Ooty – Sultanbathery – Montra Tour of Nilgiris – 2013 – Day 6

Ooty – Masinagudi – Gudalur – Sultanbathery:
After a beautiful ride to Kodanad view point and back on day 5, it was time to bid adieu to Ooty for this year. Leaving the high altitude and colder climate of Ooty we descend Kalahatty and head towards a much warmer Sultanbathery in Kerala.  

Hair Raising Desent:
After starting from the hotel we rode about 12km to reach the top of Kalahatty to descend it. It might not be as tough as climbing it, but descending Kalahatty is not something that everyone can do safely. Since the road surface on the descent from Ooty to Gudalur is in a very bad condition and the potholes can be fatal at descending speeds, the organizers decided to take the tour through the Kalahatty descent instead. 

As I started descending, I was going smoothly with out any apprehensions. However as I reached curve 3, there was an oil spill right on the curve. I noticed it too late and as I was leaning into the hairpin curve, my tires went over the spill and the bike just slipped under me. I hit the road. I quickly got up and one of the Arohi kids who was riding behind me helped get my bike to the side of the road. I messaged the crew about the oil spill and they have immediately stationed a volunteer there to warn the riders to stay clear of the spill. 

Kalahatty descent… Pic courtesy: Ashwin Bhatia 

Fortunately the only casualty of that little crash was my beautiful Castelli jersey which now has oil all over it. After that I descended pretty gingerly and was glad that it was over. The steep climb with all the blind hairpin curves meant we had to control our speed all the time so that we were not too fast into the corners. By the end of the climb the palms and shoulders were painful with all the braking. 
But the knowledge sharing session that Harry Wiltshire, Mark Bruce and Nils Eigil Bradtberg have conducted last night on how to corner, brake and descend well on such steep climbs, seems to have helped. All the riders except two were able to descend safely. 

Ironically enough, apart from me, the only other rider that had a crash was Nils. From a group of women walking on the roadside on the climb, a lady apparently decided that she had to cross the road and jumped into this path. He was forced to go into the bushes to avoid crashing into her. He ended up with some road rash on his left thigh. Hopefully it doesn’t effect his performance on the last competitive section tomorrow.  

A Cool Dip..
After the descent, after we crossed Masinagudi and turned left to head towards Gudalur you can see a nice stream flowing by the side of the road. Taner, who was riding ahead of us along with a few others decided to have his first swim in six months in that beautiful setting. He managed to tempt the other riders and they went down to the stream with their bikes and began swimming. 

Chris Hay, Oluf and a few others make their way down to the stream..

We saw them while we were riding by, took the trail down to the stream with the bikes and we ended up with almost ten riders there. Some went swimming while others watched with glee. 

The initiator of the little gala swimming party, Taner, was actually skinny dipping happily. The volunteers who were passing by however weren’t as happy seeing us like that. They pointed out, to our feigned surprise, that it is banned get into the water because it was apparently a spot frequented by elephants and other animals. We were quickly ushered out of the spot by the TFN school teachers and were let go with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to do it again.

The Roller Coaster..
After the initial free fall descent from Ooty via Kalahatty, we got to ride through some of the best rolling terrain, first through the Bandipur forest and then via Devershola tea estates and forest reserve in Kerala.

A peaceful ride through the Bandipur forest..

We would climb for a couple of km and descend a couple, climb a couple and descend a few.. Rinse, repeat. The rolling climbs were gentle and we could spin up to get over them and then zoom down the flowing descents gleefully. The roads were great except for a few short stretches as we get out of Bandipur forest and reach Gudalur. At those couple of stretches the roads completely disappeared and it was horrible to ride though. A few riders like Karan Mehta suffered pinch flats riding through those sections while Bjorn’s back tire was cut on the side due to small rocks in that stretch. 

Fortunately they were very short stretches. The rest of the roads were good(esp. after Gudalur) and we could zoom down the descents. It was super fun as Vineeth Katarki lead, Sankara Narayanan, Gautam Raja and I, spinning up the hills with ease and descending in style. Completely enjoyed the fantastic roller coaster ride.

Bjorn’s Lady Luck Frowns..
Bjorn seems to have somehow offended the Lady Luck and his bad luck continues on the tour. He started the tour with 3 punctures and a lot of struggles fixing them and finding the right tubes for his wheels. Today as he just started descending Kalahatty, his derailleur hanger and the derailleur pulleys broke off. He had to freewheel down Kalahatty and make the bike into single speed by removing the derailleur and cutting the chain short to complete the stage. 

His bad luck didn’t end at having to ride single speed through the rollers. His tire got cut while riding through a particularly nasty section through Bandipur forest and he had to use his insurance card to boot and insure his tire. But before he reached support station 2, he had another flat. It was due to the sharp edge of the insurance card tire boot he used. He then borrowed a proper tire boot from one of the riders and kept riding to reach Sultanbathery. 

Bjorn’s Guru.. Became a carbon single speed bike after the derailleur breakage!

He stands at 2nd in Master’s category. Giving up the ride is not an option. Apparently he is going to borrow a friend’s bike for tomorrow’s CS and ride his bike as single speed for the rest of the sections. Hope things turn around for him and that he has a good time for the rest of the tour.

Charity on Two Wheels:
Three years ago when his boss and well wisher, David Bradgett, chided him and a few of his party loving friends about how they are wasting away a good life by not taking care of their health and fitness, Magendar Rajasekaran felt he had to do something about it. He felt like that a million times before. Many gym subscriptions went unused, many motivated efforts at other means of exercise fell flat after the initial enthusiasm wore off. But this time he was more determined than ever. He remembered his cycling crazy cousin, Siva Sai Nellore, and thought may be could try cycling.

Photo: Magendar..

He went to a bike shop and picked up the first bike he liked. He didn’t know anything about bikes or biking but was just determined to get started. He began joining Siva on his rides and he seemed to enjoy being outdoors, sweating, huffing and puffing. Cycling seems to have touched the right nerves within his mind and he kept on riding regularly. His fitness became better. 

When he wanted to join Siva, a multiple time TFNer, on the tour in 2012, the only slot available was as a charity rider. He liked the concept of mixing cycling which is good for the body and charity for the betterment of the society. He agreed to ride the tour as a charity rider for Vidhyodaya School which caters to the under privileged tribal kids. 

Riders with the kids at Vidhyodaya School this morning.. Photo: Deepthi Indukuri

Having become addicted to the immense fun he had on TFN and the great satisfaction he had in collecting funds and contributing to the education of under privileged kids, he has signed up as a charity rider again this year. He collected 1,50,000 INR this time. 

Today on the ride, as we approached Gudalur, he and a few other riders went to the Vidhyodaya school to meet the children and pass on the funds check to the trustees in person. The innocent joy in the eyes of the kids as they presented handmade bracelets to the riders as a token of their appreciation for the help is something to be seen.  

Magendar with the kids at Vidhyodaya

‘Having fun cycling towards good health and giving something back to the society by charity is two birds in one shot, a double whammy!’, says Magendar.

What’s Ahead?
Tomorrow we ride 149 km to reach Madikere. The stage can be compared to Paris-Roubaix in terms of road conditions. The day is going to be a long one with the heat, the bad roads and the never ending rollers. 

The competitive segment is about 16km in rolling terrain. This being the last competitive section in the tour, this is the last chance for the riders to give their best to improve their positions in general classification. The blue jersey in Men’s category is only 31 secs ahead of his rival. It would be interesting to see how the decider goes tomorrow. 

More photos here.

Day 1: Let The Fun Begin! Bangalore to Mysore
Day 2: The Legend of Kalahatty: Mysore to Ooty
Day 3: Ooty Kunda Lovedale Loop 
Day 4: Rest day! Party time!!
Day 5: Ooty – Kodanad – Ooty 
Day 7: One Hell of A Ride: Sultanbathery – Madikere  
Day 8: Madikere to Mysore! Winding up on a Windy Day! 

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