Ever since I had to abandon my maiden 1200 ride in 2014, the urge to go back and finish it was always there. I knew that I had to finish it, at least to demonstrate that ordinary cyclists like me had a chance to complete it, given enough discipline in the ride. But given the lazy cyclist that I am , that is easier said than done. I decided to draw inspiration from my 2012 Belgaum Brevet finish — I decided to ride alone if need be to the halfway point and then try and get company. From experience, I know that some people invariably will abandon the ride for various reasons. Each minute in an endurance event of this sort is precious, and during crunchtimes it becomes impossible to cover up for lost time (with a weary body and mind, many a times its a mental game — if you feel you can make it you end up pushing yourself, if not you give it up )
So on the day of the ride, I got delayed for some reason , got all the brevet papers and cards and headed to the starting point. As I climbed the Jayadeva flyover my rear wheel started making a lot of noises. I knew that something was wrong at that point of time. At the start point handed over the papers to Parag to take over the race ownership. Srini told me to put coconut oil into the rear hub and continue riding, but Parag was sure of a cracked ball bearing. And I suspected something cracked too. I definitely wasn’t feeling too confident about the sound to ride 1200km. The ride started about 20m late and I zoomed off pronto. RR Cycles was 1km on the race route from the start, so I decided to barge in and requested them to fix my cycle. As luck would have it , the mechanics had just gone off for a late lunch. So I stood there fidgeting till they came back. Babu opened up the rear hub and showed me multiple cracked ball bearings. Meanwhile it started raining outside and as he was fixing it, I went out and pumped in 1/2 a litre of juice from a nearby juice shop. At about 4:45 or so the bike was ready.I also bought a couple of spare brake pads and went my way. I didn’t want to delve too much into the time delay. I knew I had a handicap of a hour and a half and the evening traffic to deal with.
I had promised myself that I would not worry about rain, and decided not to carry any raincoat or poncho. The best way of dealing with rain , at least in the Indian monsoon is to just brave it out and rely on your body heat to keep you warm. Riding wet is better than riding with a raincoat once the rain dries out. (At least for me, that is what I’ve come to believe in) Of course , another learning from my aborted trip in 2014 was to ensure that I had adequate protection for my palms and fingers in the elevated climes of Ooty. I remember my fingers had become coompletely numb , rendering it extremely difficult to handle the breaks. So that meant that I needed some protection for my palm in the cold. I bought leather gloves a few days before the trip. Carried with me with the intent to use it for the Ooty leg.
Thankfully the traffic was not too bad till I reached near Yeshwantpur and I managed to take the elevated flyway. The rain had also eased out by this time. I remember reaching Hassan Road in double quick time. However, my anxiety levels were still high, and would remain so till I caught up with at least a couple of folks. So I take the rather empty Mangalore highway and keep pedalling steady. The idea was to not get off the bike unless necessary. I had protein bars which I munched occasionally and a camelbak hydration pack (with a capacity of 2.1 litres) that I had filled with Kokum juice at the start of the journey. In addition to this a bottle of plain water in my bottle holder. I wanted to try and ride as much as possible as long as possible without breaking. My goal was to reach the 1st control , Belur , a distance of about 235km by about 2am (11 hours running time) Overall goal was to have at least a 3-4 hour buffer time at Madikeri, knowing that there was one big climb before Madikeri. As I continued my solo adventure it started raining a little heavily , and as I eased into the rain, I noticed what looked to me a pair of cyclists at a distance. The legs in motion definitely looked to be that of Anil Kadsur , to me. Anil was accompanying Archana , the sole female rider for safety reasons. He was hooded up to protect from the rain. As I passed him and Archana, I waved my hands, passed them and said Hi, but did not stop. I was in serious concentration mode, not wanting to waste any time. For the 1st time in the ride, I started feeling a little positive that I was at least ahead of someone else. The time was just after sunset , and the ethereal light of sunset was still holding nightfall at bay. Over some time I remember seeing a couple of guys taking breaks, and with every rider I passed, I grew in confidence of making the controls in time. I was not afraid of the Belur control, but I knew I needed a good buffer to make the Kalpetta control in time.
At around the 100km mark there is an Adiga’s on this road. And as I neared the Adiga’s I heard my name being called out loud. Recognition of the owner of that voice was what gave me some serious confidence. The voice was that of Putta Narasimhaiah, my Cleated Warrior team-mate. The moment I heard his voice, a voice inside me told me ‘You have caught up with Opendro’. I stopped, talked to Putta, who told me that he had just had his dinner but Opendro was actually behind us, and was helping Kiran and Gana push through. Since I knew that I had caught up with a few people, it looked a good time for me to have dinner. I waved Putta ahead and went to Adiga’s to have dinner. For the 1st time in the ride, I felt somewhat confident. And that had everything to do with the fact that I had caught up with Opendro