Making Memories In Nilgiris! Day 1 – Tour of Nilgiris -2016

9th Edition of A Life Time of Memories!
If life is a collection of the moments you spend making great memories, being on the bike provides cyclists ample opportunities to live life to the fullest. Tour of Nilgiris is one such amazing event that gives us an opportunity to make a life time of memories every year. Today marked the flag-off of the 9th edition of this amazing tour from Taj Vivanta-Yashwantpur.
A brief message by cofounders and trustees of Ride a Cycle Foundation, Mr. Sridhar Pabbisetty and Deepak Majipatil started the day. The chief guest, Additional Director General(Crime), Sri. Bhasker Rao and title sponsor, Indian Terrain CEO, Mr. Charath Narasimhan, flagged off the 108 riders who started on this 8 day 901km journey through some of the most pristine of the routes in the Nilgiris!
 We rolled out of Vivanta Taj- Yeashwantpur after a great buffet breakfast. We cut across Tumkur road and rolled some 10km to get onto NICE road. It was one of the more peaceful exits out of Bangalore with a bit of traffic only for the first kilometer or so. 
At Vivanta Taj- Flag off!
Once we got onto the NICE road, it was smooth sailing. A big bunch has formed at the front with some strong riders eager to have fun. Like most of the times, I have decided to dictate my own pace and started riding with Skandan Suryanarayana and Ashok Mehta. Skandan is riding his 4th TFN and was having fun on his new Trek Domane with occasional surges on the inclines. Ashok, riding his 2nd TFN was happy to stay with me at my sedate pace as we rolled together to the first support station at 50km mark on the Kanakpura road.
Beautiful ride via Kanakpura! Pic: Milam Saxena
After that, Akshat Khanna of team Ministri and two time TFNer, Prashant Tidke, from Pune joined us for the next 40km towards SS2 after which the 15km competitive section for the day starts. We got to the support station riding easy and doing a bit of warm up after 85km, only to see all the riders waiting at the support station. They were still setting up the timing station for the competitive section and everyone had to wait. We chilled and chatted while waiting and some utilized the time to get their niggles sorted out by the Spectrum Physio team that was there.

I let all the big boys go and rolled towards the competitive section along with current nation MTB(ITT) champion, Kiran Kumar Raju(KKR) and Vinesh. KKR decided to install aero bars to get some aero benefits for the flat time trial. I suggested that we warm up and start together to motivate each other. The plan was for me to start first and Vinesh to start after me and try to catch me. KKR would start after Vinesh and should try and catch Vinesh and me. While we would act as a carrot for KKR, it also gives us enough motivation to try as hard as we can to stay away from the rider behind us. So, it is a win-win for everyone, one of the ways of working together in an Individual Time Trial where drafting is illegal.

Competitive segment:
The course is a rolling 15.2km course with a fair bit of false flat sections that can take one’s breath away while wondering why they are not going that fast. I started the TT at a controlled pace trying to calm myself during the first 5 mins and then kept the pace going through the rollers. I saw the avg above 40 kmph till the halfway mark and was wondering if there was less headwind compared to last year or if it was the aero helmet and the aero kit from Ministri that was helping the speed for almost similar power. The Fast&Up gel that I gulped down just before the start helped with the energy levels. I managed to keep the focus for the most part of the race. I was panting like a dog looking for water in peak summer, but, I’m not complaining since being able breath properly was a problem just three weeks back.

At 10 km mark, as I was going past a village, a car parked at the road side suddenly decided to make a U-turn and almost took me out. I managed to quickly change the line while shouting at the top of my voice at mindless driver and managed to pass inches away from the car bumper. If the HR was redlining before it must have hit the sky by now. I tried to keep calm and continue but noticed that my cadence kept dropping and I was losing a bit of focus and speed. I kept egging myself on and counting down the distance to go, but the legs were clearly losing their strength and the breathing was a bit ragged. The power kept dropping but when I saw the finish line approaching I gave it all to sprint past the line. Or I thought I sprinted but I wasn’t able to get off the bike.  Phew! It was over for the day.
Nikhil Ram Mohan of Team Crankmiester crossing the finish line at CS! Pic: Milam Saxena!
Race for Food! Biryani Express!
After the race, we rolled the next 4kms to reach the lunch spot where the food was freshly made and served. That was a huge improvement from the packed lunches in the previous TFNs. Everyone really appreciated the nice food for lunch. I had a light lunch keeping in mind that Bannur is 20km away from there and the memories of the Bannur mutton was making me salivate all year. I announced that whoever wants to hop on the Biryani Express may keep some space for some delicious mutton.
TFN Lunch venue! 
The Ministri boys, Vinesh, Akshat and Akhil hopped on the Biryani Express along with Nikhil Baralge, Shailesh Mistry and the two Bhuvaneshwar boys, Suman Satpathy and Induprakash Nayak. We quickly reached Bannur. It was a bit of a surprise to see good roads in Bannur and we almost didn’t recognize our favorite restaurant.
The place in Bannur!! 
Due to the cash crunch(demonetization effect), we ordered a 4 mutton biryanis, muttion chops and mutton dry amongst us and wiped every plate in 30mins flat. I helped the rest stay slim by taking care of all the juicy fatty parts of the meat. Alright, I will stop now as it is making me hungry again.
Happiness!! 🙂
Mysore Darshan!
After the Mutton Biryani raid in Bannur, we filled our bottles at the last support station and headed towards Mysore. It was mostly uphill to Mysore and with no tree cover, the mid day heat was a bit taxing. Once we neared Mysore, we ended up needing to go all around town due to bit of road work on ORR that we usually take to reach the hotel quickly. It felt like a long hike to go on Mysore darshan after a long tiring ride.

This year, all the categories have some real close competition as the results today are anything to go by. 

In Elite category, Nils has a close competition this time from Jamie Anderson. The 46 year old Aussie from Belgium, Jamie, decided to compete in elite category instead of 45+ category and finished just 10 seconds behind Nils. Being more than 20 kilos lighter than Nils, if he can finish this close on a flat course, it is going to be really interesting to see how it progresses after day 3 where there is some climbing involved. KKR finished 3rd in Elite with 54 seconds behind Jamie. Vinesh finished 4th in Elite and 5th overall. 
Day1 Elite Results
In Women’s category, Lena Robra of Team Crankmeister put in a massive ride and finished with an impressive time of 24:50. Last year’s champion, Belinda Mueller finished second, 1:29 behind Lena. Juhi Mehta finished 3rd with 2:56 down on the leader. 
Day1 Women’s results!
In Veteran’s(45+) Category, Richard Mueller finished with an impressive 23:39, 56 seconds ahead of Spectrum Racing skipper, Arvind Bhateja! It is going to be a very interesting duel between these two. The 71 year young rock star from Goa, Russel Bell, continues to wow everybody with 25:28 finishing 3rd in the category. Going to be interesting to see if he can keep the others snapping at his heels at bay. 
45+ Category standings!
 In Master’s category(35-45), I managed to land the top spot with 23:04. Anurag Sharma finished 1:47 behind in second and Sai Pratyush finshed 2:43 at 3rd in the category. Rahul Mohan Das(RMD) put in a great ride to finish 4th in Masters. 

For me, what is more satisfying though is finishing 4th overall behind Nils, Jamie and KKR. Although, I am sure that is going to change with climbing stages coming up and lightweight climbers like Vinayak and Murali coming into their own. 

What’s Ahead:
Tomorrow is the ride to Kalpetta. It is going to be a super rolling 158km ride with a 14.5km timed competitive segment after 55km. The ride after the competitive section through Kabhini and Nagarhole wild life sanctuary is going to be really beautiful ride. The competitive segment is a little more rolling than today with a fair bit of false flat climbing. It is going to be interesting to see how things change in various categories. 

Also Read:
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

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