Freezing Start! Burrrr…!!!
The day started with me waking up at 2 am not feeling a million bucks and not being able to go back to sleep. I didn’t think I would be able to ride the bike with a splitting headache and a sore throat. I went through the motions of getting ready and eating breakfast in the hope that I would feel better once I get on the bike. But the initial 20-30 mins of descending out of Ooty was so freezing that I quickly realized that I wasn’t layering up enough. I felt completely miserable. As I continued to descend, I was waiting for a volunteer vehicle to pass so that I could pack it in and get inside one. Luckily for me, I didn’t see anyone passing me in the first 30 mins and I descending slowly.
By the time I got into the valley, the temperature got more normal and the sun came out. The views of the sunlit tea estates in the valley were so beautiful that I forgot all about my physical misery and began to smile.
It felt like we were in cycling heaven, riding through some of the most stunning routes. It felt great to be on the bike again, feeling alive.
It was impossible not to keep taking the phone camera out every few hundred meters to try and capture the visual beauty of the area. We reached support station one at 41km mark, refilled the bottles and continued to ride on.
We rode this exact route the year before last and last year too. But, it was completely different weather all three times. In 2016, all three seasons in a single day. Last year, it was foggy most of the way, with very low visibility for the first and last parts of the ride. This year, it was clear and sunny although still a bit chilly most of the day.
As we continued to ride through the mind-blowing scenery, I began to chat with Nikhil Kanodia, a businessman in the Electronics industry from Noida. About 18 months ago, Nikhil started swimming as a means of exercise to keep physically active. Then he began to run. One year ago, he bought a bike and started riding. He says his goal for next year is to participate in Ironman 70.3 which is now in Goa, India.
He signed up for TFN this year to test his endurance. On the very first day, just before the first support station, around 30km into the ride, he had a nasty crash. Riding on a downhill he ended up carrying too much speed over a set of rumblers and lost control. He ended up leaving quite a bit of skin on the road and it looked like his tour was over. But thanks to the magic touch of the doctors in the Sita-Batheja Ambulance that is always there on call on TFN, and his tenacious never give up attitude, he got back on the bike and completed the ride. He says it is more difficult to lay down to sleep than it is to ride with his entire back and hip covered with the dressing.
Unfortunately, his tour was cut short in another way as he had to fly back missing the last two days of the tour after hearing the news of one of his aunts passing away. Condolences, Nikhil!
Chamaraj Tea Center – Kunda!
After riding through some stunning roads, we reached Chamaraj Tea Center for a hot cup of Lemon Tea. The hot cup of tea felt heavenly in the chilly weather.
It is quite easy to lose track of time, sitting there sipping on hot tea and chatting up with friends. But we had the day’s competitive segment to take care of.
From Chamaraj Tea Center we descending 9 km down to Kunda Dam where the CS starts. The final CS of the tour was a 3.8 km climbing segment. This was the last chance to improve upon the standing in GC for everyone. In some of the categories, fight for the podium spots is within a few seconds and that is all the more reason to leave everything on the road for one last time.
I didn’t waste any time and lined up immediately after getting to the start. The segment starts with a bit of downhill that allows you to carry a bit of momentum into the climb. With the segment being relatively small, it is easy to go too hard at the start and blow up. So, I made a conscious effort to keep it steady right from the start. I could feel the effects of relatively thinner air and began to pant like a steam engine.
It felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. All the panting began to burn my throat and it was more painful than the burning sensation in the legs. The climb is not a steady one but has some flatter bits where it is hard to maintain the power. I kept plugging away at it as much as I can. “It is almost over, one last time”, I kept telling myself. The last kilometer felt inordinately long and never ending but I finally made it across the line and doubled over on the bike. It took about 5 mins to get the breathing to normal again.
After a couple of minutes of my finish, some of the top riders like, Nils, Kris, Clinton, Paul, Cora, Christina, and NJ finished. Everyone was gasping for breath for a long time after the finish. It was evident that they all went deep into their pain caves. The pain is the same for everyone. The only difference was how fast they went. The top riders took 12-13 mins for the segment while a few of took 15-20 mins or more.
The results will be announced on the last day in Mysore. However, most of us have an idea of our placings from the timings on our devises and Strava. It appears that there could be a change in podium places in the Open category while they remain more or less the same in other categories. We’ll have to wait till Sunday evening for the official results.
Climb.. Climb and Climb Some More!
After the CS was done, we rolled into the lunch stop. After going over our timings and discussing how that affects the GC over lunch, we began to roll. The first 70k until we got to Kunda was mostly downhill and we lost a lot of elevation. That meant, it was time to climb all of it as we ride back towards Ooty.
I set out to ride alone at a slow pace up each of the climbs that kept on coming. There was a support station every 10-15km giving a breather and a chance to refill.
On the way, I met and rode with a young rider, Rithvik for a while. This young Psychology student from Ashoka University, Delhi, started cycling one year ago after he heard about the fun of cycling from one of his friends, Srinidhi Pithani.
In December 2017, he bought a single speed Hero Hawk for INR 4500 and started riding. While he explores the depths of the mind in his area of study, he began to explore the endurance limits of his body with cycling. In July 2018, he joined his friend, Srinidhi and rode from Bangalore to Rameswaram. The 650km ride took them 6 days to cover while they rode about 100km a day and explored the places they visited for the rest of the day.
When he heard about TFN from one of his seniors in college, Siddarth (TFN, class of 2016, nickname- Deadpool), he wanted to experience it himself and signed up. Although he modified his single speed Hero Hawk to a six-speed bike by adding gears, he decided to rent a basic road bike from a shop in Bangalore(Pedals and Wheels) to ride the tour. On most days we could see him complete the ride ahead of most by taking very small breaks at the support stations and keep riding mostly alone at his own pace.
After riding for a bit with Rithvik, I decided to press on when he took a break and stopped for some Chocolate shopping for the kids at a shop within 2km of our hotel. Reached the hotel around 3:30 pm. After almost giving up in the morning, it felt good to complete the deceptively hard ride with an elevation gain of 2400m over 110km.
Day 7 ride takes us to back into the Wayanad region in Kerala to a town called Kalpetta. We will descend out of Ooty via Gudalur with the first 50k of the 145km ride being downhill. There is no CS for the day and it should be a fairly relaxed ride into another beautiful town.
If you missed…
Watch the video on Kalahatty(Day 4), watch it here.
Day 4 ride blog on Kalahatty is here.
Day 3 ride to Sultan Bathery is here.
Day 2 ride to Kushalnagar is here.
Day 1 rid to Hassan is here.