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One in a Billion | Rise to the Summit
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Posted on 14-06-2021 16:36
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AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Amateur Years

Equipped with a new bike, I dived head-long into the state amateur cycling circuit. The season was spread unevenly throughout the year. It started in February, covered March, was off from April till July because of the intense heat and then the Monsoons, resumed from August and ended in November. There was no racing in the winter months, mostly because of visibility issues at altitude. The race schedules were not very structured either, with races overlapping each other quite a bit. Very early on I realised that my strength lay in going uphill. I had a tough time keeping up with the pace in absolutely flat stages. As luck - or bad luck - would have it, out of the 15 races making up the season, only 4 races involved decisive climbing. And two of them started on the same date! Despite these difficulties, I had a fantastic season first up, finishing 3rd in the state rankings. To be honest, the competition wasn't the greatest, but I did what I had to do. The state federation encouraged me to go national and I was equally eager.

I was just 14. Convincing my parents to allow me to go national wasn't easy. Staying away from home from best part of 6 months meant studies would take a back-seat. Unlike the state schedule, the national schedule was better. The road races were held between April and November. One could choose the races that suited them. December through March would be time for school, and school only.

I was happy, doing what I loved. In a country where sports often took a back-seat, this was a big luxury. The thought of proving myself always nagged me though. I didn't want to go back to the old way of life. After two successful years in the national amateur circuit, winning a total of seven races, including the National U16s Time Trial Championships, I was picked up by the Next Gen program of the Indian Cycling Federation.

To be continued...
 
jandal7
Really like the start so far, will be following Grin
30/12/14 - matt17br said "Sutty's birthday is more important than [Jesus' Birthday]"
4/10/20 - jph27 said "Just need to make sure I don't accidentally promote again."
24/2/21 - kandesbunzler said “I don’t drink famous people.”

[ICL] Santos-Euskadi | The Life And Times | [Doomed] i.imgur.com/c85NSl6.png Xero Racing
[CX] Listerijns & Kiwis

i.imgur.com/PdCbs9I.png
i.imgur.com/RPIlJYr.png
3x i.imgur.com/wM6Wok5.png x3
i.imgur.com/olRsxdu.png
 
AbhishekLFC
Thanks Jandal. Glad to know you'll be following Grin
 
DiCyc
It looks like he got a good start to his career Smile
 
AbhishekLFC
DiCyc wrote:
It looks like he got a good start to his career Smile

So far so good. But it will get tougher from here, training and directly competing against the best in the country!
 
Tamijo
AbhishekLFC wrote:
DiCyc wrote:
It looks like he got a good start to his career Smile

So far so good. But it will get tougher from here, training and directly competing against the best in the country!


You can do it !
 
AbhishekLFC
Tamijo wrote:
AbhishekLFC wrote:
DiCyc wrote:
It looks like he got a good start to his career Smile

So far so good. But it will get tougher from here, training and directly competing against the best in the country!


You can do it !

I'll remember the encouragement!
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Amateur Years

Continued...

The Next Gen program consisted of 50 of the most promising riders of the country, training and riding together as a team. Cyclists from the age of 16 to 19 were allowed to be a part of it. I was lucky I got in at 16 itself. There were riders coming at 18, who could only benefit for a year. I was sure three years in this program would teach me more than I otherwise would've picked up on my own.

The riders in this program had two-fold participation opportunities. Firstly, they would ride in the National Championships as a team. Secondly, they would participate in invitational events of nearby, mostly SAARC nations. As a newcomer, there was no chance of being selected for the latter. So it was another year of competing in the national circuit, in higher profile races.

It was frustrating in the beginning. Going from competing for race wins, although in lower prestige races, to being relegated to the role of a water-carrier for the first six months wasn't what I had been hoping for. But then, in age category teams, age itself is often a decider of importance. Skill-based appreciation comes after you earn the respect of your coaches, and perhaps more importantly, your team-mates!

To be continued...
Edited by AbhishekLFC on 31-07-2016 17:59
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Amateur Years


Continued...

Year 2 in Next Gen was a bit better. I was allowed to go out into breaks in a few races. I was also picked for a couple of invitational races, one in Malaysia and another in Sri Lanka. I got to go abroad for the first time in my life. I was still the water carrier for the most part, but the experience was brilliant. I met a lot of new people and got to know about the state of cycling in neighbouring countries.

Two highlights stand out from these couple of races. The first was a day long outing in the break. The break consisted of 8 riders out in front for over 100 km of the 125 km route. The peloton did not catch up and although I ran out of steam in the final kilometres, I finished a respectable 6th on that stage. The second was when I was a part of the climbing 'train' in Sri Lanka where we chased the breakaway, reeled them in and set our team leader on course to a stage victory. He thanked us all after the stage and it felt really good to have executed our plan to perfection.

With the good also came the bad. Over-enthusiasm led to me being dropped by the main pack in a handful of stages in races back home. Either I was trying to hard to get into the break when the peloton was clearly unwilling or I was pulling the train too hard too early and being of no use to the team at the end. I soon realised that the learning curve would be very steep at the national level. I started coaching myself for calmness when I felt I was getting too excited or too nervous in stages. I got better as the year went on and I was picked as a domestique in the Junior Asian Championships.

To be continued...
 
Tamijo
So many fine details in this prologue, great read.
 
AbhishekLFC
Tamijo wrote:
So many fine details in this prologue, great read.

Thanks! Taking my time writing them. Glad you like them Smile
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Amateur Years

Continued...
Spoiler
This is the last post of the Amateur Years. We go back to the present from the next post
The 2013 U19 Asian Road Race Championships saw me represent my country for the first time, as a Domestique. The event was held in Doha, Qatar, covering a part of the World Tour route! The teams were made up of 7 riders, and I was supposed to be the second last person on the climbing train with our team leader. The team consisted of one sprinter too, in case the pace was slow and the result came down a bunch sprint.

The race was anything but slow. Although we were ranked high as a team, 4th among the 16 teams present, our leader was only 7th favourite for the title. This put a lot of pressure on the domestiques to keep our leader on our wheels. The profile consisted of one small but steep climb and a higher but less steep climb, followed by the finish at the bottom of the second descent. We lost the sprinter from the peloton in the first climb itself, the high pace too much for him to keep up on the ascent. Another rider crashed out on the descent. A third rider was dropped from the pack on the flat between the two climbs. A group of 40 reached the bottom of the second climb, with 4 of our team still in the lead group. The breakaway was in sight now. That's when the toil started. The attacks started as soon as the break was caught. We had to hold a high pace to get back the gap after each attack.

Then, disaster struck! The chief domestique pulled off to the side, unable to pull our leader on any further. I was automatically promoted to chief domestique. I had never heard a sterner message from my manager over the ear-piece. "Pull", he kept repeating. "Pull, pull, pull!". It was left to the two of us to get our leader to the top of the climb in a good position. About a kilometer before the summit, the other domestique pulled out. I was the only one doing the chasing. There were three riders out ahead with a 10 second lead. In our group, along with me and my leader, there were 2 more riders. Neither of them were willing to chase, either out of tiredness or they were not cooperating, I wasn't sure. I didn't have time to think about it. Pedaling as fast as my legs would allow me, I closed the gap to the leaders till they were within touching distance. I could hear my manager shouting "Attack now. Go!" to my leader. He went off in pursuit. I slowed down and coasted over the summit.

As I reached the finish, I saw the board glowing saying that India had won bronze in the race. I crossed the line in the top 10 myself. I was overcome with happiness as I rushed to my team to join in the celebration. Later that evening my manager told me that he was starting to expect big things from me now. He said he wanted me to push on in the next season.

And push on I did. The following season was my breakthrough year on the circuit. I was picked as the leader for multiple races and won 3 of them. I won the Junior National Time Trial Championships again, this time in the U19 category. I did pick up an injury in training a month before the 2014 Junior Asian Championships. Thus, I was selected as Co-Leader, only to go for the win if the Leader was not in a position to do so. What happened next is history! You can read about that here...
Edited by AbhishekLFC on 02-08-2016 11:01
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Europe


SO DAMN COLD!!

It is my third day in Amsterdam. I spent the whole of the first day sleeping and most of the second day unpacking. This was going to be my home for the time I'd be staying in Europe, which I hope will be for a long time. My uncle, who lived alone (not any more Grin ) in Amsterdam had gleefully taken me in. I've been taking full advantage of his hospitality since I arrived here. This is the first time I've come visiting and I could see he too was excited, seemingly more at my being here than about my career. It must get lonely living here I guess, so far away from family.

He was taking me out sightseeing today. This week was quite relaxed for me. The signing date was still 10 days away. It was afternoon time and the moment I stepped out was like walking into the refrigerator! Thanks to central heating (small mercies!!), I hadn't realized just how cold it was outside for the past two days.

Living practically on top of the Tropic of Cancer, the coldest winter day I've ever experienced was 9 degrees. 10 degrees used to be a cause for celebration for me. Winter has always been my favourite season. Summers can get unbearable in the tropics. I guess one appreciates more whatever one gets less. It was the first week of December now and the temperature at 3 PM in the afternoon was 7 degrees! 7 degrees, 2 degrees below the coldest temperature I've ever experienced. I could barely walk Embarassed

What had I got myself into!!
Edited by AbhishekLFC on 04-08-2016 11:20
 
Tamijo
Welcome to the North.
pcmdaily.com/images/smiley/lol.gif
 
AbhishekLFC
Tamijo wrote:
Welcome to the North.
pcmdaily.com/images/smiley/lol.gif

*shivering* Thank you Smile
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - Settling in...Somewhat


It's now eight days since I arrived in Amsterdam. My body seems to be finally getting used to the weather here. The evening that I last wrote about, I managed to stay outdoors for all of 90 minutes, before I couldn't take the chill anymore.

Since then, I've been around the city a couple of times, once in the morning with the sun out and then once in the early evening. It wasn't that bad this time around. Amsterdam is lovely! The bridges, the canals, the boats, the houses, all of this is new to me. And so few people compared to what I'm used to. I caught myself thinking a couple of times, 'I could get used to this.' Homesickness hadn't set in and a lot of that is thanks to the time I've spent exploring.

I am still waiting for my bike to arrive from back home. It was in transit, and was scheduled for delivery in another couple of days. I wish it would get here soon. I wanted to find out how riding felt in this weather. In the meantime, I've been hoping to hire a bike and go around the city, making use of the lovely bike paths. Nothing as such exists back home either. Must be easier cycling around the city without the sweltering heat turning your clothes into damp rags.

Oh, and I'm due in Luxembourg in exactly seven days' time. Getting a little anxious now. My heart skips a beat every time I get a small scratch or get a knock against furniture and the like. There's no way I can afford to mess up the medical. Need to be very careful this following week...
 
Tamijo
Ya, be careful Wink
 
AbhishekLFC
Prologue - The Night Before

I heeded friends' advice to be extra careful and thankfully there has been no mishaps in the week since I last wrote.

It's 2:30 AM on the morning I'm supposed to leave for Luxembourg. I can't sleep. I've been having those dreams of crashing again! Two nights ago, I dreamt of falling on a steep descent while leading a race. Yesterday, I dreamt of falling while riding in a Time Trial. I'm scared of what I'll dream of next!

Staying awake all night won't be the wisest thing. I'm writing this now to kill some time, hoping to take my mind off the worrying. It's not working yet. Just hope I get some sleep before morning arrives. I'd be taking the four and half hour drive down to Leopard HQ in exactly 6 hours time. I won't be the one driving, but I never get much sleep in transit, so it might be a long tiring day ahead.

Tomorrow, 17th December, 2014, is the big day...
 
Tamijo
Good luck !
 
AbhishekLFC
Tamijo wrote:
Good luck !

Thanks Smile
 
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