On a balmy Sunday morning, the National Elite race saw 95 of India’s best cyclists kick on amidst ear-splitting noise, plethora of colours and of course the cops.
At the end of six laps spanning 50 kms, there was only one cyclist who rode home with a handsome purse of Rs 1.25 lakh, a bright yellow jersey and a contended smile.
In the race which was run in the points format (winner of every lap gets five points, three for the second placed rider and two for the cyclist crossing the line in third), Rajesh clinched 13 points overall while defending champion Sabu Ganigar of Karnataka came in second (Rs 75,000), one point behind the leader.
Rajesh kept himself in the hunt through five laps of the race maintaining close distance with the leaders but things took a different turn in the final lap. The Trichy-born 21-year-old sat comfortably behind eventual overall third-place winner Pankaj Kumar (10) of Haryana, who clinched Rs 50,000, for a brief while, but with Sabu closing in on him, things began to get tense.
Treacherous roads filled with humps and potholes, combined with a number of sharp turns, drastically reduced the speed of the riders but Sabu continued to hound Rajesh and got close enough to make a move. But it was not to be. Sabu attempted a final push to get ahead of Rajesh but the South Western Railways’ cyclist was boxed down by the riding pack at the final turn.
With Sabu well and truly out of the way, Rajesh, who represented India at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, daintily glided past the tape and onto the podium.