Let The Fun (And The Pain) Begin!
If that old saying, ‘A good beginning is half the battle won’ has any credence, Montra Tour of Nilgiris(TFN) 2013 is going to be another fantastic tour. The million course breakfast from our hospitality partner Movenpick got the riders warmed up and ready for the flag off. The chief guests very thoughtfully (and thankfully) kept their speeches short and let the eager (and nervous) riders get on their bikes and get going.
This edition of TFN sees riders who started cycling just a few months back as well as riders who raced for years and still race professionally in Europe. If you ever doubted the fact that TFN always brings together riders of diverse backgrounds and capabilities, you just have to see the list of riders this year.
NICE – Very Nice!
104 riders were flagged off at Movenpick and started riding in a hurry to beat the mad rush of early Monday morning traffic via Tumkur road to get onto the NICE road. The concrete stretch of the NICE road is such a relief to get to, escaping the city traffic that began to get frantic quite early in the morning. The nice undulating terrain and speedy section of NICE road is a delight to ride on.
After about 20 km on the NICE road we entered Kanakpura road and immediately Siva Sai Nellore flagged us down for an impromptu support station for a Tea break. Having ridden the tour for the last 4 years, he couldn’t stay away from joining us at least for the first day and kept repeating how much he’s already missing being on the tour this year. If there was one all-round guide to fun on the tour for the last four years, it was him with his million fun tea and food stops everyday. We’ll miss him.
It’s Rolling! Nope. It’s Flat(s)!
While were still within the city, just as we stopped at Tumkur road signal, we heard a thunderous blast. Bjorn opened his account with first of his 3 flats for the day when his tire rolled off the rim and the tube burst out. He subsequently had two more flats in the day but luckily for him, not on the competitive section(CS). But another rider Andy Joseph had worse score with 5 flats for the day including a couple in the CS. He abandoned and took the van for the last ~50km. There were multiple sightings of riders fixing flats by the road side as we rode along the beautiful terrain.
The Danish Freight Train!
Oluf Højberg Hansen and Nils Eigil Bradtberg studied in the same college and when they got interested in cycling started a cycling club called ‘Semiprotour’ with a few friends like Christian Graver Larsen in Denmark. They have been quite active in races in Denmark and Europe in general and Nils has since become a licensed rider this year. So, when Oluf wanted to ride the TFN and invited his two friends, they happily accepted and came down for a holiday cum off-season racing fun.
They raced hard when they did and had loads of fun on the rest of the sections. It was a pleasure riding with them and trying to hang onto their wheels on what was probably their 0.5 zone ride.
|Chris was thinking of changing his mode of transport for the tour.. do you this this would make him faster?|
What’s Your Need For Speed?
Riders from UK, Harry Wiltshire, Linda Evans, Mark Bruce and Christopher Hay were finding the warm weather a bit too much to cope with and wanted to get the ride over with as quickly as they can. So their motivation to avoid a tan got them riding the 162km at 36kmph and arrive at the hotel before 1:30 pm.
Taner Kucukyuruk from Melbourne, Australia who is on the TFN as the last part of his 3 month cycling tour which included Germany, Turkey and a couple of other countries, got enticed into their slipstream and ended up having a quick course in ‘the dummies guide to speed’. In the end Taner ended up being too tired to give his best in the CS and they all ended up with a healthy pink tan anyway.
|Harry Wiltshire and his tan. Yup, that’s from one ride! All the speed wasn’t enough.|
Bring Your Race Face On!
After the first support station at 70 km, the next section of 25km to get to the start of the competitive section for the day became a warm up section. As they got closer to the CS at the 95km mark, riders began their warm up with small race pace efforts having ridden easy till that point to conserve energy. The CS for the day was 15.3 km. For a time trial, any distance is challenging as you got to dig in deep. How fast you manage to ride determines how quickly you can escape from that pain.
Although the route doesn’t have any climbs, the slight inclines leading into a couple of villages and the occasional false flat can quickly trip your pain meter. I started gently for a couple of minutes and let the HR move into the pain zone. Being relatively fresh on the first day of the tour, I let myself do my first red zone effort in almost 4 months. It would probably my last such effort for this tour. But, it felt good to become familiar and comfortable with pain again even for a short duration.
The riders pushed themselves and came out with fantastic timings.
Open Men’s Category:
The fight for the top slot appears to be an European championship of sorts with fight between two Danes and two English riders. The top three are all within a minute and half. Nils Eigil Bradtberg finished the fastest on day one CS of ~15.3 km with a timing of 21:03 @ ~43.6kmph. Mark Bruce is 47 seconds down at second with Nils’ friend Christian Graver Larsen finishing third 45 seconds further down. Harry Wiltshire is snapping at his heels with a gap of 17 seconds. This sure is going to be a close fight.
Vicki Nicholson continues to give even the male riders a run for their money and finished at the top of women;s field with a timing of 24:35. Linda Evans is placed second 2:31 down on her. Sowmya Urs is placed 3rd with 31:43. It will be interesting to see if Linda can make peace with the heat and close the gap on Vicki in the coming days.
Bjorn Suetens came to TFN this year to defend his Master’s title from last year. He finished with 24:12 and managed to put a 30 seconds on his closest competition Chistopher Hay. Gautam Raja who finished TFN 2012 third in masters managed to finish third on the first day 36 seconds down on the second place. The forth place rider is not far behind him at 38 seconds. It will be an interesting battle for the master’s title in the coming days.
It was a great start for the tour that saw some great racing action as well as great fun. Of course a lot of flats as well. With the riders now eying each other closely based on the timing from the first day and changing strategies accordingly, it would be interesting to watch how things will change from now on. The fight for top positions in all the categories look close as of now which makes it that much more exciting.
What’s In Store?
A competitive section with 23km time trail for general classification(GC) and then a KOM competition of ~17km including Kalahatty. Some riders will eye just the GC while some will KOM title or may be both. It is going to be tricky to decide if you want to go all out in the first TT and riding on Kalahatty. My pick for KOM is the compactly built Mark Bruce. Let’s see how it goes.
You can see more photos from my cell here and here.
Day 2: The Legend of Kalahatty: Mysore to Ooty
Day 2: The Legend of Kalahatty: Mysore to Ooty
Day 3: Ooty Kunda Lovedale Loop