Today was the first race in India, the 170km Nashik Cyclethon. The race consisted of a 112km out and back loop on the highway followed by 7 laps of a 9km course in the city. The race was to have a rolling road closure with police and motorbike scouts preventing vehicles from entering the road. The problem is, there are no real intersections in India. Bikes, scooters, tuk tuks, cars, trucks and pedestrians just enter the road everywhere and with the locals caring very little for a bike race, it was almost impossible to close the roads.
The first 5km was 'neutral' and we got a taste of the traffic as cars came at us from the opposite direction and others beeped at us as they overtook the race.
We hit the highway and conditions got a lot better with just the odd car and motorbike getting in the way.
With ProTour teams, Radioshack and Liquigas along with Team Type 1 at the race, a breakaway without them was always pointless. A 7km climb at the 50km point also meant that the peleton was keen to stay together. A few attacks went off the front but quickly came back into the fold and the bunch stayed together.
To add to the traffic conditions, at the 30km point, the race passed through a toll point. Just before the toll was a series of speed bumps about a metre apart, designed to slow cars down. As the peleton hit the rumple strips at 50kph, water bottles went flying everywhere, including mine. I went back to the car to fetch more, only to lose another bottle 2km up the road on another set of bumps. To make things worse, on the 7km descent down the mountain, there was a further 5 sets of speed bumps that the peleton hit at full speed. It left teams with several punctures and a few less water bottles.
On the way back up the 7km climb, I lost contact near the top but was with a small bunch that was sure to get back on. With the lead group a few hundred metres away, we were making ground. An Indian National Team rider was struggling behind us, with his hands on top of his handlebars and holding onto last wheel. As I rolled to the back of the line, slotted in just in front of him. Everyone slowed suddenly and with his hands off the brakes, the Indian rider rode straight into the back of me, bringing us both down.
As I picked myself up, people from the side of the road picked up my bike and attempted to fix the rear wheel and chain but only made things worse. Frustrated, I 'kindly' asked them to stop and checked my bike over. Both wheels were buckled with the rear rubbing slightly on the brakes. I eventually got going again but was well off the pace. I joined a few others that had fallen behind and we made our way back.
Being behind the lead group also meant that we had to ride through traffic as cars and trucks quickly made their way onto the road after the lead cars past. We had a few near misses on our way back in and once we reached the city, there was no point in continuing. I made my way to the race doctor to get cleaned up and planned to wait for the race to finish. However, as soon as I stopped anywhere, I was swamped by locals that wanted to touch my bike and take it for a ride or get a photo or ask me a million questions that I couldnt understand. Consequently, I headed back to the hotel through the traffic again to get rid of my frustrations.