Kushalnagar to Sultanbatheri:
The Purple Palms resort where we stayed in Kushalnagar was a superb property with very nice facilities and great food. It was completely foggy in the morning and we had a slightly delayed start at 7:15am. As soon as we got onto the internal roads to ride towards Siddapura the roads were as if they have seen a dozen landmines. It needed all our attention and nifty bike handling to snake through to find decent lines through those potholes. The only saving grace was the beautiful misty weather and the lovely greenery all around.
While we were playing ‘find the road in the potholes’ game, I also happened to chat a bit with Sachin Palewar and Margareta Wivian Benson(Maggon).
Maggon is a TV anchor and journalist from Stockholm, Sweden. She started cycling for fitness 3 years back and has been doing many multi-day long distance rides in the past couple of years. She has participated in many charity rides like Ride of Hope along with her club members back home collecting funds for cancer research etc. She loves India and has made many trips to the country and has now ridden multiple multi-day rides/tours in India. Last December she took part in Delhi-Mumbai ride in 6 days along with 25 other cyclists. A few of the riders who were part of that ride, like Sachin Palewar, Divyesh Gandhi and Manoj Narang are now taking part in TFN along with her. She says that she loves Indian food and only once had any tummy issues with food here. After TFN, she plans to spend her Christmas holidays along with her sons(15 and 17) and other friends in Kerala. They are going to join her soon after the tour. All the best for the rest of the tour and holidays, Maggon! Keep flying!
We reached support station one at 28km mark and by that time the fog slowly lifted. The temperature thankfully still was quite pleasant. We quickly topped up the water bottles and started riding to SS2 at Kutta(80km).
Hanging On To The Smoothest of Wheels!
As we started riding towards Kutta, Naveen John rode up to us. We chatted a bit riding side by side and soon I got onto his wheel. He was riding probably at his Z1 or low Z2 and was spinning at a smooth high cadence up the rollers. Usually, drafting and riding together is not that easy on a rolling terrain as it is quite difficult to hold a particular intensity with the varying terrain. Especially so when the rollers are quite steep as on this route. However varying the course may be he was quite adept at holding a very smooth pace with super smooth cadence and gear changes. He didn’t let me feel the variations at all and it was smooth sailing with him blocking the wind.
Once we got onto smoother roads after 34km, there was a nice long downhill and the road was butter smooth. After enduring miles of potholes, we pounced on that downhill like a hungry dog on a bone and bombed down the hill at a super pace. Following his lines was super fun and confidence inspiring. As we went past, another rider, Sushant Mehrotra hopped on my wheel and rode with us for a long time before getting distanced on a long steady uphill.
Having sat on his wheel for almost 50k between SS1 and SS2, we reached the lunch point by 10:40am. The lunch was of course not ready by that time. We didn’t want to ride ahead since we still had about 60km before the day’s competitive segment.
So, we decided to wait for half an hour or so and have lunch and then leave. Nils and NJ were sharing a room last night with another rider who was obviously tired with the day’s ride and went off to sleep immediately. Unfortunately for the two champs however, they couldn’t do the same because he was apparently snoring the rooftop off. Poor guy or should I say poor guys! After commiserating with them, some of us stretched out on the mats to take a nap while others like Lena and Shiven practiced some yoga!
The wait for the lunch was worth it and the freshly cooked food made it into our tummies quite smoothly. After lunch we moved got on our bikes and went out to get dessert!
The famous Unniappam shop was 10km away from the lunch stop and we made it there in no time. A quick stop there to have the delicious Unniappams and nice coffee and lemon tea and off we rode towards SS3.
The ride towards the support station 3 was slow after the lunch and dessert. Vivek, Naveen Raj, Rajani were setting the pace at the front while the Himanshu duo(Mahajan and Sharma) along with Harish Subramanian and another rider joined them.
There were some rough patches on the way but mostly not as bad as the first 34k of the day. There was no dearth of greenery and scenic beauty on the route. And there were no dearth of steep rollers. The kicker of a climb as we entered support station 3 at 110k mark gave us a teaser trailer for what awaits us at Kalahatty tomorrow.
The Competitive Segment:
The day’s competitive segment started at 126k mark and was a 12.5km rolling course with an elevation gain of about 250m making it around a 2% gradient on average. It is basically a series of short hills followed by flowing descents. I was warming up the tired legs during the 14k ride from SS3 to the CS start but by the time I got there I saw everyone including Nils and NJ waiting there as the race crew was not ready with their setup yet. The warm up was not going to be of any help. I decided to take a nap while we waited. When I woke up, most of them have started their race. I decided to get lighter by using the loo in the restaurant opposite the CS start point. After being relieved, I felt a bit better and decided to start my race. I had no mood to go warm up again and decided to use the first couple of minutes of the race as a warm up even if that meant losing a few seconds.
The legs protested a lot during the first km and then accepted the fact that they had no choice but to push. The surge of pace on the downhills definitely helped the confidence and the legs found some rhythm. I carried the same rhythm on the uphills by shifting smoothly and spinning up the slopes at a decent pace. My superior weight also helped to gain momentum on the downhills and carry that momentum over shorter uphills.
The suffering wasn’t for the fullest but I gave whatever is left in the legs at that moment and crossed the line in 24:06 8th overall and 3rd in masters behind Nils and Vivek.
Nils finished first overall as well 20:40. NJ finished just 13 secs behind Nils and 70 secs ahead of KKR. Naveen Raj is third in under 35.
In Veteran’s category, Alexi finished first and 9th overall for the day. Lena finished first in women’s with another superb ride and finished 11th overall.
The results from Day 2 are below:
With the overall results from Day1,2 and 3 put together, NJ, KKR and Naveen Raj will be in top3 in Under35. Nils, Vivek and I make the top 3 in Masters while Alexi leads the Veterans category followed by Louwke and Richard. In Womens category Lena leads the charts followed by Belinda and Kseniia Druzhinina.
The GC results after 3 days are as below:
What’s Ahead! Kalahatty Ahead!
Tomorrow is a big day with the mighty beast, Kalahatty waiting for us. The 16km CS on Kalahatty will not be part of the GC but is a separate KOK/QOK competition. Who will take the King and Queen of Kalahatty jerseys we’ll have to wait and see. My bet is on KKR but it could very well be NJ in Under 35. Nils will of course take the Master’s KOK. Lena and Alexi will most likely rule their categories.
Women Power At TFN:
This year 6 of the most fabulous women started are riding the tour. Lena Robra is from Germany and settled in Bangalore pursuing her doctorate. She won a ticket to TFN by winning the season overall at Bangalore Bicycling Championships(BBCH). Her cheerful charm is infectious and brings a smile across anyone. Kseniia Druzhinina is from Russia and is a long distance cyclist. She has done 1000km+ ultra race in 68hours. She is unstoppable on the ride and keeps on chugging along at the same pace all day. Margareta Wivian Benson is a TV anchor and journalist and loves riding and raising awareness and funds for cancer charity. Dr. Belinda Mueller is a practicing Psychologist in Goa and is an immense positive energy source for anyone around her. Ayesha Mueller is a master’s degree holder in Architecture and took up cycling just 2months back so that she could join her parents on TFN. You can tell where she gets her charming smile from. Dr. Shailaja Parthasarathy is a doctor from Delhi and loves the challenge of managing family, work and cycling. She is joined by her husband Dr. Parthasarathy Gopalan on the tour.
These awesome women are rocking the show at TFN and we need more of such awesome energy joining us in the future tours!