All Good Things Must Come to An End!
It is time to wrap up another awesome tour with a short ride from Kalpetta to HD Kote via Nagarhole Forest reserve.
As we rolled out of Kalpetta, I joined Dr. Rahul Kalia and Sai Pratyush from Mumbai. They were tapping out a nice pace and it was easy to get sucked into. We rolled at a good pace through a couple of small towns, Millummukku and Panamaram. But the roads after that quickly became quite bumpy and it was difficult to maintain a paceline. We managed to roll into SS1 at Koodalakaduvu at 24km negotiating a few kickers along the way.
We waited for Lena, Anand, and Hemmings to join and started riding again. Lena took off on the first climb thinking anyway Anand will catch up on the downhill. But, the steep kickers are something the big boy, Anand hates with a gusto. I began to pace Sai and we made it across to Lena and rode together for a bit.
We had to encounter a couple really steep climbs that brought back Kalahatty memories except that they were short and had very sketchy roads compared to the smooth roads on Kalahatty.
The Jungle Safari!
After we reached Bavali, we were only allowed to ride in groups with a vehicle escorting us through the forest reserve.
With riders of different abilities staying as a group is difficult and we stopped and regrouped every few kilometers. The 20 km rid through the forest took an inordinately long time.
Many of us were itching to let go of the caution and step on the gas for the last few kilometers. Once we got out of the forest area, Rahul and I took off from behind the car.
The last 10km we imagined ourselves to be in a breakaway with no one chasing and went full gas. We got slowed down by a herd of cows and flock of sheep a couple of times but got right back into the full-gas mode and reached the endpoint exhilarated and exhausted. We won a race that no one else took part in. But it was a fun way to end the tour on an endorphin high.
The endpoint was St. Thomas School in HD Kote where we had lunch, packed the bikes and got on a bus to reach Mysore for the presentation ceremony and cool off party at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Mysore.
TFN Then and Now!
Meet Venkatesh Shivarama a.k.a Wheelsports Venky and Sharath Raju. Two TFNers who have seen the origins of TFN as they had both been on the very first tour in 2008. Venky is coming back to the tour after 10 years, having ridden the first edition and now the 11th edition of the tour. For Sharath, it is his third time riding the tour. He is coming back this year after riding the first two editions in 2008 and 2009. He had also been part of the volunteer team for a couple of years in between in 2010 and 2013.
Venky runs one of the best and the oldest high-end bike shops in Bangalore named Wheelsports. He is a man with a big heart and helps many budding cyclists behind the scenes. He has a big role in the development of cycling culture we now see in Bangalore. He was instrumental in starting the first formal cycling team with KYNKYNY Wheelsports which later became Specialized KYNKYNY team.
Sharath has been working in the sports industry for nearly 10 years after shifting from an IT job. After working with Decathlon and running his own barefoot running footwear store, he is now Operations Head for Retail for the outdoor sports equipment firm, Wildcraft.
As I caught up with them to ask what has changed over the years to now, Venky immediately says that we are pampered a lot more now. He recollected a funny incident how on one day in the first edition they were all sleeping in a large dorm in Coorg and how 1 snorer kept rest of the 40 awake all night. Now, with single, double and triple sharing room options, not all riders have to go on a ride after spending a sleepless night because of a snorer roommate. If you are lucky, like me, you get one roommate like that every year.
Sharath observed that the organization is much smoother now compared to the initial years. According to him, the organizers seemed to be operating in a zen mode where any problem that might come up on a massive tour like this is dealt with in a much calmer way than before. Having the experience of organizing the tour for 11 years now and evolving the processes with constant feedback from the riders and volunteers has helped, he thinks. Having dialed in most of the processes they seem to know exactly what to do in any given situation.
From Conquering Boardrooms to Tough Climbs!
Rasesh Babubai Kanakia is no stranger to hard work. Having started working at the age of 21 as a real estate consultant, over the last 30 years, he built one of the top real estate development firms in Mumbai and in the country. His assiduous work ethic as the chairman of Kanakia Spaces Realty Pvt. Ltd., didn’t stop inside of boardrooms when he started cycling one year ago. He trained diligently and worked on losing weight and getting better on the bike every day. Having heard great things about TFN from friends who have taken part in the previous editions, and having met the passionate organizers of the tour, he not only decided to ride the tour but also came in as one of the sponsors supporting the tour.
He says that TFN has been an experience of a lifetime and the sense of accomplishment after completing the tough tour is unparalleled. He rates Kalahatty as the toughest climb he has ever done and says that completing other tough days on the tour are equally satisfying. His bike, a Moots custom designed Titanium bike with Dura-Ace Di2 and Enve Wheels with matching Kris King hubs, is probably the coolest of the bikes on the tour but it was his undying determination and never say die attitude that saw him complete the tour successfully. Congrats, Rasesh!
In Men’s Open, after CS 3, Nils was leading the GC with 15 secs over NJ. But on the 3.6km climb on CS 4, NJ rode a phenomenal race to put 33 secs into Nils and taking Blue Jersey with a lead of 23 secs. Clinton’s result from CS 3 was revisited and adjusted based on available data. That meant he was able to defend his 3rd place on the podium by 24 secs despite having lost 52 secs on the climb on CS 4.
In the women’s category, Katja retained her lead and Blue jersey. Lena defended her 2nd place on the podium while Cora finished 3rd.
In Master’s category, Kris Guns defended his Blue Jersey despite Peter Roper finishing a couple of secs ahead of him on the CS 4 climb. Peter stayed in 2nd place on the podium while Hemendra a.k.a. Hemmings retained his 3rd position. Hemmings had a breakthrough tour where he made huge this year. Amazing to see another fat to fit guy doing well. About 3 years ago, he was 92kgs and now weighs 61 and has improved tremendously on the bike with consistent hard work.
In the Veterans category, Paul Wright built on his lead and retained his Blue jersey by a good margin over his teammate, Reid Hamilton. Casper Andreis took the 3rd spot on the podium with a lead of 54 secs over Richard who’s at the 4th spot.
This tour has seen easily the most competitive field among all the 8 TFNs I have been part of so far. It was not just the depth of talent across all the categories but also the fun coefficient is off the charts as well. The guys from The Wolfpack, Denver Bicycling Cafe, Ordurp Cycling Club from outside the country along with various groups of riders from Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Bangalore and other cities across India added so much flavor and competition to the tour.