Organising a randonneuring event of 1000+km is every organiser's nightmare. But 2023 being a PBP year and having a decent participation from in and around the city, we wanted to offer our riders an experience of riding 1200km with considerable elevation in the winter chill before they proceed to the mega event.
From planning the logistics to marshaling, every aspect of organizing an LRM is challenging. Marshaling especially, requires special efforts since riders tend to spread out as days go by. Marshals on duty need to stay awake as much as the riders do, man the control points, deliver the drop-bags as well as assist the riders en-route. Based on our previous experiences of organising LRMs, we were well aware of the challenges it would entail. In order to rectify all the mistakes made in the past, a proactive and full-proof approach had to be implemented.
We started-off with the route planning. None of our existing LRM routes offered challenging elevation that could come close to that of PBP. We had to create a brand new route which itself is a mammoth challenge. The only region that could provide such elevation was the Sahyadri Ghat of Maharashtra. Who could be a better guide than Siddharth Bhamre, club rep. of Navi Mumbai! Well-versed with the region, he helped us create a route with 7000m elevation and he loved it so much that he decided to sign up for it too. Unfortunately, he couldn't participate but his audio clip helped the riders navigate through a super confusing patch near Thane and he kept himself available on call at all times.
The route that was finalised was entirely on NH-48, starting from Baroda passing through Surat, Vapi, Ghodbundar, Thane, Panvel, Khopoli, Lonavla, Pune to Khambhataki Ghat and back. We designated 7 intermediate control points approximately 150km apart. The three massive ghats - Borghat, Katraj Ghat and Khambhataki Ghat en-route provided the elevation of 7000m that we were looking for and the temperature ranging from 7°C to 37°C made this 1200km route one of the most challenging one on the west coast of India.
Asking for a favour from neighboring clubs has always been a club rep's predicament. However, after speaking to Siddharth, it gave us confidence to reach out to other clubs that came en-route. To our surprise all of them came to our rescue and helped us out in some way or the other. Anil Uchil, club rep. of Mumbai Randonneurs offered to man the control point at Charoti at about 300km, and Prashant Jog, club rep. of Pune Randonneurs offered to man the Khambhataki Ghat control/turn-around point at 600km.
Now that the two main control points were taken care of, we just had to figure out the marshaling side of it. Besides assisting the riders, another big challenge that marshals had to deal with on this 4-day event, was delivering the mighty drop-bags. To make sure that the drop-bags reach the control point before the first rider does, having two marshal cars was inevitable. First marshal car would lead the way to deliver the drop-bags and man the control points and another car would sweep along with the slowest riders. There were 3 control points where riders were provided food and accommodation along with access to their drop-bags i.e. at 300km, 600km and 900km. The riders were requested to pack 2 drop-bags not weighing more than 7kgs. Since the control point for 300km and 900km were at the same hotel, Drop Bag 1 could be left behind for access at 900km. This eliminated the hassle of unnecessarily carrying half of the load in the marshal's cars. Then only Drop Bag 2 would need to be carried to the 600km mark. Ride marshals Vikas Shah, Sachin Shinde, Parthiv Adeshra and myself were able for execute this plan seamlessly, enabling the riders to access their drop-bags, have their designated meals and rooms for accommodation on time.
We were able to attract 23 brave-hearts to register for this event. All were seasoned riders with multiple SR titles coming from different parts of the country - Mysore, Mumbai, Surat, Valsad, Ahmedabad, Himmatnagar and of course, Baroda. 19 randonneurs successfully finished the LRM within the cut-off time of 90 hours. This was a remarkable achievement, not only for the riders, but also for The Cycling Club of Baroda, making it the most successful LRM in the club's history. And it all happened because of sheer teamwork, not just at the club level, but also across the two states.
As a result, after homologation, all finishers will be able to take home a brevet card that not only has the stamp of the organising club, but also two other clubs en-route, something that they will be able to cherish for a lifetime.
Ride report by:
(Club Representative, The Cycling Club of Baroda)