Highlight of our 2014 season clicked off as ‘Asia Pacific DH Challenge’ in Bali, Indonesia was marked on the calendar. Being our second time attending this power packed event we knew a thing or two about Bali’s crazy life. Teaming up in November for the race were Ignatius Chen, Gautam Taode and Piyush Chavan for ‘Men Open’ and myself lining up in ‘Master Expert’ Category.
Landing into Denpasar late in the night followed by an hour long cab ride to our accommodation near the race venue got us set with Bali’s ocean breeze. The weekend approaching the Race day we got ourselves a rental SUV and scooters! The quick throttling scooters easily available in Bali were our speed weapon for the daily commute. With new race gear and fine-tuned bikes ready for Sunday, it was time for the track walk and practice runs.
The Bukit Tengah DH course had been beefed up for 2014. The start gate pushed you onto a course featuring double jumps, small drops, rock garden and a new feature at the finish zone – a ladder bridge followed by a hip jump! Adding to the excitement of a fast course, the racer start list looked heavy as well. World’s biggest names in downhill racing were set in the Elite category. Speed demons like ‘Sik Mik’ Hannah, Remi Thirion, Wyn Masters, Kazuki Shimizu were joined by the Coastal Crew to bomb down the 1.8km loose & dusty course.
With a wide ocean on one side, Bukit Tengah slope lit up on Race Sunday with riders shuttling up the hill for a 7AM practice run. Following our seeding run results, our Final Runs were slated around 1PM. Ignatius had beat himself up in the practice run and suffered broken ribs. With pain killers in his belly, Iggy opted to race his final run. “No DNS” was his moto! Hitching a ride up in the pickup van GT, Piyush, Iggy and me were getting the pre race boost! The most exciting part of a race is before and after the race. Everything in between is too much fun to remember!
As the clock ticked on my final run, with a small crash and a derailed chain I crossed the finish line grabbing a 6th in “Master Expert”. As the “Men Open” category started out, I was glued to the finish time screen. With Iggy going across the finish line in one piece, Piyush styling the final table in spite of a crazy crash 100mts from finish line, our eyes were set on Gautam’s final run. As the top 10 kept changing, GT blasted through the Finish arch with a time that put him on 4th! As 5 more racers had to go, we were eager to see what would unfold. As the time kept ticking, GT hooked on to a 5th spot! Which meant we had a podium finish for the first time in an Asian level DH competition.
Tri Colour flashing on the podium as Gautam posed for the 5th spot was something we were in Bali for. Our plan was to see at least one of us in the top 5. And we got that! The “Bintang” of our gang was Gautam. A 6th spot for me was an improvement from last year’s 9th. Eighteen year old Piyush successfully completing his life’s first big international race and Ignatius not getting a ‘DNS’ we were all fired up to close the Sunday in Bali with a party bomb at Sky Garden! And an explosion we did, as one of us was untraceable until sunrise and other ones flat on the floor!
With the race dust settled and Gautam & Piyush heading back to India, Ignatius and me got our bikes on the power scooters and went looking for hidden trails around Chandidasa area. Walking trails leading to temples and small villages were our zones for the remaining four days before returning to India. All in all with two top 10 finishes, a podium, high fives, beaches and partying for two weeks brought our Bali visit to a wrap. A new season fast approaching, race plans have already begun!