The warm-up exercises had begun much before the flag-off time and participants — swelling by the minute — were preparing to pedal 12 km.
Helmets strapped and bib tagged, most were seen gulping energy drinks or hogging energy bars even before the race started. I looked gingerly at my hired bicycle — for which I paid Rs 500 — to discover a rubber band holding together one of its pedals. If it breaks down I’ll drag it back, I thought. I had other concerns — I was cycling after years.
Twenty minutes later, we were still waiting to start. Enthusiastic voices assumed grumbling notes. Finally, the green ride began at 7.35 am. Enthusiasm was back on track. It was sheer joy exploring the Bandra lanes and bylanes on a humble bicycle. Annoying vehicle horns were replaced by the tinkling of bells of over-enthusiastic participants.
Ahead of me, a little boy showed off his skills. He pedalled everywhere — on the pavement, on the narrowest of culverts, around trees although there was hardly any space. Then there were hordes of dabbawallas. Their ancient, colourful jangling cycles drew the maximum cheers.
I pedalled with all my strength, resisting all temptation to stop and look at the rising sun over a hazy skyline or to listen to the morning raga on Carter Road. As I took a U-turn on Carter Road, the pedal gave way. I didn’t carry my cycle to the finish line but had to manage with one pedal working.
At 7.59 am, I made it to the finishing line.