Montra Tour of Nilgiris – 2012 – Day Eight – Mettupalayam to Chamrajnagara

The Final Step – Mettupalayam to Chamrajnagara:
After an easy day of a short but exhilarating downhill ride, it was time for the final ride of TFN-2012. The body was hinting that it is great that the physically challenging tour was coming to an end while the heart started to feel a bit melancholic that the awesome fun is going to end. 

The ride up to Chamrajnagara from Mettupalayam is of 110 km with the 21 km competitive section starting off 12.5 km into the ride. The weather was pleasant and slightly chilly at 7:15 am when we started. 

The Final Battle: Competitive Section:
As the competitive section is quite close to the start, the possibility of long queues being accumulated at the start of the CS was great. So instead of nervously waiting for the CS to start, Chetan Gupta, Gautam Raja, Dipankar, Varun Sanon and I decided that we have to get to the start early and get it over with. So we drilled it and reached the CS start point first. Nachiket Joshi and Peter Raaflaub were also with us. The fast ride to get there acted as a good warm up for the guys.
One more race.. Photo: Chenthil Mohan
Peter started first followed by Varun. Then Gautam started followed by Chetan, Nachiket and Dipankar. I began my ride slightly before Dipankar and with in 500 meters he over took me and went ahead. I began to ride at my own pace observing if anybody is coming from behind. I went past Varun around 10km into the CS and about the same time Rishi Burman started to go past me. I quickly latched onto his wheel and decided to sit there to see how the race is unfolding for others. Since I was planted as a spy reporter in the race and I was not being timed, I’m allowed to do that. Otherwise, drafting is not allowed in Individual Time Trial(ITT). 

At around 11km mark or so, Richard McDowell swooshed past us. I continued to sit on Rishi’s wheel and watched Richard build a considerable gap but then he seemed to slow down a little and Rishi managed to keep the gap to around 150 meters or so. I wanted to see if I could bridge up to Richard and sit on his wheel but my effort was enough only to make it half way up the road. So, I slowed down and quickly got back to taking Rishi’s wheel again. It would have been fun if I was able to bridge the gap. I would have given Richard a hard time for being so slow. 
NJ on the CS as he goes past his teammate Laxman..
At around 15km mark on the final incline on the route I stopped and began to take pictures of the guys suffering as they rode past. After watching till the open category leader Lokesh ride past, I started riding again and made it to the finish line.

The course was an excellent one with flowing rolling terrain. Apart from a couple of inclines most of the inclines can be powered past with the momentum you carry into them. The road was completely out in the open and hence the guys starting later in the day might have had a slight disadvantage as the winds tend to pick up.

The Food Director Does His Thing Again:
After spending time comparing each others timings and making mental calculations to see if the positions in the GC changed any, we moved ahead towards the Sathy climb via Dhimbam Ghat section. With in a couple of kilometers of starting our unofficial food director, Siva began to crave for food. None of us needed any convincing to stop for food. So, we stopped at a small hotel opposite Bennari Amman Temple to wolf down dosas and Paratas.
Dosa stop near Bennari
As we began to eat almost all the riders riding past who saw our bikes there stopped and dropped into the hotel to join the party. Even the organizing team, Francis, Deepak, Badri, Modi and Sridhar along with a few other volunteers dropped in to see what all the bikes outside the hotel were all about and found about half of TFNers in the hotel. One has to just follow Siva’s wheels to find where food is. Those riding with him could never go starving as he puts up random support stations at times with exotic local food. I’m still drooling whenever I remember Bannur Mutton of the first day of TFN.       

27 Hairpin bends: Fantastic Sathy Climb:
After our food stop in Bannari, we stopped for refilling our bottles at support station three and proceeded towards the Sathy climb. The 11km climb starts after a flat section of 4km from the SS with a sign showing the start of the 27 hairpin bends. The views from the climb were amazing. I sat behind Dipankar as he climbed at a steady pace and began to take photos as we climbed together non stop. As we went past one hairpin bend after the other we began to see other riders slowly making their way up or taking breaks in between to take photos or to just gather their breath.
As we rode past 24th hairpin curve..
 While we kept looking around enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the hills as we climbed, we needed to be careful to watch out for on coming traffic which felt to be the most on any climb we did on the tour. The count down of the hairpins were encouraging as we climbed up. It is like someone ticking off the tasks from a task list as they are done. We ticked off all of the 27 hairpin bends and reached the top.

Ride Through Sathyamangalam Forest:
We were done with the climb by 11:30am and took a breather at the support station at the top before starting to ride towards the next support station where we planned to have lunch. We descended through Satyamangalam forest region with great rolling terrain that went more downhill than uphill for a change. While the bamboo plantation and other verdant shrubbery on either side of the road provided great setting, the ride through the forest was eerily silent but for the buzz of our chains and fast rolling wheels. It was a beautiful ride to end the tour.

Holy Cow!!
At the support station four where we stopped to have lunch, there was a cow standing dangerously close to the bikes that we placed there. A couple of us tried to make it move but it just found new dangerous spots near other bikes. After I ate the puliyodarai and curd rice that was served, I went close the cow to pat it away from the bikes. When the cow moved its head, I tried moving back from it and tripped on a bag that was there behind and landed on my butt with a thud. There is still debate among the witnesses wheather to blame my cleated shoes, the plastic bag or the cow for my sore butt.

Fun and Games Come to Close:
After the lunch we headed to the final stop at Chamrajnagar. The last thirty kilometers to Chamrajnagar were spent playing roadie games on the road with talks of easy ride followed by attacks and counter attacks regrouping and pacelining. In the end, Chetan, Gautam, Dipankar and I reached the wedding hall at Chamrajnagar where we were to freshen up, pack our bags and bikes to leave to B’lore after the presentation cermony. 

Stranger Sweetness On The Tour:
At the top of the Sathy climb at Dhimbam Support station while riders and volunteers were having a breather, they observed a traveling Muslim family celebrating birthday of the father by cutting a cake in their car by the roadside. Apparently, all the riders and volunteers spontaneously broke into a loud birthday song which earned them a big piece of cake. When the family observed the riders and volunteers fighting over the delicious cake piece like little children, they happily came to give them the whole cake and drove off smiling. What are the chances of some strangers treating you with a deliciously yummy chocolate cake after a hard climb! I’m sure their sweetness made the cake yummier than it actually was. I wish I was there. Heard about it later from Tour Director Francis.

Naveen John finished first in the final CS of the tour with a time of 31min 59 secs followed by Loki(32:51) and Richard(33:47). But Loki comfortably held the huge lead he amassed on the Ooty climb and held onto the Blue Jersey as Montra Tour of Nilgiris – 2012 Champion. NJ finished the tour as the first runner up and Richard retained his 3rd position in the GC comfortably. 

Open Mens Final results
In the Masters category Bjorn Suetens finished first for the day with a time of 34 mins 42 secs followed by Gautam Raja(35:46) and Mohan Kumar(36:58). Bjorn retained his over all lead quite comfortably and finished at the top of Masters GC. Prashant Tidke who amassed a huge lead in the climbing stages comfortably retained his 2nd position. The third position which was a three way battle between Gautam, Mohan or Vineeth Katarki was won by Gautam Raja with an excellent TT effort.

Masters Final results..
In Women’s category the fight for the top spot was still on although Shailaja holding a 2 min 39 secs lead was a favorite. She did another great ride and increased that gap by another 3mins 17secs and finished at the top of Women’s category quite comfortably in the end. Anjali Bhalinge finished 2nd for the day and 2nd overall followed by Deepali Nitin Joshi at 3rd.
Women’s category final results
The Winner Loot:
The winners in each category received a Montra bike, Oakley Rollerbag, Oakley Sunglasses and a Himalaya goodie bag. The 1st runners up received an Oakley Rollerbag, Oakley Sunglasses and a Himalaya goodie bag. The 2nd runners up received an Oakley backpack. 

Riders of the Day:
A father son duo rode in the very first edition of the tour,TFN-2008. Only one of them could complete the tour. The father crashed and landed on his face post lunch on the third day on the ride from Madikere-Sultan Batheri, and lost his front teeth along with a few other injuries. He had to discontinue riding the tour but his young son of 21 at the time went on to finish the tour. 
Nachiket and Ulhas Joshi..

The dynamic duo of Ulhas Kirshna Joshi and Nachiket Joshi made a come back to the tour after four years with TFN-2012. You can see how aptly his parents named him when you see the joyous and energetic enthusiasm with which Ulhas moves around most of the time. It was great to hear the stories of his two month long cycling tour he did with 8 other friends from college as a 21 year old. On meager student budgets, they apparently rode from Pune to Srilanka and back again covering both the west and east coasts on their simple Indian Roadsters which he calls ‘Kala Ghoda’. What an amazing experience it must have been for the nine youngsters about to set out into the real world after graduation to go and discover it on simple two wheels living on meager budget. 

Nachiket is a strong young rider who finished 15th in Pune-Bombay-Pune race early this year. He climbs well and the tour with tons of climbing is a course made for riders like him. He has more potential than his 9th place in open category shows.  

Ulhas says that he was able to be up and running within no time mostly because of the way the volunteers and the medical staff on TFN took care of him after the crash in 2008. This year he finished what was left unfinished in 2008. Congrats to both and good luck ahead!

Great route for the final CS and a great climb followed by an excellent ride through the forest. It was an excellent ride to end the tour. The riders fought hard in the final competitive section to retain or better their positions in the general classification. The Sathy climb was an excellent climb to cap off all the climbing on the tour. 

Volunteers pampering the riders…Photo: Chenthil Mohan
 I cannot believe that the party is over! What a fantastic tour it has been. Getting to know so many excellent riders and fantastic personalities, hearing so many stories and sharing so many wonderful moments; it has been a phenomenal experience. I cannot simply summarize the great work of the volunteers and organizers here. Every rider was grateful for the kind of effort they have put in pampering the riders so that they can just focus on riding and need not bother about anything else. Can not wait for next December already…

Photos here:

Also read:
Day 1: Bangalore to Mysore
Day 2: Mysore to Madikere

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