A Special Dinner with a German Touch!
After a hard day riding into Kushalnagar, Purple Palm resorts, where we stayed was a real blessing. We had a blast enjoying the great food and the fantastic ambiance of the place.
At dinner along with the great food that the resort served us, the German couple, Herbert Wiggenhauser and Martina Benkhardt served us special Christmas treats(Weihnachtsstollen/Stollen and Weihnachtskekse) they baked back home specially for the TFN riders and crew. What a thoughtful couple! Being a long time cyclist, Herbert has cycled all around the world including Cuba, Taiwan, Thailand, Belgium and participated in events like Race Across America(RAAM) in 2009 in 4 man team category. Last year he got to know about Tour of Tamilnadu from a friend and took part in that. It was there he also got to know about Tour of Nilgiris and joined us along with Martina who started cycling 5 years ago.
The Danish Connect – Ordrup Cycle Club!
Apart from Nils, this year 6 riders from Ordrup Cycle Club in Denmark have joined the tour. The fun loving bunch heard about the tour from Michael Treasborg who rode TFN before and rides for the same club. They got a special kit made for TFN 2018 which looks really beautiful. The well thought out design has Lotus which is the Indian national flower, a saffron/orange band which is considered an auspicious color here and theme of feathers of the Indian national bird, Peacock! The design of the sleeves is apparently inspired by Wes Anderson’s ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, a movie about 3 brothers who travel across India in a hope to bond with each other! Hat tip to the thought behind the design.
8 riders were supposed to join from Ordrup to this trip to India but a couple of last minute drop outs due to injuries meant only 6 of them could make it. Otherwise, there would have been a tie between Ordrup and Project 852 with 8 riders each and Denmark would have edged out Hong Kong with 9(including Nils). I guess, that would be for another year.
Happy And Foggy Flag-off!
We started the ride after a cake was cut to celebrate one of the organizers, Fancis Lobo’s birthday!
The start was delayed due to heavy fog and we started around 7:45am instead of the planned 7am start. The early part of the ride was still foggy and we took it really easy and stayed behind the motor bike escort to ensure safety.
The roads were really bad and we had to be extremely watchful trying to find road among potholes. The front group was mostly comprised of riders from Ordrup CC and Project 852 along with KKR, Asish and Peter Roper of Denver Cycling Cafe and a couple of us.
We reached the first support station at 27km mark, filled up water took a few bananas and started riding again very quickly. The goal for the day was to cover as much distance as possible when the weather was still nice as it is going to be a long hard day and it could get really hot as we get closer to Kerala.
Gain Weight At TFN? Of Course!
I joined KKR, young rider Vinay and Rajendra Bhaskar and started riding at an easy pace. Vinay is an 18 year old promising talent who rides for Ciclopedia in Mysore. He weighs all of 51 kilos. He probably is the calmest of the riders on the tour as he hardly talks and definitely the lightest of the riders on the tour. KKR weighs 58 kgs and Rajendra weighs 62 kgs apparently. When KKR told Vinay that he will put on weight by the end of the tour, the youngster refused to believe. Who would blame him if he couldn’t believe that it is possible to put on weight after riding nearly 950 hilly kilometers in 7 days. But that’s what happens with the constant intake of food be it at the support stations on the ride or at the hotels we stay. Being at least 10 kgs heavier than the heaviest of them, I felt compelled to ask them to shut up and stop fat shaming me indirectly by talking about weight gain.
Talking of weight gain, we reached the next support station at 55km mark only to find a board that read ‘Hotel Biriyani Paradise’ but neither was there biriyani nor the hotel. Knowing how much some of us(ahem..) love Biriyani, it was a bit cruel on the part of the organizers to set up the support station at such a place of false promises.
Disappointed that there was neither biriyani nor paradise, we quickly fueled on a few chikkis, filled water and started riding again. We joined Sanjay and Wheelsports Venky after a bit and the Denver boys joined us and we formed a nice train riding easy. That was only until the roads got better and started pointing downwards.
People got excited seeing smooth road for a change and got bonkers flying down the hill. That didn’t last for long though. The road conditions this year suffered because of the unusually heavy monsoons and floods this year in the region.
We reached the lunch spot at 80km mark by 11:30am. We had a good lunch because the day is long and the competitive segment for the day starts at 124km mark. Sticking to our plan, we didn’t wait much after we were done with lunch and I started moving with Sanjay, Rajender, KKR and Vinay. At 90 k mark, we stopped at the Unniappam shop. Although I was tempted to have a go at them, the skinny boys didn’t show interest and my internal governor admonished me about my weight. So, we moved along. Of course, I’m repenting not having a go after seeing the pics from all the riders who stopped there and had a whale of a time sipping on lemon tea and downing baskets of warm and yummy Unniappams.
The next support station was at 111km and the ride was peppered with steep kickers one after the other. Each of them reminded me of Kalahatty and sent chills down my spine. Fingers crossed for the next day, I crawled my way up each of those kickers and made it to the support station. A quick refill later, we started riding. I let the other 4 go and started riding really easy on my own towards the start of the day’s competitive segment.
I got there at 2pm and had to wait for 10 mins as we were the first ones to get there and the organizers were getting the race set up ready. Once they were ready, KKR went followed by others. I started behind Peter Roper and Ashish hoping to see if I could use Ashish as a carrot. Of course, in my current state it was ambitious and I didn’t even see him until I got to the hotel.
Each of the climbs on the 12.6km was torturous although I felt better than the last couple of days. The finish line was just after a bus stop which was at the forest check post. To add to my owes, there was a traffic pile up at the bus stop that forced me to stop 50 meters from the finish line and crawl my way to it. What fun! I wonder what I accomplished by skipping Unniappams!
After the CS, we rode the last 6km to the hotel at an easy pace and reached the hotel by 3:30pm. It was a hard day but we just kept chipping away at it without any long breaks and got through it. We were given a royal welcome into the hotel with traditional Kerala drums!
Now, will Kalahatty let us sleep tonight is the question.
In Women’s category, Katja finished fastest on the day and built on her already formidable lead. Christina was the second fastest on the day and is 5th on GC. Lena however not only covered the deficit(6secs) she had on Cora but also put 1:20 into her. She jumped to second spot from 3rd and Cora moved down to 3rd. With just one 3.9km climb remaining for the GC battle, will these places change? Let’s wait until Day 6 for that.
In under 35 Men, Naveen John hit took the win on the day and took back 16 secs. Nils leads the GC still but with just 15 secs. Another big jump is KKR who finished 3rd fastest on the day and took back 1:17 secs from Clinton. The difference between them is just 17 seconds now. Clinton’s 3rd place looks a bit shaky now with the skinny climber finding his groov.
In Master’s category the podium looks pretty much decided with big enough gaps between top 4. Kris Guns retained and extended his lead on Peter while Peter did the same to Hemendra. Hemendra rode further away from me solidifying his 3rd place on the podium.
In Veterans category(45+), Paul Wright built on his lead and retained the leaders jersey. Caspar Andreis finished second for the day and moved to third position in GC displacing Richard Mueller by just 3 seconds. This is so very close! It is going to be an all out battle for positions in the category on the final race of GC on day 6.
Tomorrow is the big ride to Ooty via Kalahatty! The fight for King of Kalahatty and Queen of Kalahatty jerseys will be intense. Staying calm and taking one meter at a time will be key to scaling the 1200m beast.
Watch how day 3 went for more riders and volunteers on the tour in this super cool video by TFN content team: https://youtu.be/uKyqx6s4nbE
In case you missed..
Day 1 Report is here: The Royal Start from Mysuru!
Day 2 report is here: Entering the Coffee country!
Check out daily video updates on TFN channel