Indian Terrain Tour of Nilgiris 2015 – Day 3 Madikere to Sultanbatheri

A Rolling And Rollicking Ride: 
It was a chilly and foggy morning in Madikere as we assembled to ride out towards Sultanbatheri today. I had the privilege wearing the Masters Category blue jersey and joining the blue jersey wearers in other categories to lead the ride out of the hotel. It was a moment to cherish for a long time.
We started descending out of Madikere in thick fog. My glasses quickly fogged up and droplets formed all over the arms and helmet. The scenic beauty all around was surreal. I was riding with my roomy Sumit again and was joined by Aijaj Ahmed. We chatted a bit about kids and work as we rode along. Had a chance to catch up with Russell Bell as well on the way to support station one after Virajpet at 33km mark.
After that I rode a bit with my old friend from Hyderabad, Gokul Krishna(of TBA) and reliving the memories of TFN 2011 which both of us rode in. That year on the same route as today, the roads were so bad that we had to take a van till Gonikoppa and start our ride from there. Even the rest of the route wasn’t that great but was somewhat ride worthy. This year the roads were in great shape and what a difference it makes.
The route is a series of hills going up and down continuously. Slow plodding up the steep inclines and followed by crazy fast curvy descents amid amazing scenery. The curvy fast descents with oncoming traffic means we need to be extra careful and keep our pace at check. Sashwat had a close call with an oncoming vehicle on once such descent and his new bike’s front wheel is history. He just bought the bike the day before TFN in Bangalore. Thankfully, he escaped without a scratch and is going to ride a spare bike to complete the tour.
We were making slow progress and were making sure that our breaks were small since it was going to be a long and hot day. After a quick stop at support station 2 at 66km mark, we rode towards the Unniappam place outside of Kutta at 90km. Sumit and I, had a couple of the most delicious and hot Unniappams with black tea and started riding again.
It was getting really hot and with a series of short sleep climbs, it was a really slow progress. A quick drink at support station 3 at 100km and we were off to the start of the competitive section for the day at 120km mark. 
It took another 50 mins to cover those 20 kms and we made it there around 2:30 pm. I took a quick drink of the carb drink, Zago Mighty Meal to sustain me through the race and tried to calm my nerves by doing a quick shut eye for 5 mins under tree shade. After 5 minutes I slowly made way to the start line of the race segment and decided to get it over with.
The Race:
The race segment for the day was through a beautiful reserve forest. It is a 19km race after with a fair bit of climbing and descending. It was going to be a difficult segment but more so after about 5 hours on the saddle already. My strategy was to go a hard on the uphill sections and use the downhill sections to recover as I knew it is going to be a little tricky for me to go full gas on the technical downhill bits. The race started with a small steep kicker and as soon as I started, I felt the beginnings of a cramp in my right leg. I quickly recollected the time advantage I had and how much I could afford to lose. I admonished myself and quickly banished that negative thought and told myself to not panic. 
Immediately shifted to a smaller gear and spun for a few seconds. Thankfully the cramps didn’t materialize and I was again able to put some force in a few seconds. I shifted to the big chain ring and began spinning as big a gear as I could. The sweat was pouring and the mouth quickly went dry with the heat. I took a quick sip of drink and kept pushing hard up the hills and tried to spin as fast as I can down the hills as well. I was able to take good lines most of the time coming down the hills but at one place I had to brake and slow down to avoid overtaking vehicles.
Halfway through the segment, about 20 mins into the race, I decided to down a gel and take a sip of water to keep me going for the next half. It was getting difficult to put the same power as before but I managed to keep it rolling at a decent pace. The last 3 kms was mostly downhill and I tried to go as fast as I could. I could have probably gone a bit harder on the downhill bits but I decided to stick to the ‘safety first’ rule and managed to cross the line in 39:17.
It was a hard section coming at the end of a particularly hard and hot day.
The Results:
In the Female Category Belinda finished first and further enhanced her lead. Phua Suan Choo jumped from 4th overall to 2ndoverall with a great ride today. She displaced Divya Chandran who is now 3rdoverall.
In the 45Plus Category, Richard finished first again and further enhanced his lead over his closest rivals. Russell and Aijaj Ahmed are fighting a close battle. Aijaz finished 9 seconds ahead of Russell to take 2ndoverall by just a second. Now, that is a close fight! It would be very interesting to see how they fare against each other in the next two competitive sections.
In Masters category, I managed to take another 1min 21 second advantage on Preet Singh who is 2nd. The 3min 17 sec buffer allows me to keep the blue jersey for now. My roomy, Sumit Kumar, did an excellent race today to move to 3rd from 4th in Masters. It will be very interesting to see if he could hang on to his place on the podium over the two remaining race segments.
In Under35 category, Nils again put in a monstrous ride to finish the segment in 33min 36secs. The young pocket rocket from Pune had another fantastic ride to finish 2nd fastest on the day with 38:36 and he is still 2nd overall in GC holding a two minute advantage over Vinayak Goankar.
What is ahead?
It was a tough and long day. Without climbing a major hill the cumulative elevation gain was about 1900 meters over a distance of 147km. The race section at the end was a master stroke to make the stage epic. But the Queen stage is tomorrows ride to Ooty via Kalahatty. There is a small race section at the start of the ride that counts for GC and the Kalahatty itself is a separate race segment for KOM and QOM jersey. It puts people in two minds weather to conserve for Kalahatty or to go hard and take care of their GC standings. I’m looking forward to another epic day tomorrow.
Photos from the day can be seen here.

Also Read:
Day 1: Bangalore to Mysore     
Day 2: Mysore to Madikere
Day 3: This post
Day 4: Sultanbatheri to Ooty
Day 5: Rest day in Ooty
Day 6: Ooty to Palakkad
Day 7: Palakkad to Valparai    
Day 8: Valparai to Pollachi  
You can read the account of the fellow blogger, Abhishek Tarfe’s account here.   

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