Today, I woke up with a sore throat. I am happy that it happened after TfN was over. Most of us are leaving for Bangalore at 10 am. I will collect my bike at Taj, Yeshwantpur and go home.
Here are my thoughts on the whole experience.
A note about the organisers and volunteers
I am yet to see a tour better organised than this. If the notion of a guided tour springs to your mind, please throw that notion away. The organisers and volunteers worked day and night to make sure that our rides are safe (there was an ICU on wheels and doctors on patrol), signs on the road were painted to help us out at the crossings (so that we do the Tour of Nilgiris and not a detour of Nilgiris), extra hydration and electrolytes were stocked with with official motorbikes and four-wheelers, food, water, drinks and physiotherapy support were available at each support station, and we had prepared food and shelter (with our luggage all ready) once we had exhausted ourselves to reach the day’s destination. Also, there were the camera guys and girls who went around shooting innumerable photographs and videos.
I had a few words with the volunteers. They said that their hardest work is one week before the tour. That’s when the final recce happens. There are a ton of cogs that must be fitted together to make the machine work. But once the machine starts rolling on day one, everything settles into a nice rhythm and the volunteers enjoy their time, too.
A note about the female riders
If anything, I looked up to the strongest riders. I have already written about Venky. I have also written about Manjeet. What I did not mention was how strong the women rides were.
One lady I had good interaction with during the rides was Dr. Belinda Viegas-Muller. She is a psychiatrist from Goa and participated in TfN with her husband Richard Muller (Jamie described Richard as a diesel engine). She is a mountaineer, trekker, author, cyclist, and what-not. She had a very motherly way of interacting with us riders. She rode very consistently on climbs and never missed an opportunity to stop and enjoy the nature whenever she saw something interesting.
There was Lena, the GC winner in the Women’s category. She is from Bangalore. I did not have much interaction with her. However, I saw her pass me by innumerable times. You have to watch this lady cycle to know what a good cycling posture and a good pedalling technique should look like. I often found her stopping at random places to enjoy some random fruit. I wish I was that strong to take breaks and still know that I would be at my destination before the cut-off time.
There was another lady from Bangalore called Archana. She works at BOTS (how many times have you seen a female bike mechanic!). She is a soft spoken lady but a hard rider. On the first day, I managed to keep up with her for only ten or so kilometres. Later, in the hills, I observed that she was able to keep up with Belinda’s pace. Amongst the women riders, she clocked third on that Kalahatti climb.
A note about myself
If anything, TfN has tested my limits. I am a beginner. There were times (especially on the climbs) that my heart was about to burst, my lungs were about to collapse and my legs were screaming. The only thing that kept me on the road was some part in my brain telling me that the distance is just a number, the height is just a number.
I was happy to be safe. It was of paramount importance. There were bends where I could have easily gone down but I paused to let a truck climb up. There were downhills where I kept my distance with the riders so that I had time to react in case something bad would happen. There were villages and settlements where I had consciously ridden under 20 kmph so that I didn’t hit a pedestrian or get hit by a running cow. I think that is the right way to ride.
In the end, it’s a form of meditation – it’s just you, the bike and the road.
I think I got stronger as the tour went on. My climbing became better (just by my own standards). I did not even think about Kalahatti when people were discussing about it on the day of the briefing. I shooed it away from my mind. I now know why they were discussing Kalahatti. The 9%-15% slopes of that hill are stuff nightmares are made of. I am sure that the day I will manage to ride up Kalahatti, I will break down and cry.
Now, I am at level 0!