Bangalore Bicycling championships, Nandi 15th October 2011

I didn’t expect myself to write a blog on a regular cycle ride but enough impressions from this to warrant one. I decided on the eve of the race, not to race and just go to Nandi and see the folks riding. I had purchased a water dispenser for the Turahalli downhill race, and its been there with me for 2 months. This was a good time to handover the dispenser and gave me an excuse to at least ride to the race. Since I started riding at around 5:30 , I figured I might get tired riding to the race start that was 40km or so, and just headed to Nandi with a backpack containing the dispenser. Started @ 5:25 from Puttenahalli. On the way, I passed a big group of riders waiting at Hebbal, possibly waiting for the Nandi GMC practice ride. Caught up with barefoot ace Anil Kadsur and his friend on the way. Caught up with two racers, Som and his friend. sometime before the Budigere cross on Airport road. Saw Priya cycling near the base away from Nandi and then went past our ace mobile photographer Krishna on the way up. Reached Nandi about 9 am , taking 40 mins for the climb. The laptop probably increased the effort, though never know, maybe I have actually slowed down. The only way to find out is to do a climb again when the opportunity presents itself.

On top, met Deepak Rao and Venkat Navarasi for the 1st time. They had rode from the race point starting earlier than the riders. Had to wait for a while for the 1st riders to come up, since the start was probably delayed. Once the riders came, it was a real stream, though I expected some close fights, and there were none. The riders were all well spaced out as they come to the top. Navin came in 1st, Lokesh followed after about a minute or so. Then Pratyush, Rafi and Kiran Raju. Samim came in the top 10 and tells me that he was actually supposed to be recovering from RAAM and PBP. And of course he went back down twice to escort each of his sons on the way up. I believe his sons are 13 and 12 and they did a commendable job on the Nandi climb. Some inspiration for our younger ones.
I missed some of the riders when I made a trip to Vasu’s car to pick up the Vitamin M box. We had to guard against the investigative monkeys who were eyeing the bananas and other foodstuff. They managed to yank off my bottles from my cycle for the juice inside. They still have not figured out how to unscrew caps.

I went down, and was overtaken by a bunch of racers cycling furiously. I stopped to see Major, Ganapathy and Opendro doing some fixes to flats. Handed over some puncture kit and went ahead to find the breakfast place. I reached the intersection where we approach Bellary road and decided to turn back, having missed the b/fast place. Turned out it was sponsored by a local realty company and it was in their premises. Went back with the 3some and had the sandwich, and oodles of gatorade. We started from that place a little late, at about 12:30 or so. Coming back on the main highway, I got exhausted sometime around Yelahanka, and from thereon it was chore getting home. Got pretty dehydrated by the time I got near MG Road. Didn’t realize it then, but it could have either contributed to , or be because of a stomach infection. Thanks to the namesake of the lord of obstacles for escorting me till 4th block Jayanagar . I reached home at around 3:30 or so. Tummy took a nosedive at night and for the next two days. Ended up losing about 3kgs during the week aided by a sore tummy.

Day 8 TFN

Top demo
The final day of the TFN was going to be a short and sweet ride. We were going to ride from Gonikoppa to Mysore, a distance of about 80km. Of course since this was the last day, there were the usual photographs at the foyer of the lodge we were staying, and after the customary briefing by Santosh, we were all off.

Final speech

top view

I tried taking some photographs whilst cycling today. A lot of folks were a little bemused by the domesticated tusker that was patrolling the periphery of the road in the buffer zone surrounding the Titimathi range.

The tusker

The road condition was quite varied, and as a fellow TFNer quipped, we are letting you experience the moon without having to leave the comfort of our planet.

The Kodagu moonscape
Coorg  moonscape

Imported road in Coorg

Nice view

More coorg road
More coorg

More dust, less road
more dust than road

We had one pitstop today somewhere after the Titimathi area. Had a break at a Neer dosa shop where the owner had an unexpected windfall. We reached the Hunsur – Madikeri road, and probably for the 1st time the roadies had tarmac they could drool on. the rest of us tolerated the heat , but a few water melons and coconut waters of course helped us along.We reached around mid-day , packed our cycles to be loaded to the trucks taking them to Bangalore.Tucked into the lunch and hitched a ride in Siva’s car to Bangalore from here. Dozed off in the car , reached home early. Of course kids and rest of family were happy to see me. I came back to the bus stand with my car with bike carrier at night to pick up both my and Jace’s cycles. Went with my kids. Picked up Kiran and his wife on the way, took our bikes, and loaded them on to the car. Dropped him at his place , and by that time my sons were fast asleep. Reached home for a second time with my broken cycle at night. Twas definitely a memorable experience, these last 8 days, probably will be in memory for a while.

Day 7, TFN

Every day morning we have a pre-ride briefing that charts out the details of the day’s ride. Today the emphasis was repeated that we were going to have a 900m elevation drop and then a flat ride followed by a 900m elevation gain over a tropical forest( Aaralam). There was enough phsyching going on in the morning. I had a fever and took my time to clear my nose , throat and visceral organs , relaxed and started about 30 minutes late for what was repeatedly stressed as the toughest day of the tour. The previous night presentation also neatly laid out the climb at the end of the day, and the maniacal drop at the start.

In any case, loner that I am, I pedalled my way through the early Wayanad chill. One of the striking good aspects of the tour was the way the daily markings were helpful everywhere. Come to a fork, and voila you see the ubiquitous marking on the road telling you which direction to go. Of course once in a while, interspersed with Francis Lobo’s wisecracks. “Country roads take you home” was probably the most memorable one on day 2. Eventually we took a deviation before Mananthavadi and went towards a signboard that said ‘This way to Aralam’ or something to that sort.

On the way down

We were not headed to the forest, not in 22km. The only way now was down!

This was after the 1st pitstop where the usual savouries were normally dispatched but today I was very careful to only indulge in fluids. We kept going for sometime before the downhill started.And it was some downhill. There was tar being laid on the road and most of the road was gravel.

Travel on gravel

The way down
I forget the number of times I skidded down with both my brakes tight. I just held on for dear life and balance. Folks like Shreyas just glided down at full speed.
Yogesh getting a bird's eye view

Early in the morning, a rikshaw driver carrying gas cylinders had toppled and the guy had bid adieu to life. It was pretty crazy going down on that road, and I just kept going as slow as possible till we reached the end. Caught up with Vinay Pydah and cycled with him for some time, when the realization dawned on me that we had plateaued at the base. Now I had not done a geography study before I started but something told me that this was not Wayanad. No undulations, just plain straight roads with intense heat and humidity. I again went ahead and continued being the lone ranger. Stopped a Mallu lady doing her daily rounds under her umbrella, I suspected I was in Kannur and that was duly confirmed. Now I realized what the downhill/uphill profile meant. We were going down to the coastal district and then up again over the Sahyadris. Just the thought gave me a kick. In any case I was happy as cycling from the coastal regions over the Sahyadri was something I wanted to do for some time. So here I was , running a fever (but by now I was so hot from the ambient heat that the fever was probably secondary).
Some time after the base we reached the 2nd pitstop where lunch was served by FringeFord. Lovely lunch. Kerala Parotta with potato subgee and boiled egg. I decided to take part in the protein offering despite the fever, and just relaxed for a couple of minutes. A few friends asked me to relax, but I was not sure of my stamina for the day, given my throat infection. I was not sure of whether I would last through the day in the intense heat,so I decided to keep a steady pace and not take any unnecessary break. I started again all alone, but after about a km or two, felt too exhausted to move. Took some fluids, relaxed under one tree, stretched. Meanwhile Pradeep and Ruby (the couple who personified togetherness throughout the tour) went past me,and after a while Prem Sagar went past as well. I started again, and after some time went past them as well. Went past Bernard as I cycled through the town of Iritty.

Bridge before Irutty

Eventually I reached the 3rd pitstop at about 2 or so. From the 2nd pitstop I had covered by head and ears with two wet handkerchiefs to prevent any sunburns ( in addition to copious amounts of a sunscreen). Boy was it hot today!
From the 3rd pit stop the base of the climb over the forests were about 5-6km I guess. The river came into view and we cycled some distance in parallel. A rather metal bridge had to be crossed, and at this point I missed the directions on the road, and took the straight road, only to realize that I had erred when I saw the big crosses on the road ( again a brilliant idea). Went back and was redirected. At the base of the forest there were some rubber plantations, nice sight but the plastic bags strung to catch the sap were real eyesores.

The rubber plantation

Oh-kay the amazing rainforest (rather tropical) came and it was ridiculously painful. Fully shaded but the intense humidity meant that it was similar to cycling in a sauna or steam room. The forest was noisy with crickets, and the noise was intense. At certain wet patches there were butterflies in plenty.

Take a look at this amatuer(ish) video of butterfiles.

And another of the general sound of crickets in the forest.

Here it is . The breathing sound is probably me as I’m pumping up and videographing simultaneously.

I cycled and caught up with Shankar Jayaraman in the middle of the path. This slope was nothing alaming but the humidity really contributed to the misery.
The forest

I made a mistake of stopping about 2/3rd of the way up (estimated) when Devakishor did his motorcycle sortie. Bad idea as the break cooled my muscles. From now on I went through slowly , but suddenly after cycling maybe 12km on the uphill I caught severe cramps on my back. And then another , and then again another, could do nothing but writhe on the side of the road, stretch and wait.
And lo, came a truck carrying bricks who took pity on me and said, banni saar, I had to reason with him that I was actually enjoying my cycling experience. After a 15min break, went ahead, and saw the Krishnaswamy brothers bonding on the side of the road, and they informed me that the next pitstop was just ahead and I was near the end of the climb. Felt happy to hear that. The final pitstop was next to a lake. It was quite pretty actually.
image of the lake

We were finally in Coorg. Well we always were in Coorg through the climb but that was politically , We had just reached the highlands. Now it was flat to rolling till we reached the town of Gonikoppa. The roads in Coorg are bad, even by Karnataka standards.

Coffee and pepper in coorg

Coffee seeds out to dry

coffee seeds drying
But negotiated the last leg of the journey with Haresh and Shankar and *poof* landed into the *hotel* where were were to stay for the night. Nice pakodas and tea to greet our penultimate day, and arguably the most strenous. Rest of the troop streamed in one by one. There was some drama with one gent riding ahead to glory avoiding the sweep trucks.

Night was easy , skipped dinner and had a good sleep after making sure no bedbugs in the room. Had the room to myself since my partner checked into another hotel.

A copy of the roster that the support guys ticked every day.
the roster with vasundara