After riding in the cycling heaven around Ooty, none of us were expecting the ride into Kalpetta to be as beautiful as it was!
A Buttersmooth Descent! Almost!
After the horrible experience of bone-chilling cold start of day 6, I layered up with all the cold weather gear I had. I wasn’t really looking forward to the nearly 55km of descending on bad roads. Of course, last year’s crash within 800m of the hotel was playing on the mind as well. But, once I safely descended the 5km to Ooty town, I felt at ease and found the flow.
Once out of Ooty, the actual descent doesn’t start until after Naduvattam, around 30km into the ride. It was from there we had terrible road conditions last year. But, to my surprise, the roads seemed to have been newly laid. This was the first time I saw good road conditions on this stretch.
With the morning sun shining through the trees, spotting potholes becomes very difficult. It was a pleasure gliding down the hill without having to search for road among potholes.
Only the last 3-4km as we got closer to Gudalur was a bit patchy with road construction still in progress. We made good time and reached Gudalur. Wading through the mid-town traffic, I met Claus Johansen, James Stevenson, Michael Pachler, and Herbert Wiggenhauser. We got on the road towards Bathery. After a bit, we caught up with KKR, and Rajendra and started riding together. By that time it was warm and we were feeling a bit stuffed in our multiple layers of warm clothes.
A Balanced Diet!
We were also confused not to find the lunch spot which was supposed to be at 66 km mark. Nikhil Rammohan showed up on a motorbike and offered to take off the warm clothes off of us.
We also got the news that the lunch spot had been set up at 77km mark. The entire route leading to the lunch spot was lined with curious school kids who began to ask, ”Hello, which country?”. I’m sure they would have believed if I told them that I was from Nigeria instead of from Bangalore.
After lunch, we descended through super smooth forest roads. I don’t know how the TFN team manages to find these awesome back roads that no one seems to know.
Who Are These People!?
I caught up with James on the descent and started riding with him. The 68-year-old can certainly ride hard. I might have very well caught up with him on a downhill but it was not easy keeping pace with him on the hills.
I also got to know that he sent the luggage with Richard and Rohan and rode about 700km from Goa to Mysore to get to the start of TFN. He apparently took a more mountainous route as a practice for TFN. He is going to ride back to Goa after the tour as well. He is used to this kind of exploring wherever he goes to and once spent a couple of days lost in a jungle around Goa. He once joined Richard and family in Germany for a cycling vacation, riding thousands of km through the Alps into Germany and riding back to watch Tour de France live after their combined cycling trip. I think these Goans are a crazy lot.
From California to Coimbatore!
For the last 40km of the 145km ride, I met and rode with Ganesh Kumar, who recently(as in, just a week before TFN start) moved back home to Coimbatore after nearly 2 decades of living in the USA. Ganesh is a 4-time TFNer. His first TFN was in 2014, which was the toughest tour to date in my opinion. He rode it again in 2015, 2016 but missed it in 2017 and made a come back this year. He is another Ultra distance guy.
In 2016, he rode from Jammu to Kanyakumari, about 2500 km, before joining TFN and then went on to ride Tour of Tamilnadu the following week. This year he joined a friend for a TransAm ride across America, from Golden Gate bridge to Statue of liberty. They completed the nearly 5000 km ride in 33 days with 2 rest days. He even went on a solo cycling tour across Mexico covering over 2000 km.
Apart from cycling, he loves ultra trail running. On the rest day, having climbed Kalahatty on the bike the previous day, he and Sheel went to Kalahatty base and ran up the hill. I want to grow up to be as badass as all these guys.
Being on TFN is like being in a time warp. We completely lose track of time and the outside world. We only measure it in time to get to support stations, lunch stops and Day 1, Day 2 etc.. The last day of the tour, Day 8 is upon us already! We ride out of Kalpetta via Nagarhole forest reserve to reach H.D.Kote where we wrap up the tour and take a bus to Mysore for the presentation and cool off party.