL-2017 (London-Edinburgh-London), though I could not complete within 117.5 hr allotted time and took an additional 2 hrs of time to finish. It will remain one of my best rides till date because of the scenic trails, wonderfully organized, awesome volunteers to support and great food. It wouldn’t have been possible without my ride partner Sayi Ramakrishna who helped with all pre-ride logistics and riding alongside me during the course as this was my first international event.

FM: Having explored multiple parts of India on the bike, which route do you think is a must-do on a cyclist/Randonneurs bucket list? Why?

Mohan: We have many beautiful terrains in India itself to be explored and one lifetime is not enough. For Randonneurs in India I would pick “Gates of Heaven”, “Bliss in the Hills”, & Mumbai 1200km to add to their bucket list and Internationally PBP and LEL for the sheer experience one can gain by participating in such events.

Leh-Manali is another ride that should be on every cyclist bucket list something which I have not experienced yet. We have scenic and interesting trails in the Western Ghats, Himalayas, and North East for touring.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Standing out in a crowd

Find out what its like to be the only female participant in an Ironman, as told to Deepthi Velkur by Solonie Pathania, the newest Ironman from Pune.

Gina Carey, a woman of many talents – singer, director, producer famously quoted “A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink”. I do not think a better line captures the spirit and soul of Solonie Pathania, India’s sole female participant at Ironman 2016.

Pune-based Solonie Singh Pathania juggles between being a full-time professional and a passionate amateur triathlete. Her list of accomplishments is quite a read:

  • Ran her first full Ironman in 13hours 49 mins in the process becoming the 3rd Indian woman to ever complete the race.
  • Finished 1st in the women solo event at the Deccan Cliffhanger challenge (34 hours 54 mins covering 643KM between Pune to Goa)
  • Completed 6 triathlons, 1 duathlon, 3 full-marathons, and numerous half-marathons and 10Ks.

In this riveting read, she tells us how she went from running to stay healthy to compete in the Ironman challenge.

FM: You were active growing up but that slowed down during graduation. Why? How did running happen?

Solonie: During graduation being active was never really a priority. I joined college, moved to Pune and there was always something else fun to do. On top of that, I met with an accident that required me to have a knee surgery which made any physical activity difficult.

By mid-2013, I realized I was out of shape and started accompanying my father, a fitness enthusiast, on his early morning walks. Later I started running to shed the extra weight that I had gained over the years.  A few months down the line I heard about a 10K run and signed up along with a few friends and that run somehow turned me into a running fanatic.

FM: When and how did you gain an interest in Triathlons?

Solonie: My progression to triathlons was very natural and organic. After my first 10K, I realized that I enjoyed being outdoors and participating in events that challenged me physically. I heard about a Triathlon race in Pune and found it interesting – so I went ahead and signed up for it. It (the event) was in December 2013 and at the end of it, I fell in love with the sport. The thrill of doing 3 different disciplines (swimming, cycling and running) one after the other excited me. The event had an 800-meter swim, 10K bike ride, and 5Krun. I was pretty relaxed and took my time to complete the race, but I remember having crossed the finish line with a smile. I was euphoric after the race purely because of the amount of fun I had.

FM: Can you please take us through your first Ironman experience in 2016?

Solonie:

The time before the race.

Honestly, nothing can prepare you for the experience of your first Ironman race.

It’s literally the world of unknowns – you’re unsure of how your body will react to new limits, new weather conditions or even how you’d feel the morning of the race.

Kalmar (Sweden) where the Ironman race happened is well known for its windy conditions. The temperature of the water was a lowly 13 degrees that morning which meant we could swim with a wet suit on. The temperature outside though was between 19-22 degrees which was perfect for the bike and run leg.  Unfortunately, I could not train in such conditions back home.

In order to acclimatize ourselves, we arrived in Kalmar a week ahead. That week was filled with nervous excitement as I watched 3000 athletes from the world over cramp themselves into Kalmar. The air was abuzz with energy and good spirits – everyone was talking about the race, exchanging notes and sizing up the competition (in a nice way).

As time passed, the nervousness grew and soon it was ‘RACE DAY’. As we drove to the start point, there was an eerie calm and I felt quite nervous during our final set up. I did everything possible to stay calm and with one final call to my mother back home I was all set.

The race itself.

The event has a wave start where athletes are divided into groups based on their expected finish time for the swim leg. The athletes self-assess the time they will take and accordingly stand in their respective groups – <than 50 mins, 60 mins, etc. I stood in the 1hour 40-minute group as my training average was 1hour 46-minutes.

7 AM and we were off. My nervousness at the start was superseded with this grit to finish the race. The swim leg went well for me, despite challenges like a sudden temperature drop and reduced visibility (< than 100m) owing to the mist. I was thrilled to finish it in 1 hour 37-minutes. I rushed to the transition area, changed and headed to the start of the biking leg (7 mins – pretty good for a first timer).

The bike leg was a challenge – 30 mins into the leg, I realized that I had pushed the wrong button on my watch and paused it. I lost all count of my distance and time. Nevertheless, I trudged on and 50K into the ride, I was feeling great and averaging between 27-29 KMPH. Tragedy struck again – my menstrual cramps kicked in and I was in agonizing pain, my speed dropped to 23 KMPH and I contemplated giving up, but something in me wanted me to push on. At the 80K mark, I took a break and thought – I can’t let a menstrual cramp come in the way of my Ironman dream.

With that thought, I hopped back on the bike and gave it my all. It was difficult, but I managed to complete the ride in 7 hours 12-minutes.

I was still cramping when the run started and with 5 hours ahead of me, I had to re-strategize. I decided to run as fast as I can between aid stations (1.5K apart) and walk through the aid stations (100M long).  Along the way, I met a fellow Indian and asked him how were we with time – he told me that if I ran at this pace, I could be looking at a sub-14-hour finish. That is all I needed to hear to dig my heels deeper and not give in.

The support of the crowd was amazing – people were encouraging and there was so much positivity. People shouting out ‘Go Solonie’ and ‘Go India’ gave me that extra push I needed. When I completed my final loop, I hugged the sweet old man who gave me my 3 colour band which we received at the end of each loop.

At the end of the race.

I had visualized the finish multiple times in my head – but it was nothing compared to actually living it. That moment and those 4 words – “You are an Ironman” resonated in my head. I was filled with relief, excitement and immense pride. I could not have asked for a better first triathlon.

FM: You need to be strong in all 3 disciplines – Swimming, Cycling and running? What was the training you underwent for this massive challenge?

Solonie: Training for the Ironman challenge was tough but luckily, I had the right people supporting and guiding me. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr.Kaustubh Radkar (22-time Ironman finisher) in 2014 at one of the triathlon events and when I decided to do the Ironman, I immediately contacted him, he took me under his wings and I followed what he told me. With a full-time job and a tight weekly schedule, I limited my training to 2-3 hours on weekdays and 4-5 hours on the weekends. I trained 6 days a week and kept 1 day for recovery. The rigorous training program included strength training, nutrition, diet control, and proper recovery. He trained me well in multiple aspects of the race like how to fix a puncture, how to be efficient during transitioning, race day nutrition etc.

FM: You participated in the 2017 Ironman challenge. Where you better prepared this time?

Solonie: I was definitely in a better mental state for my 2nd Ironman race (Australia, December 2017). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my physical state. A few months before the race, I developed a hip injury and had a painful corn on the sole of my foot – these factors made training and the race quite difficult.

Race day was a huge challenge not just for me but for all athletes – the swim leg was canceled owing to a shark sighting that day, on the bike leg there was a massive bushfire which was fueled by hot crosswinds that drove many athletes to give up and on the run leg, the humidity and heat was ridiculously high making it a very exhausting run. Overall, I was glad to cross that finish line in one piece.

FM: With the level of physical and mental toughness needed, how do you train yourself to stay strong during the event?

Solonie: I am convinced that these endurance races are about your mental strength more than your physical ability. When you put your body through so much for a long duration, it is natural to feel aches, pains and stress but pushing on despite that is the mental strength you need.

It isn’t easy – there are days when you wouldn’t want to get up at 5 am, train for 3 hours and then go to work for 9 hours, days when the body is sore from the previous days’ work out or when you’re on your menstrual cycle and have bad cramps. Despite all of these challenges, you still get out there and train – that’s what makes you mentally strong.

You must also factor lifestyle changes needed – a non-existent social life because your life is structured around training schedules, work, sleep deprivation and tiredness. On top of that, you always have these questions – Why am I doing this? Is this the right path for me? Why did I not choose an easier dream? It’s important that you condition your mind to let these thoughts pass. You will have tough days, but you have to train yourself not to mull over this as there will always be a better tomorrow.

Never forget – always listen to what your body is telling you. If you ignore it, you will most definitely suffer the consequences. In addition, I made sure I talked to my coach and friends about any apprehensions as their reassurance helped a long way.

FM: You took part in the 2018 Deccan Cliffhanger race from Pune to Goa? What was it like to take part in a challenge like this one?

Solonie: I had never done an ultra-cycling race before, so I was not sure what to expect or how my body would react. The maximum distance I had ever covered at a stretch was 300K in training. Nevertheless, I signed up for DC 2018 to test myself and see how much further I could go. The race involves cycling for 643K at a stretch and the terrain is very challenging. After a point, everything was an uphill challenge – literally and figuratively as this race tests your physical and mental capabilities equally. With fatigue and sleeplessness chasing you down, it takes everything you have to keep your head clear and banish thoughts of “giving up”. I have never experienced exhaustion like this before, but as they say – the tougher it is, the sweeter is the result. I did the race barely 10 days back, so it still feels a little surreal that I actually cycled non-stop for 34hours 54-minutes and finished first in the women solo riders’ category.

FM: A final question – what does it take for you to be a good triathlete?

Solonie: Consistency, hard work, dedication, discipline, and focus – these 5 things are the perfect blend to be successful in anything we set out to do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 3

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his competitive cycling career.

You must read Part1 and Part2 of this interview before this.

You play a very important leadership role at the Ciclo Racing Team – what is the main objective behind Ciclo? How has the journey been so far?

The idea behind Ciclo was to setup an aspirational project, with the goal of supporting the best athletes in the country, while also developing young athletes’ side-by-side.

In a sport like cycling or for that matter any endurance sport you need a strong team, a good coach who can show you physical progression, mentor you on how you can progress beyond the national level and the emotional support of your friends and family.

Over the years, I have tried a couple of models to figure out what works in India. In 2012-2014, I was part of a team that was based on the model where there was a manager/team director who does the fund-raising and planning of the calendar and multiple athletes who had focus solely on riding. The problem with this model is that when a sponsor backs out, the athletes are left high and dry and they haven’t really grown in those 2 years.

Later in 2016, I tried a model where I as an athlete had to learn how to setup an independent support structure and that worked for me and I achieved some good stuff – first Indian (along with Arvind Panwar) to go to the world championships and first Indian to join an international professional cycling team in Australia. Though it was a good model, I wanted to try something new and that’s when the idea of Ciclo came about.

I talked with co-founders of team – Ashish Thadani and Bachi Pullela and we came up with 3 goals:

  • Create an aspirational project: We wanted Ciclo to be model where other athletes could replicate some of our ideas and be successful.
  • Be the dominant team in India and develop young riders: This has largely been successful so far. In 2 years, our riders have won several gold medals and podiums at the nationals, podiumed or won at every local event we’ve entered, achieved several firsts at the Asian championships, and trained abroad as a team in Belgium in a 3-month training block. Our U-23 riders, riding and training beside the elite riders on the team, have gone on to win National medals and also learn how to be a professional in their mentality and actions.
  • Publicize and talk about what we do: In small sport like ours, we need to share what we do as a lot of people don’t see the little things that need to be done every day before you go on to achieve a bigger goal. The video and visual content that the team has created over the past 2 years are some of the most viewed racing/cycling content in India that sheds a light on competitive Indian Cycling.

One of the first things we did was hook up with a friend of mine and a photographer – Chenthil Mohan. It was a way to brand activate for our sponsors but also share knowledge. Considering this is the social media age, we used this medium to build reach with the younger generation. This has been fairly successful with young kids asking me a whole bunch of interesting questions at the Nationals like how to get to Belgium to train and race, advice on buying power meters (a training tool), about technical concepts in training, etc.

Cycling is huge in Belgium and they have the best system in the world. My long-term objective is to create a conduit between the 2 countries along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange. This would help develop the system in our country immensely.

I want to be part of the sport for a long time to come and would like to build a process that can be applied to all the future cyclists out there.

What riding events do you target to cover every year? What do you think are your biggest achievements?

In India, my target race is the National Championship. Why? Simply because at the end of the day, your value as an athlete is measured on you being a national champion, though it is by-far not the best metric.

The other events I participate in are community-level events. I build these events into my training plan and make it a hard training day. Another reason I want to be active at a community level is because I want to be part of the eco-systemic change.

On principle, I do not participate in big money races. The reason I choose not to is because I feel that I will be sacrificing a lot more than I can benefit. For me, attending a race means I lose out on my training days not to mention the potential risk of injuring myself if the conditions are terrible. I did attend some races in 2012 to understand why the system was not progressing and decided from the next year never to do it again.

Overall, I have attended 7 national championships with two 4th place finishes and four gold medals. My biggest achievement as an athlete would be being the first Indian road cyclist to ever achieve a podium finish at a Kermesse race, (Lokeren Doorselaar kermesse) in Belgium in August 2018.

Speaking about the Kermesse event, talk us through your experience at this year’s event?

It has always been my dream to perform at a high-level in Europe. Last year, I finished in the Top 20 and I set myself a goal on Top 10 this year. I trained like never before to be able to achieve that goal.

Towards the end of my trip in Belgium, I hit a purple patch – with each race before the event, I progressed from Top 18 to Top 12 and finally cracked the Top 10 at the event. Not only did I achieve a 3rd place finish, but I was only marginally behind the winner of the event, who 2 days later ended up as the runner-up at the Belgian national championships. That was a huge motivation gain for me.

You qualified for the ITT and road race at the Asian Cycling championship in Myanmar earlier this year? What was your takeaway from the race?

For me, the key takeaway is – I’m getting closer!

I have been at the Asian championships twice along with my teammate (Arvind who has been at the championships 5 times). In 2016, we finished the road race as the last bunch on the road and this year, we finished the race as the bunch right behind the winning bunch. Fairly big progress there.

My goal for now is to finish in the Top 5 hopefully next year and if I work harder than I did this year, I think it’s achievable.

You kickstarted an initiative in 2013 called “The Indian Cycling Project”. What brought about the idea and how have you seen it develop over the years?

I came up with this idea because I wanted to leverage best-in-class systems outside of the country. I want to build a system where young athletes are backed by a strong support system and are exposed to the best training and racing eco-systems available.

As I mentioned earlier, my long-term goal is to create a conduit between India and Belgium along with a consulate tie-up that would help in a sporting exchange.

One of the challenges I face is convincing parents to let their young children travel to Belgium because for the parents they see no monetary benefit or results coming out of it. I also let the parents know that their kid could probably get injured, break equipment but all that doesn’t matter as this is probably the most important thing you can do for them to succeed. This experience in Belgium teaches them to be independent, financially responsible, stay physically and mentally tough, brave harsh weather conditions and maintain a balanced diet. It gives these young athletes a view into racing at an international level.

A final question – what are your race plans for 2019?

My next event is the Tour of Nilgiris in December where I hope to enjoy just riding easy for a change, meet some friends and get a little bit of work done. For 2019 – my targets are the National championships, National Games, Asian championships and my customary 3-month training and racing in Belgium.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Road cycling National Champion – Naveen John – Part 2

Deepthi Velkur continues her conversation with Naveen John about his training and his move to competitive cycling in the second part of the story. 

If you haven’t read the first part then click here 

When did you move from being a recreational cyclist to a competitive cyclist?

It was a couple of years after I picked up collegiate cycling. My friends convinced me to sign up for a race and I went full on – got myself a bike, some racing gear and showed up for the race and I finished the race.

During my time racing in the US, it was never competitive. I just went out there to ride and have fun. I enjoyed the training, being part of the racing action and never went in with the mentality of winning. In 2012, when I came back to India, it all changed. I felt like I was on a mission and I decided – I want to try and be the best.

You’re a 3-time Indian Time-Trial (ITT) champion and the country’s first International pro-cyclist? What does it take for someone to achieve this?

Oh! I get asked this question a lot. Every time at the national championships, I have kids come up and ask – what must I do to become a national champion?

My response is simple – ride your age X 10,000 KM and you will give yourself a shot at becoming a national champion.

Not many like that response because it puts the onus back on them. In India, cyclists are just not doing enough work compared to cyclists abroad. I realized this for myself when in 2016 I was in Australia where I rode with a professional team and saw 18-year kids train so much more than I did. It got me thinking, “Am I putting in the kilometres”?

It’s a paradigm shift that we need here in India where the athletes need to put in a lot more work. A few years ago, you did not have to work too hard to become a national champion. If your closest competitor was doing 8,000 KM at the age of 23-24, you only need 9,000 KM to beat him. Today, however, you need at least 25,000 KM to beat me (kinda cheeky, since I lost my National title this year despite that, but always “long game”).

It’s true that the infrastructural challenges we have in our country can be blamed for the bar being so low in our sport but at the base of it – practice, kilometres in the legs and hours spent on the pedals are key.

Do you take assistance from a Coach to train yourself for nationals?

I started off on my own in 2013. I self-coached trying to figure out the answers along the way but I fell short and ended up in 4th place. One of the team supporters then recommended I get a coach.

Getting a coach can be quite a daunting proposition – all of a sudden, you are accountable to someone else and constantly graded. The thought of putting your physical readiness in someone else’s hand is quite a leap.

Fears aside, I started working with my first coach in 2014 and that changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of scientific training. I’m a pretty adept self-learner and as I was being coached, I also upped my level of understanding of the human body, sport science and training. I have since moved on to my 2nd coach who is based out of Australia.

Training in cycling is a very objective process and working with a coach who guides your physical progression can free up time to work on other areas of improvement that you constantly need to as an athlete. So far, cyclists in India have always moaned about a lack of good coaches but that scenario is changing today.

Our concluding part can be read here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more