Montra Tour of Nilgiris – 2014 – Day 4 – Ooty to Palakad – One World To Another!

The Epic Weather Continues..Foggy, Soggy and Cold…Again!
After the race and the ride was called off on day 3 due to bad weather, we got more of the same weather on Friday. But since we had seen how bad it can get in such epic weather, both the riders and the organizers were better prepared to tackle it. We also knew that the conditions will improve once we got to lower altitude after Kotagiri.

The epic weather on Day 4 as we get out of Ooty

I was better prepared on the day with four layers to keep my core temperature warm in the terribly cold and wet weather. Apart from the basic arm and knee warmers I had with me, I borrowed a fleece layer from Dipankar and fleece lined full finger gloves from one of the awesome motorbike patrol guys, Karthik Ponnappa. They were god send on the day. In addition to that, Nils also taught me how to use some plastic covers to make booties to keep the feet from getting wet. Some plastic sheets also went under the bike jersey to act as a wind cheater on the downhills. They were very helpful. All in all, I was prepared to take the weather head on.

For me, the saying that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing for the weather’ proved to be right in the last two days. In almost similar conditions, I felt completely pathetic on day 3 since I was inadequately dressed for the weather while I actually enjoyed the ride on day 4 in similar conditions because I was better prepared. 

Vicki, Kiran Kumar Raju, Vivek and I started last from the hotel and were competing for the color yet to be decided jersey of who will go the slowest downhill in the fog. I lost the competition quite early on but we had great fun riding in those epic weather conditions. We stopped for coffee in Kotagiri before we took on the long downhill towards Mettupalayam. 

The Winding Downhill:
After Kotagiri the weather conditions improved dramatically. There was no fog and it wasn’t cold any more. The beautiful and winding downhill was one of the most memorable rides I have done in a while. The roads are smooth and the traffic is not as hectic as it is on some of the roads around Ooty. Very few hairpin bends meant that you could hold the speed while having a relatively good view of what is ahead. It was a lot of fun going that flowing downhill. You could almost feel how the temperatures raised as we got lower and lower in altitude. As we got down to Mettupalayam we got into temperatures of 31 degrees from about 13 degrees in just a matter of a couple hours. We shed most of our extra layers in Mettupalayam before moving ahead. 

Two different worlds.. traversed with a few minutes! 🙂

The Pretty(and not so pretty) Internal Roads:
After we got out of Mettupalayam, we had lunch at support station 2 in Karamadai and started riding via a few villages. The road conditions of some of those country roads were not ideal and I was riding a big gear and standing and pedaling so that I could still maintain a decent speed while protecting my bottom from the bumpy roads. After a while though, the road conditions as well as the scenic beauty got immensely better and we stopped and took a lot of pictures on the way. 

Queen of Kalahatty, Vicki Nicholson near the lotus pond in her Orange jersey!

Support station 3 near a huge lotus pond(basically was a wet land) was a very well thought out spot as was the support station 4 which was set up right next to Kumbakonam Degree Coffee Shop that served some of the best filter coffee I have tasted in recent times, in classic brass tumblers. 

The Kumbakonam Degree Coffee shop near SS4.. Served superb filter coffee!

The Brisk Ride Into Palakad:
After downing a couple of filter coffees, we have decided to get things moving and picked up the pace to get to Palakad. Sprinting up the inclines with my teammate, Shankar was fun towards the end. It was almost 5:30pm by the time we reached the hotel completing the 100 mile(162km) ride. Thankfully the weather was cloudy all through the day and it was not hot or terribly humid as we were expecting it would be in Kerala. It was a super fun tour ride that all of us enjoyed immensely for the variety and the beauty of both the weather and scenery.

Tour of Nilgiris: A Perfect Couple’s Vacation?
Every year I get to see cycling couples on the tour. This year, I know at least 3 couples who are enjoying the tour together. One of those couples is Samir Shah and Hemal Shah from Ahmadabad. Samir Shah got into cycling two years back as a means to keep himself fit and the Tour of Nilgiris has been on his wish list ever since. Hemal Shah has taken to running and enjoys her running. She ran many Half Marathons and has been preparing for Mumbai Marathon Jan 2015 which will be her first Full Marathon.

I was a bit surprised to learn that the energetic couple are parents to one teenager and one would be teenager. Their elder son, Jay is studying first year MBBS while their younger one, Shrey is studying 7th grade and is immensely proud of his parents(that I’m not surprised about).

Hemal and Samir Shah having a time of their life at TFN!

Samir slowly got Hemal into cycling just because he probably knew he wouldn’t be allowed to go away on a week long cycling vacation on his own. His selfish motive helped Hemal enjoy cycling as a cross training while running remains her first love, for now. Once they have signed up for Tour of Nilgiris, along with their friends in the Ahmadabad Bicycling community, they have started going for training rides together and have trained in the hills around Abu in preparation for Kalahatty and other climbs of TFN. All that training in the hills did pay off in that both of them were able to complete the climb up the brutal Kalahatty ghat. Not only their thoughts but also their pace also matches perfectly and that enables them to ride and enjoy the tour together.

‘Wall’Parai Ahead..
Today is a rest day in Palakad. Nils, Vicki, Ananta, Dipankar and I went to a nice little exploratory ride to Malampuzha Dam. It was fun except that we ended up taking some back roads that reminded us of Paris-Roubaix, to get there. It was scenic and enjoyable except for the bad roads. But thankfully we took proper roads to get back to the hotel before breakfast is wiped out. The day is ahead and we are willing to explore more.

Tomorrow is going to be a challenging ride to Valparai. The initial 12km of almost 25km climb is going to be the competitive section. With the CS in Ooty on day 3 being cancelled, this is the last chance to anybody who wants to move up or keep their places in GC. It would be interesting to see how this goes. 

Here are photos from Day 4 and Day 5.

Read About The Rest of the Tour:
Day 1: The Tour Kicks-off: Bangalore to My’sore’ 
Day 2: The Madness of Kalahatty: Mysore to Ooty
Day 3: The Foggy, Soggy and Cold ride in Ooty: Ooty – Kodanad – Ooty
Day 4: Ooty to Palakkad: One world to Another!!
Day 5: Rest Day in Palakkad(no report)
Day 6: Palakkad to Valparai  
Day 7: The Epic Ride to Munnar: Valparai – Munnar 
Day 8: A Beautiful End to The Tour: Exploring the Beauty of Munnar

Read the account of Abhishek Tarfe on VeloCrushIndia here.

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