Imagine cycling in the rain. Easy, isn’t it?
Up and down roads that include highways, Ghat sections, and loads of traffic. Okay, doable, right?
In the rain. Aah that’s easy. Again.
For 180 kms. Damn. What?
And then ride up and down a hill course that has 60-70 degree gradients. WOW. That’s superhuman stuff.
That is Veloraid 2016 for you.
India’s largest amateur cycling race, Veloraid, is the World Cup of sorts when it comes to bicycling. And man, was it action-packed! More below
Teams from all over Maharashtra came for the event. Some actually cycled all the way, just to attend and race the event. We even had the pleasure of seeing a women’s’ team race. Make no mistake, though. Those girls were steel, they were fire, and they were speedsters of the first order. During the race, one of the “cyclistas” met with a serious accident and was unconscious for a while. In spite of that, they finished the race. They had to face the worst of the weather and traffic, but that did not dull their spirits one bit. If ever motivation had a human form, it was them. Hats off to you ladies.
Now we come to the men and women who made it possible. Bikers had marshalled the event. They had to keep traffic at bay. so that our cyclists could race safely. Marshaling is tough work, mind you. You have to physically shield your lane, by waving off traffic, in both directions. Flying Squad and Royal Riders Mumbai took the lead and provided the maximum number of riders, and were supported by Naked Wolves, Alliance of Riding Knights ( ARK), Trippers Riding Club, and of course, yours truly. All geared up and ready for war, the 80-odd bikers displayed what was probably the best example of patience and discipline ever seen. In spite of the terrible weather, the bad roads, haphazard traffic and the tough trail, the bikers never left their teams. Like guardian angels, they protected those assigned to them. It was a feeling of great pride to see bikers in action, helping and motivating the teams.
The trail was 180 km long overall. Starting from Upvan Lake, cyclists had to ride along the route to Nashik. Along the way, they crossed Atagon, Tansa, Vaitarna, Khardi and then return to Thane, where the race ended at Yeoor Hill. There were a number of challenges along the way. The NH3 is known for having a manic traffic flow, which was worsened by the incessant rain. The Atgaon-Tansa lake was so tricky it felt more like a mountain biking trail. Huge cliffs, steep drops, and neck-breakingly tight corners. From Tansa, the roads were a little better, but the mad crosswinds made progress difficult. It was heartening to see kids cheer and wave the tired, huffing cyclists as they passed by. That did bolster their spirits because from there to Vaitarna and Khardi was a mad sprint.
The first leg ended at a school in Khardi, where lunch was served. The teams had to finish the race in a set amount of time, and the ones coming after that were not allowed to continue further. So while some rode on, others returned back to Upvan Lake, tired, slightly crestfallen, but still proud. The others went back on the second leg, where they had to ride up the indomitable Yeoor Hill. We bikers were already running on fumes, but the cyclists just kept going on and on and on. Here was where we saw the actual spirit and determination of a cyclist. Never did they stop, no matter what. The overall event ended in the evening, and at about 7 pm, in continuous rain, the last team came into the staging area.
Aah yes, the most important part. Mind you, like we have already said, marshalling was as tough as cycling, but all was well in the end at the party, which was held at the event. The prize distribution was a fun affair, with everyone scrambling to get photographed.
Over dinner, no one was a biker or a cyclist. Everyone was a soldier. A soldier on two-wheels, fighting and overcoming everything along the road of life.
Special thanks to Team WOW for the wonderful experience. It was a joy watching them beat all odds at Veloraid 2016.