Entering the Coorg’s Coffee Estates: Hassan to Kushalnagara
The 140km ride from Hassan towards Kushalnagara was flagged off after handing over Blue Jerseys for the winners of each category from the first day’s race segment. Kushalnagar is a town on the banks of river Kaveri in the coffee district of Coorg. It is well known for it’s Buddist Monastries and Chiklihole reservoir and dam.
As we got out of Hassan, the initial kilometers were a bit foggy and we started rolling easy along with a bit of traffic.
Busy Gal Finding Her Me Time in The Mountains!
On the way I caught up with Jagruti Ravindra Kasat and started chatting for a bit. This mother of two from Pune is a busy lady who runs a Rajasthani Thali restaurant in Pune. She has been in the hospitality industry for a long time running her dad’s resort in Pune and recently opened the restaurant too. Despite her hectic schedule, she ensures that she gets in at least an hour of workout on most days in the form of running, spinning or short outdoor rides. Sparing multiple hours for long rides is a luxury she can’t afford that often but she managed to take some time off to do Leh-Ladakh cycling trip last year and fell in love the experience of cycling in the mountains. When she heard raving reviews of TFN from friends, she decided to give it a go and signed up for the tour. She says she’s been having a great time on the tour so far. I wished her a great ride and rode ahead.
Party on Two Wheels!
After a bit, my head started to automatically move in response to some great music of classic Hindi songs blaring from a speaker. I realized that the said speaker was fixed on the handlebars a hybrid bike of Priyvrat Shah, a business man from Indor who owns a computer and electronics shop. This marathoner and randonneur seems to be having a whale of a time on the tour with some fabulous music. I loved his choice of music from whatever I heard every time I rode past him and inadvertently slowed down to spend some time listening to it.
852 Heads to 91…!
After the support station one around 30km, I met Clinton Leong and Christina who were riding together and began chatting with them. Clinton is from Sydney, Australia and started got into triathlons a few years ago when he lived in Hong Kong and is part of Dragons Triathlon Club. Their cycling team is Project 852, named after the country code of Hong Kong. Then it occurred to me why their names and faces felt so familiar. I have seen most of the 8 people from Project 852 who are here in action(and on podium) in Tour of Friendship 2017 and Tour De Bintan 2018 when I participated in those races. They are a very strong team and have been on numerous podiums in top amateur races all over Asia. Clinton moved back to Sydney 3 years ago but makes time to participate in a few races along with the team to catch up and spend time with them.
Project 852, aka The Wolfpack for the trip, is rocking the podium across all categories. Clinton is 3rd in Men under 35 category(he’s over 45 but chose to compete in open), Kris Guns is in blue jersey in 35-45, Paul Wright is in blue jersey in 45 and above, Cora is second in Women’s category.
It is such a pleasure seeing these strong and really fun bunch be part of Tour of Nilgiris. What better way to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday(Sheel Singh Kohli is turning 50 during the tour) than by riding through some of the most beautiful parts of India while having a great time with friends and whooping the competition while you’re at it!
Who’s That Badass!?
On last day of Tour De Bintan earlier this year I heard about a bad crash that involved a couple of women and a guy and how one of the women got up, dusted herself rode her bloodied and bruised self to the finish solo, to win the race in her age category. At that time, I remember thinking who this badass lady was! As it turns out, it was of course, Christina Hudson. What a star! This former executive in diamond industry is from Toronto, Canada and has been living in Hong Kong for a few years with her family. A mother of 3 amazing kids, the oldest being a 16 year old son and two daughters, this lady can ride a bike and how! If she didn’t lose her way in the CS on day 1, she would have been among the top in women category.
Competitive Segment: Up, Down And Repeat!
We reached the start of the competitive segment for the day at 45km mark. After a bit of wait, we started racing.
The CS for the day was 9.5km race on a winding and rolling road with more descents than ascents. I was really looking forward to getting it out of the way so that I can ride easy again. Anand Kapoor, who has a fetish for downhills started ahead of Christina and I started after her. I felt better than yesterday but the fitness wasn’t just there. I did my best to keep the power up on the inclines and stay as aero as possible and descend as fast as possible on the downhills. I caught up to Anand in around 7km, but I couldn’t see Christina until after I crossed the finish line. That lady can ride and how!
After the CS, Christina and I continued towards the next support station where we met the rest of her team. I joined them for the ride towards the lunch point at 90km mark. While the rest of them rode ahead, Cora Van Laer and I started riding at a more chatty pace. We talked about her experience at Tour of Friendship, Tour De Bintan and Taiwan KOM that she recently took part in. She and her husband Kris Guns(Master’s Blue jersey holder) are from Flanders but have been living in Hong Kong for the last few years. Kris runs his business and races for Dragons Triathlon Club and Project 852. Cora is second in GC in women’s category.
As we were nearing the coffee land of Coorg, the scenery was changing to beautiful coffee estates. The climbs were non-stop and really steep at places. We stopped for a quick lunch of hot Akki rottis, rice dal etc., before starting to ride again.
We still had 50km to go with some significant rolling terrain. So, I kept moving without stopping for too long at any point.
While the scenery was breath-taking the climbs were making me short breathed. I was relieved to reach the comfort of Purple Palm Resorts in Kushalnagar.
In Master’s category(35-45), the Flemish bullet, Kris Guns is unstoppable and managed to put more time in the second place. His lead on Peter Roper, went from 6 seconds to 45 seconds at the end of day 2. Hemendra(Hemmings) was flying on day 1 and continued to do so on day 2. While he lost more time to Peter, he put in more distance between himself and 4th place(me), almost securing his spot on the podium. Well done, Hemmings!
In Men under 35, Nils managed to add to his lead by putting another 15 secs into NJ while NJ added further to his lead on Clinton. These guys are fighting tooth and nail every day!
In the Women’s category, Katja retained her lead and put more seconds into her competition. Cora and Lena are super close to each other at 2nd at 3rd. If 5 seconds was the difference on day 1, they were only separated by less than 2 secs on day 2. Now 6 seconds separate them.
Christina finished second on the day and the organizers found a way to give extrapolate her day 1 timing based on day 2 result and added a 3 minute penalty for losing way on day 1. She is now at 6th on GC. It will be interesting to see how many places she can move up over the course of the next two competitive segments.
In Veterans(45+) category, Paul extended his lead futher by more than a minute and sits comfortably with 2:08 lead on Reid Hamilton. Reid further put more time on Richard and has 54 second on him now. The bigger worry for Richard seems to be Caspar who is hot on his heels. Casper managed to crawl back some time on Day 2 and is now only 15 secs behind Richard.
The Day Ahead!
Today’s ride to Sultanbatheri is one of the toughest on the tour with a lot of challenging rolling terrain over the 144km route. The 12 km CS comes after 120km which is going to be a challenge after you are full with lunch and Unniappams! Let’s see how this goes!