Words: Cheyann Nongrum \\ Photos: Bishal Jyoti Saikia, Jashim Click, SasankadipGogoi
Visiting the hills of Assam, the Assam Downhill Championship 3.0 took place on the 19th and 20th of December 2020. The event took place once again on the famous Monkey Trail at 6th Mile. Being the first race of the year for most of our North Eastern Riders, many were excited to see where they stand and for some, experience their first downhill race.
This year, the track had a full makeover with the help of India’s Downhill Mountain Biking champ, Gautam Taode.
Even though the trail had the same route cutting through the forest, across the rocky sections and down the fast steeps on the way to the finish, Gautam envisioned certain features that would help progress a rider’s skill, boost confidence and up the ante of the whole race. With the help of local riders and the Spokehub Crew, many days of digging and lots of woodwork, they were able to create the perfect upgrades to the track.
Here are a few words from Gautam Taode about the race and his design influences.
FRMTB: Gautam, coming into the first race of the year, how was your preparation been for this event and what were your expectations coming into it?
Gautam Taode: It was good to come back to the northeast for there first DH race, and I am always stoked to ride with all the young guns of the sport, seeing them It puts a smile on my face and gives me more motivation that why I choose this path of life and ever motivate me to do more for the sport.
FRMTB: We heard you helped design the track this year! How did you envision the track to be and what did you have in mind for the design. Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?
Gautam Taode: Yup we as GT Adventures got the opportunity to design the track, it was what we visioned the outcome of the design spot-on, it was great to be working with the spokehub racing team on the track, I was stoked to see the crowd going nuts seeing the riders blasting through the trail we designed.
FRMTB: As an inspiration to many riders in the country, how would you best describe the mountain biking scene in India through your years and what significance do these races/events hold in the progression of the sport.
Gautam Taode: Being in this sports for 10+ years, I have been to countless DH races and have been to most states. I have built tracks and organised the primary race of the year CFI National Downhill Championship, where one represents the country in a higher level of the sport ( Asian championship, South Asian Games etc.)
It is crucial to have more private races as they hold a vast contribution and most importantly allow everyone to showcase their skills on these platforms.
FRMTB: Are races getting harder and more competitive?
Gautam Taode: Yes, it is getting more and more competitive and more challenging, and the best part is that it keeps my wheels rolling!
FRMTB: With ADC becoming a big and well renowned event held at the end of the year, do you think it might be a good opportunity for sponsors, companies etc to search for young talent if it heads that direction?
Gautam Taode: Yes, it is essential for the balance and support of this sport and cycling in general. It is high time that all the companies related in the industry should reach out to athletes and give racers support, not just in kind but also a healthy salary to continue growing together and it should be fair for both parties.
FRMTB: What was the hardest part about the track that challenged you and many other riders.
Gautam Taode: There was not much of a challenge for most top racers, as the design in my mind was not to scare off new riders by making it a difficult level, but to make them push their limits by small exposures to hard features for the future.
FRMTB: Do you think there should be more races like this across the country?
Gautam Taode: Definitely!
With new features built to add an even more thrilling experience and of course the value of progression for riders, one of the best things you can get for free, would not be possible without a race of course. Organizing a race requires many months of preparation, manpower and even the thoughts and ideas that help make these events possible have to come from somewhere! After the festive season, we got in touch with SpokeHub Owner and ADC Founder, Bikash Doley and asked him about how the he went about planning and organising such a RAD event!
FRMTB: Bikash, what goes into planning a race which is looked forward to by many of our Indian Riders? Is it hard?
Bikash Doley: While there are many aspects to organizing a race, I feel there are 3 critical aspects, incase you want to sustain it for the long term:
2) Resource Mobilization (Sponsors & Partners)
The hardest part first. Setting a clear and precise vision. To get an answer to the question, ‘why and how’. What will the long-term result of the effort that we are putting in. Will there be sustained and impactful benefit to the sport or riders from the event. To be able to pull our thoughts out of the superficial aspects of a race and visualize real long-term impact is very tough. While it is to some extent easy to visualize an ultimate goal, it’s difficult to chart out a practical path to achieve it. In our case it’s been 3 years but that iteration process for a clear ‘vision’ is still going on. trailnexus.in is a step arising out of such iterations. It’s a step which has emerged out of our vision to create a sustainable and scalable platform for all sports related to the trails.
Resource Mobilization (Sponsors & Partners):
Be it financial support from sponsors or other support from partner organizations, in both all the cases the relationships has to be long-term. Our association with a few of our sponsors and support teams like WhackyTalky and Pedal For A Change is long-term and consistent. Basically, everyone has to be aligned to one vision, should know their roles and work consistently towards the vision. As the sport is still very nascent in India, to have sponsors onboard for a longer term is difficult. There has to be real and sustained value addition for the brands too. They too have to be viable.
Guwahati has disadvantage when it comes to DH events. Guwahati in all honesty isn’t an ideal DH destination. For that matter even if we find a good trail, the logistical challenges of organizing a race, ensuring accessibility for ambulance, movement of goods, easy movement for riders, rider safety, scope for spectators to visit and watch the race etc are a huge challenge. Luck has to be on your side too. And on top of it there’s a valid pressure to improve the race track with every passing year. So yes track building is critical.
FRMTB: What according to you are the key points into organizing a successful race the recent ADC 3.0?
Bikash Doley: I think I have almost answered this question in first answer.
1. Long-term Vision
2. Dedicated long-term Partners and Sponsors
3. A Good Track
FRMTB: As an organizer, are there any aspects you try and focus on to promote the sport and help riders with progressing their skills?
Bikash Doley: Definitely like you’ve mentioned new features, bigger jumps etc. However apart from that, the peer learning which happens when riders meet each other and interact is what we feel helps riders grow. So our endeavor also has been to get experienced riders come down for the event and help design the track. When someone skilled and experienced, like say Gautam Taode comes down for an event, apart from riding skills, the kids here get an immense boost to their confidence and the change in attitude towards the sport (towards taking it more seriously) is phenomenal. To see media covering the sport and riders, to see a crowd cheering for them, to see themselves and the sport they pursue being in the limelight is a potent confidence booster too for riders.
FRMTB: What are the Risks and Rewards of organizing such an event.
Bikash Doley: In a DH event, rider safety is a big risk. Others risks like financial/reputation related risks etc are there but not as critical as rider safety.
When it comes to rewards, nothing is more mentally rewarding than seeing the happy faces of riders and spectators. Its immensely satisfying to see new kids coming into the sport. Its satisfying to see the sport getting mainstream attention.
Financially, maybe the stage hasn’t yet come in India when organizers can see financial viability in organizing niche sports like DH.
FRMTB: What is the goal for 2021.
Bikash Doley: We have set a timeline till 2025. The goal is to improve every year till 2025. The goal is to have longterm partners onboard, atleast till 2025. The goal is to help talented hardworking riders with vision, improve their skills and be counted in the Asia top 10 by 2025. The goal is also to make ADC financially viable and sustainable by 2025.
Looks like some Exciting stuff coming this season! Lots to look forward to for our riders and hope they’ll train hard to excel!! Mountain biking is a very demanding sport. As a rider, preparing your body not only physically but mentally as well is quite a task. Knowing that a rider needs to do the needful, “Race Prep” we asked local Shredder and podium contender, Apshai Niangti what he did to prepare for the first race of the year.
FRMTB: How would you compare the track this year compared to last year and what are your thoughts on the newly added features?
Apshai Niangti: The track has seen changes and it’s more technical and demanding. It’s a little bit harsh for guys on a hardtail but seeing them push their limits I guess it’s heading in the right path. The track was good but it would have been great if more lines were open since different people have different views and one can express themselves more and be creative if more sections are opened rather than closing and refining them to a certain path.
FRMTB: How prepared were you coming into this race and how did you train?
Apshai Niangti:Preparation…. Well that’s out of the question! Everyone was locked up at home and to finally get back in between the tapes just riding was more than enough. I literally just came for the fun of riding bikes and chilling with the riding community.
FRMTB: Do such events help progress your skills and help prepare you for tougher races ahead?
Apshai Niangti: Yes definitely… Events like these helps you to test your skills and see how much progress one has made over time. Say it’s like a test to know where you stand and how much more do you need to push and practice to get to the top.
FRMTB: Did your race run go as expected and how was your race experience?
Apshai Niangti: Came to the race expecting a little more than I thought and sometimes there are hiccups and human errors are bound to happen. But all in all it was a good experience and I guess both riders and organisers will take note and move forward with positive feedbacks and try to eliminate as much of the errors as possible in the future races.
FRMTB: How was your overall experience of the race?
Apshai Niangti: The roadtrip, the community, the environment as a whole. Just getting out there and racing is what keeps me going to these events . THE FUN AND JOY YOU GET BEING ON WHEELS!
Insight from Riders is valuable for progressing the sport! Making certain changes requested by the riders for certain things not only helps riders feel valued, but they also feel that they are contributing to making the sport better! Positivity will only make the sport grow in our country and it is certainly headed in the right direction!
Come race day, our riders had their lines dialed and confidence at an all time high. Focused eyes scanned the trail for a last minute sneaky line during the last push up before smashing their race timings. Conditions were Prime for the race and everyone was set for their final race runs.
First to drop down were the Hardtail shredders. The speeds the boys were hitting on their hardtails were out right crazy! Who would’ve expected to see such speeds being hit on a trusty old hardtail!
Hitting a section with a steezy jump called, “The Nutcracker” was the main area where the crowd was present and man, did they have a blast cheering our guys on!
Finally after all the riders Dropping down and Timings seemed tight with the hardtail boys, the following racers were our podium finishers. Kudos to the other 14 riders in the category who fought with their all.
The Winners :-
1. Meban Suiam on his Trek Roscoe 7 smashing a winning time of 2:09:54
2. Taitus Marak on his Marin Sanquentin1 coming in close with a 2:10:052
3. Reuben Nicol Kharchandy on his Trek Marlin coming in with a easy 2:17:68
4. Ridor Niangti on his Ghost 4x Comp with fighting with a 2:20:32
5. Ali Inus on his Focus with an exciting first podium 2:22:57
After the exciting hardtail racing came the intense Full Suspension race. The track had sections translating to speeds seen only on the autobahn and these guys had the ba**s and the technical skill to hit them! With more crowd awaiting to see these absolute machines blast down the infamous Nutcracker, the stakes were at an all time high. Riders await at the start line to give their all and blast down the hill with their Full Suspension mountain bikes. One by one they dropped down and all of them smashing timings of the former, timings were smashed, amazing pictures were taken, the stoke was high!! As the winter dust settled and the evening sun was heading home, the excitement and suspense was nerve racking. Racers, organisers, spectators were all awaiting the results to know who the fastest racer was. The competition was fierce and intense battles were fought that day.
1. Ismamul Howk on his Giant Reign blasting down with a 1:48:69
2. Gautam Taode also on his Giant Reign rolling in with a 2:00:20
3. Mallav Dutta on his Marin Rift Zone with a smooth 2:02:76
4. Benny Metha on his Commencal Meta with a killer 2:06:57
5. Tennyson Thockchom on his Giant Trance with a debut podium time of 2:18:24
The timings were close this year and the competition was as tight as ever! With some intense racing and healthy competition, everyone went home with a smile and the satisfaction of racing at the end of a not so satisfying year. SpokeHub has definitely influenced other teams to provide riders an opportunity to progress and have a nice racing season to set performance levels at their highest.