After having botched up two 600’s (The 1st one before I really got a hang of brevets, the sleeplessness ,etc) (The 2nd one due to mechanical failure ), I decided to go ahead with the Ranebennur 600. Of course I wanted to do the 400 and the 200 as well but could not find the time. As luck would have it, I still managed to goof up. I tried to fix the broken derailleur hanger for my Btwin Sport 1. as luck would have it, the part is not easily available.So I had to choose between two options, ride my MTB or borrow/rent a road bike. Nalla had agreed to loan his BTwin and Rafi had agreed to give me his lights. Again, circumstances contrived to create a situation where i could not get these well in time, so I would have had to make a trip to WhiteField and Malleswaram the day before the ride. Pradeep Naidu graciously offered to loan me his Bianchi for the ride, God bless him! Of course, there was drama here as well. I don’t use cleats, and we could not change pedals easily, so off I went to BOTS , and Rohan helped me change the pedals, and adjusted the seat to my liking (Of course he was more than a little surprised by how I ride , my seat position — the way I ride is not what you hear typically from the pros. I tilt my seat a little forward and never really fully rest on my seat — This means more pressure on my shoulders but less on my perineum and buttocks — not the officially recommended way of riding, but the way I ride). So fixing the height ,seat etc meant I reached home at around 10:30 pm. I had to spend the next two hours getting my bicycle for the early morning ride. The whole idea of riding a road bike was to chop off a few hours , and finish early, something as I would discover doesn’t work if you don’t get enough sleep.
Start of the ride/sleepathon
I rode at 2:15am with Parag to the starting point, the old Citibank building where all our master brevet rides have begun. We started at around 3:15 am. Sandeep mentioned that Saturday would be cloudy with chances of rain on Sunday, and to be prepared for headwinds on the return. Me and Parag rode at a steady pace and reached 50km in about two hours. Somewhere after that I went ahead of Parag, don’t remember why, i possibly had started dosing off and was too focused on not falling asleep that I did not realize i was not riding with him. Luckily i found a kamat on the road along the road.The Kamat was closed but an adjoining CCD (Cafe Coffee day) was open 24 hours. Ther were three people sitting on the porch outside having their pre-breakfast meal and Coffee. i went inside , had a quick crash, drank a coffee to refresh myself. I had parked my cycle outside leaning against the wall. After having used the restroom I came out , stretched and noticed that a bunch of monkeys were eating the leftovers of the group that was eating outside. the CCD manager assured me that the monkeys were not aggressive. I happenned to discuss with another patron about the monkeys at Nandi, who tend to be very aggressive. However, when I went out I would discover that 5 satchets of Gatorade were missing, ripped off by the monkeys. The bike was still well balanced. Nimble thieves!
The monkeys high on Caffeine and sports drinks
I proceeded ahead , and was riding alone till some point where I saw one rider waving at me from a shop. A little ahead I caught up with Parag , Sylvester who had just waved to me caught up. We took a break before Hiriyur to down some bananas, and I grabbed a few chewing gums to stop from drooping off to sleep. I had a constant niggle on my left hamstring that increased in intensity from km80 till I reached Hiriyur (km 175). Parag and Sylvester went ahead at some point. We reached Hiriyur after 11, After getting ATM slips (where i caught up with Parag and Sandeep), I shopped for a snack in a bakery and a clothstore for a big hanky to cover my head and ears in the rather hot sun. Its amazing how hot the sun bears down on you on the open highway even in the middle of winter. Sandeep told me they would stop at a place to eat so i just cycled ahead, and found them waiting at a dhaba at the edge of town. 6 of us were there Karthik, Sylvester, Sandeep, Parag, Sohan and me. Missing were Ratnaveer and Ravindra. We spent a lot of time there , 4 of them went off, Karthik hung back with me while I went off to answer’s nature’s call. I pretty much rode with Karthik for the rest of the journey(except at some points).
After we went off, we spotted Ratnaveer for the first time in a hotel off the road. Goal was to reach midway by 6 or so, but the heat was quite difficult. Karthik flagged me for a sleep break. I tried to follow suit but the flies made my life miserable. He was too tired to bother about the flies (or as he told me later – they were painful at first but after a few minutes i got used to the flies sitting on my face)
There were some shepherds in the vicinity, they bombarded me with the usual questions
1) Where are you from? – Bangalore
2) Where are you headed – Ranebennur
3) Do these tyres contain air? – yes , it is just that we put a lot of pressure in them.
4) When did you start? – 3 am.
5) Is this a race ? – No, it is just a tour.
yada, yada, yada, yada. ..
i started off leaving a fully asleep Karthik, who caught up with me in some time. With 50 odd km to go for Ranebennur it got a little tough. Even though tailwinds were on our side (discovered by the fact that we didn’t smell a few decomposing carcasses of dogs on the road as we were approaching them, but could sniff them well after we passed them, maybe upto 50m+ or more) The last 25 odd km felt like forever . We were cycling in darkness now and the road was not so great. In addition, on the outskirts of Ranibennur there are some polluting factories which give out a horrid stench. The town comes after an 8km detour from the highway. Once we reached town, we tried looking for the others. I called up Sandeep to ask him about the control and his whereabouts to realize we came before them. Sylvester meanwhile popped up in front of us. The 3 of us waited for the rest. Ratnaveer had also joined the gang. So we had a full house minus Ravindra. Karthik and I took a snooze after the dinner, to me it looked that Karthik managed a good sleep,I barely slept for 5 mins but that did help me recover a bit. I had a very light dinner, just two jowar rotis.
I learnt that in North Karnataka, when they say Roti, they mean Jawar Roti. While sitting down to eat,the server asked me what I would prefer – Roti or Chappathi, I was flummoxed. I started at him – What do you mean? What is the difference. His response : Roti is made from Jowar. Ahhh, okay.
The never ending night and sleeplessness
Sylvester and me went ahead to have a coffee on the highway. The rest of the folks went ahead and waited at a Dhaba after a toll booth. As Sylvie and I were riding , I stopped to check my rearlights and my cue sheet, my money , my mobile etc. It took me a while to fix my rear light again. Meanwhile in the distance I saw a train. In the open plains, when it is dark, looking at the outline of a train in the distance feels wonderful, its a nice little sight. I waited for the train to get out of sight before I started. I caught up with Sylvester and Karthik, who informed me that the rest had gone ahead. Soon enough, it was quite apparent that the sleep i managed at dinner was not enough, and i kept drifting off. Sylvester wanted to continue riding and looked for a Dhaba to refresh. i sighted a cafe coffee day hoarding in the distance, and i could sense confused looks from them. It turned out to be an Indian Oil petrol bunk — my mind had begun playing tricks.Soon I could go on no more, Karthik wanted to stop and sleep as well. We used the barrier on top of a culvert to lean back and sleep.
Either at this point, or just before the next ‘sleep-off’ , we asked Sylvester to go ahead. ‘Asked’ of course, is a mild word. He was pretty much told that if he stuck with us( As i would discover during the remaining of the night, Karthik was in far worse shape than me), he had a pretty realistic chance of missing the brevet. I told him that, for the moment, my goal was simply surviving the night and go ahead as much as possible, but i was not in a position to fight sleep. Poor thing , one should have seen his face. He was oh.. so looking forward to good company at night, what he had was a couple of drunkards who were delirious without a drop of alcohol. He went off ahead and we slept. After the 1st or the 2nd sleepover we discovered a Dhaba with a charpoy. The Dhaba owner let us sleep. I suggested we share the bed but soon saw a broken leg propped by a flimsy plastic chair. Karthik graciously agreed to sit and sleep, i was thankful. My lower back was quite badly inflammed and I wanted to sleep on my stomach , arching my back for the 40 mins or so of sleep. Once I got up , my back was much better and I woke up Karthik after some stretching. A tea each later, we left. Only to fall asleep maybe after 15 mins or so. We could continue in this mode , sleep for a while , ride for a while. Amazingly we could not ride more than 15-20 mins at a time. Maybe checking into a lodge would have been better but the danger of a good bed is that you would really sleep , then miss the next control. At many points, I would go ahead (even though I was not pedalling hard), and would see that i had left Karthik behind. Karthik told me not to wait for him, but that didn’t feel right, many times I caught him wobbling at the wheel, and cycling in such a state at night definitely seemed risky, esp with traffic still around. Just when we reached the final climb before Chitradurga, we told each other that we would clear it in one go. And we managed(or we didn’t, was too dazed to remember). But what I did rememeber is that I was surprised when we reached the entrance into Chitradurga. At this point Karthik suggested we go through the city. I wasn’t quite hungry , and I had some emergency food (Chikkis and dates). He started detailing how cycling through the city would be easier with less climbs. I was a little surprised, since even though the bypass was longer, it being the highway we would be faster. That was when he dropped the bomb. He told me he was quitting. i was surprised , since this was the guy who completed 1200km in less than 70 hours with three nights of sleeplessness. i guess everyone has his or her bad day. He apparently had made up his mind around Davangere.
The final solo-ride:
This incident jolted me out of my stupor and I rode ahead. I hoped to carry on, but about 2-3 km on the bypass i again drooped off. So located a stone on the side and sat and slept. I was a little irritated that the bypass had not ended and i had not left the city area. Oh well, I decided i’ll sleep over it. When I woke up i saw that i had actually gone a little ahead of the other end of the city. From here to Hiriyur was mostly downhill. Karthik had left me at about 5:30 or so, and it was now nearly 6. i wanted to try and make it by 7:30 (The control closed at around 9am). That would give me buffer for the end – control. I managed to clock good speed now, it was daybreak and the minimal light meant maximal energy for my pedalling. I used my strength to push ahead, I again felt sleepy somewhere near Aimangala (25km to go), i again found a stone . Nothing like a stone for a stoned person for rest. 8 mins of sleep and i was off again.( I was checking my watch now, as I wanted to speed up). Finally I managed to do a final dash to the city, found Sylvester outside an ATM. Went in, and took the slip, I had made it at 7:17 am , felt relieved for the 1st time in this brevet. I knew I would make it now even with lack of sleep. If nothing else , I knew I could do it Dhoni ishtyle, crawl crawl and just preserve enough energy for one burst. During my adrenaline fuelled trip from Chitradurga to Hiriyur, I was hoping to continue riding fast home after stopping at the ATM. But the moment I came out of the ATM, my legs felt week and I became unsteady – proof that I needed fuelling and I needed a rest, Sylvester went ahead. I stretched and followed suit and took a breat at Surya hotel (my usual eating joint in Hiriyur). Had a decent meal and rest and I was off again.
I gathered over the phone from Sohan that Sandeep and Parag were ahead followed by Sohan and Dharmane. The heat during the day made riding difficult, I wanted to ride fast. First just before the 500km mark, I felt too tired and had to sleep on the side of the road under a tree, using my bike as a (clumsy) shield from the oncoming traffic barely sitting 2 feet off the traffic. I took about 4-5 powernap breaks during the day. Once I took a rest off the road, there was a truck parked on the side. The truck driver came up to me and shot a few questions.
Truck Driver : I saw you in the morning near Chitradurga, amazed you made it so fast here, I just came here a while ago
Me : You’ll find quite a few leisure cyclists like me in Bangalore. We enjoy cycling long distances.
TD : Where are you coming from?
Me : To Ranebennur and back?
TD : How much is that? When did you go? When are you expected back?
Me : Started yesterday (Saturday) 3am and have to be back before 7pm tonight. I expect to make it before 5.
He went on to get his mobile and took a couple of photographs of me.
Me : Where are you from?
TD : Gwalior
Me : That is far. Where are you headed?
TD : Bangalore
Me : That should take about 5 days?
TD : 5,sometimes 6.
Me : What do you transport?
TD : Well, I am a truck driver? I transport whatever goods I am given
Me : I know that , I mean what are the goods you normally transport
TD : Biscuits, Brittania biscuits make their way here from Gwalior
Me : See, thanks to you I learnt something knew today
He smiled, after a few minutes, I got up and bid him bye. The talk had refreshed me, this time I didn’t need sleep. I had borrowed Pradeep’s bike for the ride, and he told me that the front gear stays high all the time, I would not be able to change it down. Believing him, I never tried to lower it during the ride. However the climbs about 20km before Tumkur made me want to try and change it, even if it meant manually doing it. I didn’t want to stand up and pedal that stretch, with a sore knee. And of course, the gears worked. I could downshift and upshift :) Never believe what someone says at face value :) The next event was that I started feeling sleepy with 50 km to go. The last time I drank Coke was at a shop in Dobbspet 40km before endpoint to help me fuel the last stretch. I did the same today. Of course, it did not work. About 7-8km before the Nelamangala toll I dropped off to sleep again, and had to find a clean place to sit under a tree to sleep off. Really surprised because normally your last few km are easily boosted by adrenalin, but today was not to be. But I was riding the last 50km moderately hard. I passed Ratnaveer on the uphill just before the (Nelamangala – Yeshwantpur) expressway toll plaza. Reached the ATM at 5:24 and went to the CCD where JP and Sandeep and Sohan were waiting.
I asked about Sylvester, I was told that he was behind. Sohan then mentioned how excited he was after catching up with them before Hiriyur. I told him about our sojourns the previous night and Sylvie’s disappointment on seeing two drunkards instead of two riders and the realization that he had to do it alone at night ;)
Finally there was some discussion on the toughness of this route . We all agreed that the Tristate was tougher but while i was/am sure that the june ride is tougher , here is an interesting piece. While 8 out of 10 finished this brevet (and the percentage was about 4 out o f 10-12 riders finished the 600k back then, the lone rider for both brevets (Parag) took about 90 minutes longer now.
After some chit-chat, a coffee and some rest, I went home. Of course I managed to ride fast home despite the traffic (surprising on a Sunday). After I reached home, wifey remarks – Chiddu your eyes are bloodshot.
Me : What did you expect? I haven’t had proper sleep for about 60+ hours now.
Finally happy that I managed to complete a 600, something that seemed jinxed over the past 2 years. Even though I targetted an early morning Sunday return, at the end I was more than happy that despite serious sleeplessness I managed to pull through 600km. In fact, on this ride I struggled to focus from the word go! And finally, glad that I kicked my ennui and kick-started my brevet seasion with a 600. Looking forward to riding more this season.