Tour of Nilgiris 2017- Mysore – Madikere – Kushalnagar

Mysore To Kushalnagar!

With the ride from Bangalore to Mysore on day one, the easy part of TFN is done. From day 2 the real deal starts with never-ending rolling terrain through some of the most beautiful of the locations. After yesterday’s mostly flat 165km ride, another 160+km ride was on cards today from Mysore to Madikere via Kushalnagar and back to Kushalnagar via an internal loop. The competitive segment for the day was scheduled to start after riding 110km and was on a 10.5km climb up to Madikere from Suntikoppa.

Riders from Mysore coming to see us off!

For the flag-off a few riders from Mysore cycling community came by to wish us well as well as see of their local champ, Veera Manikanta. The ride was flagged off by Ajit Tandur after he handed over leaders jerseys to category winners. Naveen John in under-35, Nils in 35-45, Alexi Grewal in 45+ and Lena in women wore the leaders jersey after day 1 and lead the ride for the day 2.

NJ in blue after day1

The TFN Dutchies:

As we rode out of Mysore, the Dutch train lead the way out in their special jerseys that they got made for the 10th edition of TFN. This year, 6 of them made it to TFN and they came well kitted as always. The original TFN Dutchie, Louwke rode TFN first time 5 years ago and the next year, he got his friends, Peter Van Tilborg(Big Pete) and Peter Van Enk(Small Pete) along to join him on the tour. The next year, Joost Planken and a few others joined them. After a gap of a couple of years, this year, Ronald Van De Worp and Stefan Olsson joined the 4 of them to make the Dutch contingent six in total. Their custom jersey for the tour had the Ashoka Chakra along with a mix of Indian and Dutch colors.

TFN Dutchies with their special jersey for the tour!

The Ultra man! Team Srini!

As we were getting out of Mysore, the first Indian to finish the Race Across America(RAAM) Srinivas Gokulnath a.k.a Srini, joined me. As we rode, we went down the memory lane talking about our old riding days in Bangalore back in 2011 when we were briefly part of the same racing team, Veloscope racing. We wondered how each of our lives evolved from those early years and how much they revolve around cycling now.

Riding through the morning calm of the heritage city, Mysore!

Talking of what else has been cooking in our lives(naah not the biriyani), I learnt that he is soon going to be posted in Pune and will be moving there in the New Year. He apparently had to fight for leaves for joining the TFN this year. He managed to make it here as he wanted to use these 7-8 days of long rides in the hills as a training block for the Coastal Ultra Spice race(1700km from Goa to Ooty and back to Goa) that is going to take place in third week of Jan 2018. He had been riding ahead of the pack all the time as part of the training and stopping at support stations only to sign in. He obviously feels a support station every 40km is too short and we joked may be one every 400 km would work fine with him. As soon as he saw Nils going past us, he joined him for some speed work and I dropped back to ease off as my speed work lasts for 10k(CS) and not 160k like his. 🙂

Riding along with Srini!

Rolling Along And Having Fun!

Then I rode with Divyesh Gandhi for a bit. He is one of the 7 riders from Surat, Gujarat this year on the tour. He is a long distance rider with many multi-day brevets under his belt and always has a smile for the camera.

After reaching Support station at 48km mark, I joined Rajani, Vivek, Ben, Richard, Rohan, Aman, Shiven and KKR for the ride towards Kushalnagar where the support station 2 and our lunch stop is set up at 98km mark. We rode easy for the most part but Vivek, Ben and Rajani went off with a higher pace after sometime. They stopped for a sugarcane juice while the rest of us continued. Me and KKR set the pace for the remaining distance chatting about how working with a nutritionist over the past year has helped him and what his 2018 goals. Apart from the MTB nationals, he is looking to target a couple of MTB races on the Asian circuit and the Asian games in August next year. Richard, Rohan, Manjeet and Amish followed us along on our fun chatty ride as we rode past the Buddhist monasteries near Bylakuppe.

On our way to Kushalnagar before lunch!

After reaching the support station/lunch point, a lot of us didn’t want to have lunch because the competitive section for the day starts 14km further up at Suntikoppa. I decided to rest up a bit and took a short power nap(not proven to improve power on the bike..but..) before getting up to eat an energy bar and a fast and up gel to get my energy levels up. By that time, all others I rode with left. I started riding towards the CS and did a few warm up efforts on the way there.

The Competitive Segment:

The 10.5km climb is steep at parts and has steep technical descents as well making it a overall 3.5% gradient climb. I decided to big ring it all the way to capitalize on the downhill bits. By the time I took to the line, KKR came to the start and decided to start behind me and use me as a carrot. I started off calmly for the first few meters and kept building up power as I went on. I expected KKR to catch me with in the first couple of kilometers. But I continued to suffer kilometer after kilometer and I couldn’t see KKR. So, I thought I must be doing great if he wasn’t making up 1 min on me. As it turned out he started 2 mins behind me and just as I was struggling with a chain drop from big ring to small ring and trying to shift back up, he went past me 7.5km into the climb.

Aero on the competitive segment!

I tried to keep him in sight but in trying shift back to big ring and struggling with it, I had to ease up for a few seconds. It helped me recover a bit but lost a few vital seconds on two separate occasions with annoying mechanical. The descents in between are quite technical and with the oncoming traffic, it can be quite dangerous with blind curves. So, you can’t really go all guns blazing as well. I tried to put whatever I can into the climbing sections. The legs felt better than yesterday and I had a decent day but for that annoying mechanical on two separate occasions. I crossed the line happy to have just completed it the best way I can. We are waiting for results to be announced yet but I might have lost a few seconds to Vivek and Rajani. Looks like Nils might be the fastest on the day again followed by NJ and KKR within a minute of him.

Alexi climbing like a boss on the CS!

After the CS, we sat there discussing each other’s timings, the technical bits and the buses while munching on the watermelon that the volunteers have arranged. After downing like what felt like a full watermelon, I ate the packed lunch that they got for those who didn’t eat before the CS. I thought the cool watermelon was very thoughtful of the organizers in the midday sun and after a hard effort on top of the climb.

After the climb, we were to ride back to Kushalnagar but via a longer internal route which was much more scenic. KKR, Hemendra, Aman Tripathi and I started riding. I loved following the expert wheel of KKR on the flowing downhill as we descended towards Sontikoppa. Jamie Anderson who couldn’t join us on the first day because of his bike getting delayed in arriving, joined us on day2 for the tour. Sarvesh and Jamie’s Spanish friend from Belgium, Jorge Diaz Del Castillo rode with us for a bit before taking off.

On the homestretch after the CS!

The Fan Following!

We all stopped at support station 4 which was setup opposite a school. All the school kids apparently got a waiver from their classes and they lined up the school wall waving at us and cheering us. It was fantastic. They even got autographs from an Olympic champion when Alexi Singh Grewal cheerfully obliged a few of them. If a few of those kids get inspired to take up sport someday, that would make this day all the more awesome.

Alexi signing autographs for the kids! PC: One of the TFN volunteers!

As we rode on, Hemendra and I chatted about training and how it is important to balance our cycling goals along with work and personal life commitments we all have. The home stretch from Suntikoppa to Kushalnagara had a few nice downhill stretches and it felt good going fast back to the hotel. Today was 163km with 1850m of cumulative elevation gain.

What’s Ahead:

Day 3 is going to be the unending rolling terrain on the ride towards Sultanbhateri. If it is hot, which it usually is in this part of the region, that is going to be super hard 2200m of cumulative elevation gain over 165km of riding. The competitive segment for the day is going to be a 12km rolling section after 120km of riding. It is going to be fun and hard.

Rider Profile:

Today I happened to ride with Hemendra Upadhyay, the 37 year old rider from Bangalore in parts towards the end. During 2015 he used to weigh 88kgs. From June 2015, he started working on his diet and with cycling and running managed to lose 28 kilos to now be at 60kgs! What a transformation! With his now lightweight frame he wants to become stronger and be fast and fearless on the climbs. His mom Mrs. Padma Upadhyay joined him for the tour to understand what the big fuss is all about and what drives the crazies like his son to train with dedication to be on a tour like this. Hemendra planned an active holiday with his 7 year old daughter on a holiday in Feb next year as she is too young to join him on the tour. Great job setting an example for your family and friends by walking the talk, Hemmings!

Thanks to Che for the awesome pics. Check out more awesome pics from him here.

If you haven’t read day 1 blog, you can do so here.

If you haven’t seen day 1 vlog from Ben, you can watch it here.

Day 2 vlog from Ben can be watched here.

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