You are in the zone. In peace with the fearsome climb. Just happy that you’re able to move, however slow it may be. Just focusing on the next few meters. The next few inches. The sweaty blazing eyes don’t matter. The steaming breath doesn’t matter. The screaming muscles don’t matter. All that matters is, you’re getting closer. Inch by sweet inch.
You are trying not to remember all the horror stories you read about the climb. Trying to make your own story. Hoping it doesn’t end up being another horror story. Trying to climb at your own pace. To not let the gradient get to you. To not let the pain bother you. Trying not to panic. You keep turning the pedals. Sometimes in circles but mostly in squares. But, making progress. Inch by sweaty inch.
You are putting every ounce of energy you have into each pedal stroke. Sweating bucket loads. Each turn of the pedal is a painful effort. An effort you are willing to make. A pain you are willing to take. Willing to take for the pride of accomplishment. For the joy of success. You keep grinding away in the granny gear. You are suffering. But you are moving. Inch by painful inch.
You are putting every ounce of energy you have into each pedal stroke. But it is not enough. You’re hardly moving, wavering on the steep road, trying to stay on the bike, afraid you might stop and not be able to get going again. You realize the worst horror stories you heard about the climb are real and come to a grinding halt. You decide to walk it if you can’t climb, crawl it if you can’t walk. It doesn’t get any easier. But you’re making progress. Inch by bloody inch.
Every rider on the day had a story. For some, it was a story of success. For some, it was a story of living to fight another day. But for all, a story worth sharing with their grand kids. A story about the day they attempted Kalahatty.
|Hairpin bends from hell..|
Mysore to Ooty!
With a monster day of 134 km ahead with Kalahatty to climb after riding 103 kms, the ride was flagged off at 7:45 am in Mysore. We rolled out of the city gently and formed our own groups.
The first support station was at around 36km from the start which also doubled up as the start of the day’s competitive section(CS). Riders rode easy most of the way and warmed up as they got close to the CS.
Competitive Section: 21km, Rolling Terrain:
The race section was set to start just outside Nanjangud. It was announced as 23km but as it turned out, it was for 21 km. With in a couple of kilometers we encountered the first of 8 or so speed bumps on the course. They came in sets of 2 or 3 and ended up breaking the rhythm of the riders who didn’t know how to bunny hop over them. Many seem to have had bottle ejections courtesy of the speed breakers. I was flagged down by one of the villagers at around 9 km on the course to give me Vicki Nicholson’s water bottle. I managed to pass it onto her later.
The course was quite rolling with 300-500m stretches of 3-5% every couple of km. The later part of the course was littered with false flats. Overall the course was tougher and longer than the competitive section of day one.
It was announced as 23km but as it turned out, it was for 21 km. Some even seem to have had an impression that it was for 25km. So the riders who planned their efforts to precision and were gearing up for the last bit were disappointed because they had something left in the tank.
Some riders who had an eye on Kalahatty either out of fear or with hopes of King or Queen of Mountain (KOM/QOM) needed to make sure they didn’t empty their tanks on the CS. The riders who had their eyes set on the General Classification(GC) were more intent on doing their best in the CS as the Kalahatty KOM/QOM didn’t count for GC.
Day 2 CS and GC Results:
Nils Eigil Bradtberg seems to have put in a great effort in the CS and managed to put another 1:17 on Mark Burce who finished second again. Christian Graver Larsen finished third 12 secs behind Mark.
|Men’s Day 2 CS Results|
After day 2 CS, Nils is 2:04 ahead of Mark while Christian at third is further 1:58 down.
|Men’s GC Standings|
Women’s category was again dominated by Vicki but the time gap suggests that Linda might have played it safe with an eye of QOM. The rest of the women get disqualified because they did not finish the day’s stage completely with most of them abandoning or getting swept on Kalahatty.
|Women’s Day 2 CS Results|
The gap now in Women’s GC is over 6 minutes. It would be interesting to see if Linda can manage to close the gap in the coming couple of climb stages.
|Women’s GC Standings|
In Master’s category, Christopher Hay finished 19secs ahead of Bjorn Suetens while Gautam finished 3rd with 38:20.
|Masters Day 2 CS Results|
In master’s GC Bjorn still is in the lead but the advantage is just 12 secs over Christopher Hay. Gautam Raja gained some more time on forth place Louwrens Van Der Steen. But Vineeth is snapping at Louwrens’ heels for a spot at 4.
|Masters GC Standings|
Taking In The Silence:
After the competitive section we rode to the third support station just outside Bandipur forest reserve where we were bunched together and were asked to ride in groups of at least 10. The ride through the Bandipur and Madhumalai forests was so peaceful that we could almost hear the silence. It was an amazing experience riding through the scenic rolling terrain.
The ride to get to SS4 had a lot of steep short climbs that seemed to prime the legs for the torture ahead.
We rested for a while at SS4 and waited for the timers to reach the top of the climb before we could start.
Despite all the apprehension I started easy and was going steady on the climb and was not in a panic mode. The initial part before the 36 hairpin bends start was quite steep and quite in the open for the sun to bear down on us. The legs felt fine and although the HR got into tempo zone, I was at ease and was looking to drink regularly and stand up and pedal for a minute every few minutes to use different set of muscles.
Everything seemed to be going great until curve 14 where I began to cramp up. I kept going after drinking again hoping they’ll go away but the terrible feeling of someone plucking carelessly on the muscles like guitar strings was very painful. So, the goal of completing the climb non-stop went downhill. I stopped for a couple of minutes to relieve the cramps and started again. With 4 more km to go, it seemed like a monumental struggle to move forward. But after a couple of minutes of break I was able to go forward for a km or so before the cramps began again.
I was able to ride well until the cramps came back. Then take a small break again and start again. With 3km to go, I picked up some juice and coke from Apoorva who was one of the motorbike petrol guys on the climb. Again at 1km to go I had to stop but I was so eager to get on the bike and get it over with. I started and the last 300 meters was in immense pain from the cramps but with the volunteers and the riders who finished earlier shouting my name, cheering me on, urging me to finish, I kept going and finished the climb in tears. It was so emotional to finally get to the top.
Many had to walk it. Abhirama smartly carried his sandals so that he didn’t have to hike up the hill in cleats. Sankar who had 39×23 as his lowest gear had to walk major portions of the climb. Taner who was going strong initially and went past me blew up spectacularly and had to walk a lot in the later part of the climb. I eventually finished ahead of him. Sunny(Mansukhdeep Singh) began to cramp almost exactly where I started cramping up and walked up most of the remaining 4km. Oluf managed to finish well despite having a flat on the climb even before the hairpin curves started.
|Lot of riders had to walk it!|
Linda Evans who eventually became a Queen of Mountain(QOM) with a great timing of 1:25min, had a nose bleed as she hit 1500m elevation. But she kept going to finish with a great effort.
Harry Wiltshire who finished the climb 1hr 10min including the 4km stretch before the climb was the King of Monuntain(KOM). Chris Hay was the fastest climber in Master’s category with 1hr36min.
Mark Bruce, Harry Wiltshire, Nils, Chirstopher and Chris Hay all set great times on the climb. But all the riders including them were of the opinion that it was the toughest climb they have ever ridden.
Kalahatty KOM Results:
|Kalahatty – KOM Standings|
Many of the riders could not finish the entire ride. Some have given up on the climb. Some didn’t have enough time to finish it although they had the legs and heart to finish it. So, many riders had to be swept. Some of the riders finished the climb itself but could not ride the 13km to get to the hotel because it was dark and were swept. In total only 41 riders of 104 seemed to have completed the entire ride in time.
It was an incredibly tough day.
The legend of Kalahatty lives on. Now validated by some really strong riders from Europe who unanimously said that it was the toughest climb they ever rode on. And they rode almost all the major climbs in Europe.
Today’s ride is a 65km ride to Kunda dam and back. The initial 32km is downhill and you climb all of it on the way back. Of that 10km section 350m elevation gain is the race section for the day. Although it is short and not steep, with the yesterday’s ride and Kalahatty climb on the legs, it is going to be a tough day for most of the riders.
More photos here and here.
Day 1: Let The Fun Begin! Bangalore to Mysore
Day 3: Ooty Kunda Lovedale Loop