This is a story of athlete – Anannya Joshi from Team Asha Biking program. Read his story to learn the hurdles he fought to cross the Giro 100K finish line with help of Team Asha. Enjoy.
Start of my journey:
I had decided at the beginning of the year that I would do biking this year. It all started when I came back from my India trip in May and me requesting (read begging) Venki to take me in the program. I already had a bike which my friend, and a fellow asha triathlete (Shashi) had donated me.
I still remember the day when I went to Venki’s workplace where Venki had a look at the bike, and made me ride it in the parking lot. Then, a couple of days later, I went at Venki’s house to get the bike tuned up. He fixed my saddle, changed the cleats, did some basic tune up, taught me about the gears, told me what cross chaining is…and the list goes on..After all this, I again kept on asking him – so, can I join now? And then comes in the picture Sir Mani 🙂
After harassing Venki to let me in the program, finally fed up of me, Venki points me to Mani, making me his headache. But Mani, as sweet as he his, asked me a few questions and said you should be ok to come in to the program but make sure you don’t miss even a single ride. I jumped with joy 🙂
The training was fun; i thoroughly enjoyed it. The hills were brutal sometimes, but the downhill made up for it. That is when I realized that I LOVEEEEE downhills and the they actual thrill me 🙂 To be honest, one of the main reasons why I enjoyed the training so much is because of my fellow riders. Every time they pass us, they use to check with us, make sure that we are okay. Just saying “hey…how is it going”…that helps a lot for a newcomer, and that’s what keeps them going 🙂
So in my first bike ride with the Cupertino group,I meet Mr Bharadwaj, the father of this program 🙂 Can’t forget his contribution towards training me…Every weekday and Sunday ride, this guy used to wait for us slow bikers. Being a biker, and a tremendous fast biker himself, i can only imagine how selfless and humble one has to be to do this. His constant motivation for us to climb hills, trying to distract us, make us laugh, take pictures/videos of us climbing the hill was all just to motivate us to better and better..Thanks Bharadwaj 🙂
Giro Bello ride:
Now comes the day for which we all have been training…
I was confident, but a little anxious too. Never done such a long ride before. Reached Sebastapool on Saturday morning itself, all prepared! The energy at the start line was amazing. There was a sea of Team Asha riders at the start line, where we clicked a group picture and off we went…
Just when I started to get a bit warmed up, my bike pedal crank came off. The most weird thing I had EVER expected to happen. I mean somewhere at the back of my mind, i had mentally prepared myself for a flat, or maybe even a fall. But this thing was totally weird. Not knowing what to do, we all decided to walk to SAG1 since it was just 0.7 miles away. But my luck did not shine there too, as they did not have a bike mechanic there (usually they have..thats what the lady at the SAG told me). So i put my bike in Adwait’s (my brother) car and drove back to the start line. Honestly, I was furious at that point.
It took us 15 mins to reach the start line. After that, the pedal got fixed in a minute, and that gave me some relief, but then the mechanic found a problem with my chain. My chain in the front was not coming on to the bigger wheel. And well, I needed the chain to be there if I wanted to not finish too late. The mechanic kept adjusting the limit screws (I got to know the term right there) and there went another 20 mins. Finally I pushed my bike back into the car, and came at SAG1 (again a 15 min drive).
So 50 mins behind and all cooled down and a bit frustrated – that was my state when I resumed my ride. But I said, its okay. I will have people waiting for me at the finish line. That thought was making me happy 🙂
But our coach, and my dear friend, Venki, called Adwait to check my status and once he got to know that I am resuming from SAG1, this guy turned back to get me 🙂 I mean who does that? Isn’t this THE BEST example to tell people how selfless asha coaches/volunteers are? I was genuinely touched by that gesture. I even told Venki that it’s okay if you don’t come; just wait for me till i come there, but he didn’t listen 🙂 Can’t thank you much for that 🙂
Then begins the bike ride of me and Venki for the next 35 miles. We cruised to the mile 30 SAG stop…talking about various things in life 🙂 I even heard Venki sing for a few seconds 😛 He told me how to do drafting, how he did STP, and how he was training for his Ironman etc etc…
At SAG2, something got into Venki and he was like we have to catch the girls before the next SAG stop which was at Mile 50. And I was like “Venki, am too behind, its unrealistic”…and he was like “no no..we can..lets go..” and on we went….just taking one break in the shade to have peanut butter sandwich, we bolted towards the SAG3 (lunch SAG) and caught up with the Asha folks…as soon as we entered the SAG stop, Venki yelled…”They are here”. He was more excited and happy than me I guess 🙂 Bharadwaj was there too. This crazy guy had come back after finishing his race. Again the same question, who does that? 🙂
After the SAG3 i.e after our lunch was done, Venki and Bharadwaj were going to sweep, so Venki asked me to go ahead and warned me not to go too fast…I asked how about the last 4-5 miles, and he noded 🙂
So after having a nice lunch, I started off…Just about a mile away from the lunch SAG, i started feeling weird on my bike…something in the rear tire that was making me uncomfortable. I stopped and just checked my rear tire and and it was little low on air. The instant thought in my mind was “are you kidding me?”. Then I just pulled over and waited, because i knew Venki and Bharadwaj were behind me…They saw me at the turn and the first question Venki yelled from the distance was “WHAT NOW??” 🙂 and I replied saying “I think I have a flat”, to which Venki had only 2 words “Oh God” 🙂
Bharadwaj and Venki both checked the tire and said it might be a minor leak and we decided to fill some air and see if we can go for another 15 miles. Then came our beloved coach Jayant driving in his M3…I so wanted to jump in that car that moment 🙂
He had a pump with him and he filled the air and off I went again..
Venki was ahead of me and he pulled over and asked me to pull over too; said he wanted to check the pressure of the tire. So the tire had gone low on air again. That time Venki and Bharadwaj discussed something for 30 seconds and came to a conclusion that the tube needs to be replaced. I was like “Dude, I’ll manage…its just 10 miles” 😛 but i think they had already started to ignore me by that point 🙂
Ani then I saw something magical…I felt i was seeing a fast forward video of someone changing the tube. I don’t what had gotten into Venki but the speed at which he changed the tube and gave me back my bike and said “here! lets go”, was shocking. I mean we were in a nice shade and this guy didn’t even let me rest..
Anyways, off we were for the last 10 miles..
The last 10 miles:
Both, Venki and Bharadwaj had given me targets. They said we have to catch up with the girls. I said “Venki, leave it..as long as I finish, am good”, but none of them listened..They were like “no no, we can do it…lets go”. And the way these guys pulled me..was amazing!!! Simply amazing!
We crossed Soumya (I think) after a couple of miles. Then Venki stayed with them, and asked me to follow Bharadwaj. That brought a smile to my face thinking how these two people were handling us laggards 🙂
Mr Bharadwaj starting pushing me more….asked me draft behind him so I could save some energy. Started chatting random stuff with me…Man, it was fun! 🙂
Finally we caught up with Ami, and again, the leaders that these guys are…Bharadwaj stayed with her and asked me roll ahead..
And then there was no turning back. There was no way i was gonna let Venki and Bharadwaj down.
The finish line:
Crossing the finish line brought in a surge of emotions. Was happy, but also a bit emotional – just because of the love and support that I have received from everyone in this group. I mean if you think of it – who am I to them? but still doing these things selflessly just to help someone achieve their goal/dream is not something that you see often in this world. At the finish line, all the Asha folks were waiting for us and cheering loudly. And I see Venkat there too; that guy had not had lunch and was waiting for everyone to finish and click their picture. Again, i ask the same question – Who does that? 🙂
I consider myself fortunate to be a part of such a warm and a welcoming group. And just want to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude towards the coaches/coords/volunteers and fellow bikers for making this possible for many of us who would’t have even dreamt it otherwise. I dedicate this success of mine to all of you. Thank you! 🙂