Diving Down From Ooty to Mysore!
The final day of the 10th edition of Tour of Nilgiris was a 170km ride from Ooty to Mysore via Gudalur. The ride after the first 100k till Gundlupet where lunch was arranged was made optional. So, one could take transport to Mysore after lunch. Since the ride has almost 50km of downhill ride before entering the Mudumalai forest reserve where would anyway need to wait to be escorted by forest department and support vehicles across the forest, a few of us decided to start late. That allows for the temperatures to raise a bit, we get to avoid traffic on the downhill as well as avoid waiting too much before the forest crossing. NJ, Nils, KKR, Shiven, Vivek, Naveen Raj and I started at about 8:40am.
Not Feeling Like Downhill Today!
As soon as we got out of the hotel, we started descending towards Ooty from Doddabetta. NJ was ahead followed by Nils. I was behind them while Vivek, Naveen Raj and the rest were behind me. I knew they were too fast for me and I need to fall back a bit to avoid gaining too much speed. Suddenly I felt a bit uncomfortable with a thought popping in my mind, ‘I don’t feel like going downhill today’. Before I knew it, I missed the left turn and began going straight into the barricades. I panicked and slammed the brakes and went down hard into the barricades with a loud thud. I think it was result of a combination of the momentary lapse in concentration with that thought of not feeling good on the downhill, going into the corner with too much speed for my skill levels and the sun in the eyes through the glasses I was wearing. Within 600 meters from the start, I was down on the side of the road holding my head and bleeding profusely. Vivek who was right behind me told me not to move. Asked me if I could feel the fingers and toes, when I said, I could, he got me sitting. There was a deep gash under my chin from where a steady stream of droplets began painting my kit red. NJ looked at it and said I would need 4-5 stitches. I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy! Not the way I wanted to end my 7th tour.’
Immediately Spectrum Physio, Dr. Dhanajeyan got there with a first aid kit. He looked at it and confirmed NJ’s prognosis. He asked me where else was it paining. When I said, shoulder and ribs, he made me stretch my arm up and to the sides and told that I wouldn’t be able to move if there are any major fractures. At least that was good news. They wanted to me to get into the car and get to the nearest hospital to get stitched up and forget about the ride. I got to my feet and saw that although I was banged up pretty badly, with the helmet broken and scratched up, since there weren’t any broken bones, I could continue riding. I didn’t want to abandon on the last day of my 7th TFN. I manged to convince Dr.DJ to do the first aid, asked the others to go on with their ride and said, I will ride till the lunch point(100k) from where it is optional to ride to Mysore. I’ve promised that I was feeling completely fine and that I will get proper medical attention as soon as I get to the lunch point which was 100 km away.
Saravanan, the Track and Trail mechanic examined my bike and got it ready to roll. Badrinath V Shastri(Badri), the assistant tour director who got there with the first-aid kit, said he would escort me if I wanted to ride and will put me in the Track&Trail car following us, if I don’t feel good at any point of time. I thanked him and started to ride again. Within a few meters of starting again, as the speed picked up on the downhill, I began to have a panic attack with the feeling of the earlier crash coming back rushing. I uncleated one foot, slowed down and came to a complete stop to the side of the road.
Badri immediately came to my side and asked if I was okay. I lied to him saying that I was just stopping to check if the wheel was okay. I didn’t want him to know that I was panicking, making him worry about me and force me to abandon. I got myself composed again and started slowly feathering the brakes all the time as I rolled down the hill at a very controlled pace. The right hand wasn’t fully functional with a bruised thumb and shoulder blade and top ribs hurting. So, I was just resting it lightly on the bars and using the left hand predominantly. After reaching Ooty and riding towards a flattish/rolling terrain, I began to pedal again and started to feel better.
Took the downhills at a controlled pace and stopped at a couple of spots that reminded of old memories to take pictures and make new ones. Since I wasn’t able to move the right hand back to take the phone out of the jersey pocket I moved it to the left pocket of the jersey for easy access. Left hand also took over the water bottle duties. I was not able to open the mouth wide enough to chew energy bars as the dressing went under my chin and over my head under my helmet. So, it was going to be liquid diet for the rest of the ride.
The Bone Shaking And Torturous Downhill:
After Naduvattam, 20 km of continuous downhill starts. The road till Naduvattam was pretty decent. But from there it became patchy at times and in sections where there is tree cover, it was as if there was no road at all. The challenge was, when the sun sneaked in through the trees, the light and shade made it almost impossible to make out any potholes on the road or rather to find . As if it wasn’t hard enough on the hands that are constantly working on the brakes, the bone rattling road kept sending excruciating pain surging through the right shoulder and rib cage. I had to stop every few minutes and shake off the pain in the palms before starting again. The Track & Trail support car and Badri were following behind me and their presence was very reassuring as I kept making painfully slow progress down the hill.
Riding that downhill in broken roads was so torturous that suffering up Kalahatty again might have been easier. The cut in the left palm and the bruised right palm from the fall were getting further battered from my death grip on the brakes. The already rattled bones of my rib cage were further being tested by the potholed downhill. After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it to Gudalur town and rode to the first support station just before the Mudumalai forest reserve at 60k. Since it wasn’t possible for me to chew solid food, I decided to fill my bottle with coke so that the tons of sugar and caffeine from it would help me keep going for the next 40k to reach the lunch spot.
Ride Through The Forest:
When I reached the forest check-post, already a few riders were waiting there to form a group of 10 and a support vehicle to escort them through the forest. Badri joined us and Srinivas Padmasola, Pradeep Yalamanchi, Sridhar Vishwanath, J Kirupakaran, Arun Balakrishan, Girish and I followed behind him.
As we rolled on at a slow pace through the forest, I chatted with Pradeep Yalamanchi, an entrepreneur running an IT Services company that caters to Healthcare industry. Pradeep started cycling with an MTB 10 years ago right about the time TFN started. He says that he first came to know about TFN through my blog posts on my first TFN in 2011 and then signed up for it. His registration was apparently not accepted at that time. He had a few years of gap after the initial surge and is now keen to resume riding more regularly. He and his friend Captain J Kirupakaran, a captain in Merchant Navy, are from Chennai and bought a road bike in June this year after their registration was accepted. They trained together on the flat roads of Chennai for a bit but thinks it wasn’t enough to tackle the tough climbs during the tour. He says he will have to put his laziness aside and train more to successfully complete the tour next time.
We made slow progress through the forest first finishing the Tamilnadu side and then entering the Karnataka side. After Khuram joined us on his bike, Badri asked me to join him if I wanted to ride faster while he continues to escort the other riders in the group. I thanked him and went ahead following Khuram. Every speed breaker in the forest sent a bit of a pain wave though my ribs and there were hundreds of them in the forest. I was glad they were over when we finally made it out of the forest. A quick refill of my bottle with coke at the support station just outside the forest was enough to get me going through the last 15k to the lunch point.
It was exactly 100km after I got back on the bike after the crash. I was relieved to be able to complete my 7th tour and not abandon on the last day. As soon as I got there, the medical team, Kingsley, Aneesh and Dr. Varsha rushed me into the Sita Bhateja Ambulance where I was given 5 stitches on the chin. The X-ray I got done later revealed a very minor hairline fracture of the third rib on the right. A couple of weeks of careful rest should get me back on the bike. It wasn’t any bravado on my part but the confidence I had in the support and medical staff at TFN that got me to ride out the remaining 100k after the crash to complete my 7th TFN in a row! Thank you Badri and team.
Due to my crash I missed the fun riding that happened from lunch point to Mysore where all the top riders formed nice echelons and smashed the last 60k through the crosswinds to reach the hotel way before everyone else.
Presentation Ceremony And Results:
The main change in the GC after the race on day 7 was in Under-35 category where Shiven not only managed to cover the 34 seconds deficit he had on Naveen Raj but also put another 12 seconds to move into 3rd spot on the podium. In women’s category, Maggon moved to 3rd spot on the last day as well. In Master’s category, although Veera gave a tough fight on the last CS by finishing ahead of both Vivek and me, I managed to hang on to my 3rd position on the podium by about a minute lead. There were not changes in Veteran’s category as well.
Thanks To Volunteers, Organizers And Riders For An Awesome Tour!
The 10th edition was made special by the awesome support of the volunteers, organizers, sponsors and the participants. It was another awesome edition of the great tour where I was fortunate enough to ride with and interact with many awesome riders and great human beings. As always it is the people that make the tour special and this tour is no different. The tireless work of volunteers and organizers behind the scenes ensuring that the riders don’t have to think about anything but riding is simply amazing! The medical and physio staff were kept busy this tour with the amount of downhills that were there this year but as usual, they delivered impeccably. Thanks to every sponsor who backed this awesome tour ensuring that we are able to enjoy it year after year.
Other Posts From This Tour:
Day 1: Bangalore To Mysore
Day 2: Mysore to Kushalnagar
Day 3: Kushalnagar to Sultanbhatery
Day 5: Rest Day
Day 6: Kodanad view point Loop
Day 7: Kundha Dam Loop