Since the initial downhill was via steep and narrow road barely the width of a jeep track, we were lead out by a lead vehicle and were made to start in batches of 20 riders at a time. As we kept descending the steep pitches, we were making mental notes of how interesting it is going to be riding back up the same way. We were glad we had some practice ride on Kalahatty a couple of days ago.
Although it was sunny, it was quite chilly and the windchill while descending meant that we had to start the ride with at least a wind cheater or a layer or two extra. A quick stop at support station one at 20km mark was used to shed these extra layers as it warmed up a little more by then. We headed down to the next support station which was also going to be the end point of the 6km competitive segment that we would have from just outside Manjoor on the return.
Near the SS2 cum CS end, was a lovely tea shop named Chamraj Tea Center. We stopped there for hot cups of some amazing green tea. It was all on the house paid by TFN. Sipping hot cup of Tulsi Green Tea while soaking in the sun and the amazing views and chatting with your cycling buddies, what else can be you ask for?
After the tea stop, we head down the CS section that we were going to climb after lunch on the return. Since it was an out and back route, the ride out acted as a route recon for the return. We made mental notes of how steep would the climb be while climbing in the competitive segment as we descended towards Kundah Dam.
As we climbed upto Manjoor and rode on towards Thaishola estate, we had to continously keep pickup our jaws from our top tubes. The views were just surreal and amazingly pretty.
Savoring the amazing views, we rolled into the lunch point in Thaishola tea estate. At the lunch stop we met David Faszer and his English friend who are both teachers in a school in Ooty. David has been living in India for 52 or his 54 years apparently and been following a few of us on Strava. So, he knew quite a few of us by our names on Strava. It was nice experience seeing online avatars in real life.
As we started having our lunch, the weather quickly changed with the sunny skies replaced with thick cloud cover and it became grey and cold in no time. So, Arvind, Nikhil and I decided we better get going as the weather was changing quickly.
We rolled down to Kundah dam for the competitive segment and warm up a little. We decided on the start order to be Nikhil, Milam, Arvind and me with one minute intervals between each of us.
The competitive segment was a 6km section with 4.5km of the initial section being a 4-5% climb and the last 1.5km being flat/rolling via winding roads. I have hit the climb at a good clip after my usual fiddling with the pedals for clipping in. I have started in the small chain ring but with in a kilometer, I noticed that the climb wasn’t that steep and that I could get into my big ring. But when I tried shifting up, it refused to shift up. I fiddled with the shifter for a few seconds but gave up so as not to lose rhythm. But when I saw the climb flattening out a bit in the middle, I gave it another hard shove and managed to manhandle it into big ring and stayed there for the rest of the climb.
I made good progress and began to see Arvind around 3km into the climb. I kept pushing to catch him and went past him around 3.5km. I knew it was going to flatten in another km and kept pushing hard. I was sweating profusely and the sweat pouring down was covering my shades making the visibility a bit hazy. It was not a problem on the climb as I wasn’t going that fast but when I tired to hit higher speeds on the flat winding section, it was getting difficult to view. It meant that I was a bit hesitant into the corners and the power dropped towards the end. None the less, it was a decent effort.
After the race segment was over we quickly filled our water bottles and decided to get moving fearing it might start raining at any moment. I have put my wind cheater on again and started rolling.
The Epic Weather:
The last 20km was mostly climbing which meant we are able to stay relatively warm in the cold and now foggy weather. It was amazing how the same spots looked so different in sun light in the morning and in fog now, 2-3 hours later. The landscape looked completely different but still was jaw dropping idyllic.
We kept thinking how lucky we are to be riding through these beautiful routes on the day and getting to see the same amazing views in two completely different weather conditions. It was an out of the world experience.
The last 9km of the climb after we turned into the back roads, was completely foggy and the visibility was very low. I was riding with the lovely couple, Nikhil and Lena while Vinayak and Prashant Tidke were riding a little ahead. We were literally climbing in the clouds.
At places where there is tree cover, the fog turned into rain after hitting the leaves and drenched us for a moment while the next moment the road would be dry as we got out from under the trees. It was an amazing experience and we savored every moment of it while slowly spinning our granny gears up the steep gradients. We rolled into the hotel after 106 of the most immensely satisfying kilometers. It was one the most memorable rides.
In the Elite Category, Nils still managed to finish first by 1sec, despite being sick the night before and having to stay up all night. KKR put in a great effort finishing second and managed to take back some 9 seconds from Jamie. With just one race to go, Nils still has 1:27 lead over Jamie and Jamie has a lead of 1:36 on KKR. While there is still good chance for the top 3 to change within these three guys, the chances of others making it to the top 3 looks a bit out of reach with the gap between 3rd and 4th being 4:47. Let’s see how things shape up on the Valparai climb on Day 7!
In Women’s category, Lena built upon her already unassailable lead. She now has 13:09 lead. But the next spots could see some change with Hitisha Mehta closing in on Belinda as she finished second on the day and put a little more than 2mins on her. Belinda now has 1:52 lead over Hitisha who has a mere 18 sec lead on Juhi Mehta. Things could get really interesting for them on the final CS in a couple of days.
In Master’s category, I managed a decent time and built on my lead. While Anurag Sharma still retains the second position overall, Veera Manikanta has been making huge inroads into his lead over the last two races. Now, only 1:55 secs separate them. The gap between 3rd and 4th is also 1:49 and just 4 seconds between 4th and 5th. It will be interesting to see how these standings change on the last CS.
In Veteran’s category, the action is as hot as it is in the Elite category with the top 4 fighting a very close battle for positions. Arvind made some more inroads into Richards lead which is now only 30 secs. Arvind still has 1:29 over that 70 year youngster Russell who is at 3rd. Russell has a lead of 1:40 on Prashant. The action will be quite hot on Valparai. Can’t wait to see how this shapes up.
In the overall standings, I am at 6th position, 29 seconds behind Vinayak. But it is highly unlikely that I will make any inroads into that on a big climb like Valparai. It will be interesting to see how top 10 shapes up here after the last CS.
Today’s ride is to Palakkad via Mettupalayam. The Kotagiri to Mettupalayam descent is going to be a fun one and I am looking forward to it. There is no CS today but it is a long and hot ride of 160km.
More pics from the day are here.
TFN 2016 Day 1: Bangalore to Mysore
TFN 2016 Day 2: Mysore to Kalpetta
TFN 2016 Day 3: Kalpetta to Ooty! Kalahatty!
TFN 2016 Day 4: Rest Day
TFN 2016 Day 5: Ooty Thaishola
TFN 2016 Day 6: Ooty To Palakad
TFN 2016 Day 7: Palakkad to Valparai
TFN 2016 Day 8: A Beautiful End