Rider Mania - the full story

As we came through the hills, I could see Goa in the distance with the sun reflecting off the sea
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We arrived late in the evening and I went straight to the event where things were being set up, including a massive stage
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Early the next morning, I found a suitable billboard to park my bike in front of and pose for a picture - not realising that I would look as if I am part of the huge poster

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Lots of different Royal Enfield bikes...
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I thought I was there to talk about my travel experiences and about riding Enfields in the Himalayas, however, it turned out that the organisers had other plans for me. Guy Martin (a Brit TT rider) had been over last year, and this was what he did

I'm a traveller NOT a racer I told my hosts and no I did NOT want to take part in the race, it looked far too dangerous.

So there I was - being told I should be racing, I pointed out all the various reasons why it wasn't at all feasible or possible:

  • I have never raced in my life
  • It looked very scary
  • I didn't have any race gear - no goggles, no boots (I was wearing my leather hiking boots to travel around in), no knee pads etc
  • I was supposed to be having other responsibilities at the event
  • I didn't even know whose bike I was riding - what if something happened to it
  • The bike was most definitely NOT a race bike!
  • I had a broken toe

Oh yes, I maybe hadn't mentioned that but I managed to break my toe on the evening that I arrived in Goa - no alcohol or motorcycle was involved - I stubbed it on the doorstep! A doctor was produced who strapped my toe and said I would be fine to continue.
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Sorry - maybe I should have given a prior warning about the fact that you would see my decidedly unsightly foot. The big toe nail had been lost in Delhi three months earlier (I'd been having to change gear using my bunion)

However they wouldn't take no for an answer and pushed me to at least do the practice course. 

So I'm still not sure how, within 24 hours of arriving in Goa I found myself on the race track with these guys
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I had to borrow knee pads and was not dressed for racing

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The practice went ok, although Joshua, the guy trying to put me through my paces was tearing his hair out when I was slowing down and waving other riders past me :)

The crowd were and cheered us all on - just five of us on the track at a time.
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I was relieved to find that it was a right hand track - my broken toe is on my left foot. Joshua patiently explained to me about how and when to put my leg out at bends - I'm still not sure I got it right!

I went off to have a meal and think about whether I could do this
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This was the guy cooking the paneer tikka that I love to eat.

India is full of distractions - this is the local snake charmer and his assistant.
The cow?? Well, in true India style, she's just wandering past, and ye that is the middle of the road that they are all in
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they manage to get the snake to liven up
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I spend my time catching up with various friends and people I've met in different parts of India, including the lovely Snehal and Godwin from Ride Inn - THE motorcyclists' hostel in Manali, gateway to the Himalayas.[​IMG] 
Later that evening and I'm watching one of the bands play - they have a huge stage and the atmosphere is great, lots of people dancing
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And onto the next day, where I met up with some more local riders including quite a few women which is always a great experience as often I'm the only female riding in a blokes' world
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It's also time to go back to the race track, having completed my training session and then after a hefty persuasion session with Sarah (wearing a hat in the top picture) accompanied by a few beers, I had been convinced to at least try the practice run on the race course
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Tension has grown, and I'm once more trying to track down someone with similar size legs to mine so that I can borrow their knee pads.
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Back down to the track, and time for scrutineering, DJ Jack Jigg has stepped forward and insisted 0n being my pit team (good grief, I wasn't even aware I needed one!)
here he is spinning some tunes during the men's heats

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I borrowed some tools and gaffer tape, we removed the wheels, he wanted to remove the headlight but as we had a limited time and limited tools, that wasn't feasible and so we taped over the glass, ditto for the indicators.
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The rear footpegs were tied up so they wouldn't get in the way.
Phew, all done and time to join the queue
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I'm in the background there, in what is a surprisingly uncrowded picture, I had spent ages jostling for position and using my best Mary Poppins voice each time people were pushing in front. I used the opportunity to dry off my wet swim stuff on the back of the bike, the sun was scorching as I stood there waiting and watching all the race stuff going on.

I was finally cleared and immediately felt like a race competitor when my race number was handed over - No. 93 step forward - first a quick practice circuit
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I was careful going round - unfortunately they had altered the direction of the course from my training session the previous day and it was now all left hand bends- my poor broken toe was recoiling in horror each time I put my foot out. I gradually built up confidence and speed, only to sustain a fall
"oh shit" I thought and leapt to my feet picking up the bike as I went. and completing the practice.
later discovering that I had badly bent the gear lever
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Luckily someone helpful was found and this nice young man came and helped straighten it

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And then a wait for the main race event...
just as well because I had a talk to give about my travels in Mongolia and Africa
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followed this up with a wander, admiring some of the graffiti
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The various bike groups were all very friendly with one another - but more about that later, it's race time

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I'm number 93 second from the end and that's Urvashi next to me - the race favourite - she has won this race every year for several years in a row. I appear to be the only one with a road bike :)

It's Race Time, the competitors are lined up, the course officials are in a group and conferring in front of us.
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and we're off
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I hold back at first, our handlebars had been almost locked together because the starting grid was a bit narrow, I also had the very keen and very experienced Urvashi next to me, happy to let her go.
I might be a complete novice at racing, but there's one thing I do know - I need to lean forwards (not sure why, but I do it)
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I found myself riding a bit more cautiously than expected - the race track had been churned up by all the men's races and now it was comprised of loose sand and dirt on every curve, my road tyres had no traction at all and so I was limited to going wide around the bends. On the straight sections I tried to make it up by going fast
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That's my national flag on the bike - the Cornish one, I have it on every bike I ride "Kernow bys vykken" as we say at home.
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Gritting my teeth, trying to peer through the dust I rode on - the seesaw gear lever at times catching me out when I would catch it with my heel and the bikje would jump up a gear, at one point causing me to stall!
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The countdown to the end had started
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As I crossed the finish line I was ecstatic- I had completed my first ever race and I'd survived - I threw my arms in the air and crossed the line like Rossi, both arms raised in triumph. Not a winner but happy to have done it. I was greeted with some fantastic news
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I had achieved a podium place - Ms Coates was third :)

Officially the third fastes dirt riding lady in India