One Hell of A Ride – Montra Tour of Nilgiris 2013 – Day 7

Sultanbathery to Madikere:
The ride from Sultanbathery to Madikere is the second longest ride in this year’s TFN after Bangaloreto Mysore. It is also the second toughest ride this year after the day we rode Kalahatty. The entire 149km ride is incredibly rolling with probably a small hill for every kilometer of the ride and a total elevation gain of over 1900m. Add the hot sun into the mix, and you have one hell of a day ahead.

The Danish Freight Train:  
We rolled out of Sultanbathery around 7:45 am since it was going to be a long day for most of us. Just as we rolled out of the town, I saw a train forming with Christian Larsen at the helm and Oluf, Chris Hay and Linda Evans following his wheel. I was a bit sore from riding aggressively yesterday on the way to Sultanbathery fromOoty. So, was initially planning on taking it easy but, I guess the subconscious has its own way of deciding things that are right for you. I found myself jumping to bridge the gap and joining the train.

I caught the morning train to Madikere..  Photo: Stalin

In a few kms just as we were passing him, Naveen Kumar Sivannna hopped onto the train. Christian seemed to be in a sprightly mood and he laid down the hammer. He was powering up the rolling hills and descending with amazing ease. Initially he was doing most of the work but soon Chris Hay and Oluf shared a bit of work. I was hiding behind at the tail of the train well protected from the wind. When I saw our official photographer, Stalin however, I decided I should share some work at the front. What if that was a downhill, the guys need rest! Right?

Just as we were approaching support station(SS) one, we caught sight of Harry Wiltshire and Mark Bruce just ahead. I think this was the first time I saw them while riding on the tour. They are always way ahead racing almost for the entire distance in the day instead of just the competitive sections. Usually, they stop for a minute at support stations to fill water, pick up any refreshments, give out their bib numbers and off they go.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane.. It’s superman! Christian’s downhill riding skills!

At SS1, Nils Bradtberg joined the train and kept things steady. Christian was showing off his downhill riding skills on the downhills and kept it steady on the uphills. During the later part of the ride, he was doing single leg pedaling drills teasing us as Oluf and I were struggling to keep up on the uphills! He’s such a character and fun to ride with.
Unniappam Stop:
SS 2 was at the famous Unniappam stop on the route. The tour director, Badri, served us hot Unniappams at the SS and I gulped down four before starting again. They were super tasty and probably were fueling me all day. Oluf got a TFN special massage at the SS and Nils got expert bike mechanic services from Chris Hay to correct his shifting issues and get the bike ready for the day’s competitive section.

Tour director Badri with Unniappams!

Competitive section:
The competitive section was a 16km stretch just after Kutta. The course was rolling with quite a bit of super fast sections. The rolling hills were short and were mostly in the 4-5% range. Once you hit speed on the downhill sections, you can carry the momentum and power through on the big ring on most of those rolling hills. I was pleasantly surprised to see great tarmac on the race course. There was a big pothole on the left side of the road immediately after the start and then with in meters it went through a narrow bridge followed by a speed bump. But after that, the tarmac was perfect for racing and there wasn’t much traffic as well. The course was tailor made for the power guys ending on a slight uphill.
At the finish line, it was great to see Chris, Linda, Oluf, Nils, Nissar and Christian finishing. It definitely looked like they have given everything they’ve got in the last competitive section of the tour. It took a while for them to recover from the effort and get their bearings right.

Note: Will update the results in the next post.
The Route Confusion:
After the CS, since it was only about 11am, we decided to continue and have lunch at SS4 which was to be set up just after Virajpet. There were a couple of weddings happening in Gonikoppal and the town was unusually busy with traffic. The way to Ammati from Gonikoppal is an internal road which is quite narrow. Not sure if it is usual or if it is the effect of those marriages, there was a lot of car traffic on that narrow road. Since we were early, we managed to ride ahead in relatively thinner traffic but the later riders were complaining of it being quite heavy.
As we approached Virajpet, there were multiple markings on the road with one set showing straight ahead and the other suggesting taking diversion towards Murnad. The markings suggesting straight route seemed to be over written. So, we took right in the town.
The crew to setup the SS4 came in just as we were about to leave having seen nothing where the SS was supposed to be. We were apparently too fast. It was 1pm but we were told that the lunch was 30 minutes away because of the traffic on the route. We waited for a while before deciding to ride the remaining 27km to the hotel and order some food.
One Hell Of A Ride:
The sun was blazing hot and even though we had enough fluids, the lack of proper food was showing its effects on me. I began to slow down on the rollers but the Danish gang waited and pulled me along. It was really tough to keep going on the never ending rolling hills towards the end. We were all immensely relieved when we finally saw the hotel on the top of the steep hill outside Madikere.

A tired looking bunch after a hard ride!

We made it to the hotel at 2:30pm. Boy, I was glad I got on the Danish train in the morning. Although it was hard work hanging on, the ride was over relatively quickly. Most riders made it around 4-5pm and the last riders rode into the hotel in dark at 7:30pmwith support car headlights illuminating the route for them. They rode into the hotel to the loud cheering from all of us. It was one hell of a tough route and the blazing hot sun only made it worse.  
Yoga Brings The Brits to TFN:
Christopher Hay is a doctor specializing in radiology. Apart from cycling for health, he also practices Asthanga Yoga. Earlier this year, when his yoga teacher in Edinborough mentioned that he once saw a big cycling event going through Mysore, he got curious and looked it up on the net. He landed on the Tour of Nilgiris page and signed up for it. When sharing his goals for the year with his coach, Harry Wiltshire, he mentioned TFN as the year end goal. Harry was curious and wanted to know more. Once he heard more, he got interested and wanted to sign up as well to combine training and vacation. He then got his girl friend Linda Evans and his friend Mark Bruce to sign up as well. Thus yoga ended up bringing the Brits to riding TFN.
Chris says yoga and cycling complement each other and are great for the body and mind. While cycling tightens up the muscles, yoga helps them stretch and loosen up. It helps greatly in injury prevention as well. Incidentally, our Spectrum Racing teammate and Women’s champion Vicki Nicholson is a long time practitioner of Asthanga yoga. 

Christopher Hay trying a faster bike! 

Chris is on a long holiday beginning with this tour and traveling to Indonesiaand Australiatill mid of Jan 2014. He says that this holiday is a gift for himself as he turns 40 on Jan 3rd. In the process, he won the blue jersey in Master’s category as well. Not a bad gift to give oneself on turning 40.
He says that when he signed up, he thought the tour would be good but didn’t expect it to be this good. He is all praise for the amazingly scenic routes, the great countryside, the people he got to know on the tour and the professional way the tour was organized. He donated his old trusty Giant Defy road bike to Ride A Cycle Foundation(RACF) after winning the TFN master’s category on that bike. He is a great guy to talk to and ride with. It was a pleasure to ride with him and getting to know him better this morning.
Everyone at the Tour of Nilgiris wish you a great time, Chris.

More photos here.              

Also Read: 
Day 1: Let The Fun Begin! Bangalore to Mysore
Day 2: The Legend of Kalahatty: Mysore to Ooty

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