Thursday, December 25, 2008

TFN08 - Let's hit the road - Day One

A lot of people braved the morning mist and freezing temperatures. It is encouraging to see such a turnout for a cycling event. Mostly friends and family of the riders... But a few did turn up just for the event. Nilgiri's had sandwiches, bun, bananas ready on time. The hydration packs were all loaded. Hugs, kisses, wishes, claps and we were all set to go. At 6:45, just 15 minutes past the scheduled start we did have a flag off. (believe me, just 15 minutes delay in the very first edition of such a huge tour is actually commendable).


The first stop was in front of Bangalore University - More than a pitstop, it gave opportunity for us to regroup and organize ourselves. The first group to leave was of the faster riders who had already found others of their type and were ready to burn the road. Support car specialist from Red Rooster Racing followed them with same precision as he would have done if it were a pro-race. Behind them things were different. People were still trying to find out who to ride with.

As a result, the not-so-fast bunch got stretched too long. There are only limited support cars. And they had to operate in multiple modes - stand still, follow a slow rider (shielding him from traffic), zip through the same traffic to reach the next rider on the road. I stress on the fact that we had to zip through, because even on a Scorpio, catching these riders was not easy. Scortching pace.

Next pit stop was for lunch (brunch V2.0) about 10 Kms after Chennapatna. It was also the halfway point. I was surprised that it was so early. Samim and Dipanker (both pro-riders) did not want to stop anywhere until finish. They rode on. About 20 riders were already assembled there by the time we (Crew on the white Scorpio) reached there. Since the cooking of the food would take time, we were asked to help ourselves to a wide range of bakery snacks from the Nilgiri's kitchen. Honey cake, chocolate cake, cup cake and what not. Nelly brought a home-made energy potion - honey + salt + water/Gatorade. It is supposed to work wonders if you had been dehydrated earlier. The snacks were so filling that one bunch of riders (about 10 of them) decided not to wait for the elaborate lunch and took off. Most of us waited for the lunch, taking a much need break in that pretext. This break gave riders to talk to each others and exchange stories and laugh about their aching muscles.

Finally the lunch was served: methi roti served hot out of the tawa, hot alu-matter, jeera rice, misti-dahi (set sweet yogurt)

Holiday traffic on Mysore road was intense. Driving in these conditions is not easy - let alone riding. All our riders strictly adhered to traffic and tour rules. Yet there were three minor incidents - involving a dog, a road block and an idiot respectively. While the dog, the road block and the idiot got out of the incident unscathed, our riders were mildly hurt. But there was cheerful news when young Sukhdev completed half the distance in style. He quickly had his food, and was ready to tackle the other half as eagerly as the earlier.

After lunch, the fast just got faster. It got hotter and hotter also. This meant that the support cars had to do work that much harder to get water / gatorades to those who need it. Since we knew that were a bunch of riders (who did not wait for lunch) who would need fluids, we drove past one rider at a time handing over the magic drink. In some instances we were a tad late. One rider found himself asking for salt to mix with his Aquafina. The shop keeper lady had helped him - no strings attached. Pradeep was quick to spot this genuine helping nature and returned the gesture by offering her our supplies. By the time we reached the top of Chamundi Hills (finish line for stage 1) we had replenished all the riders ahead of us (except Samim and Dipankar, who were cooling their heels under a tree).

Slowly people started trickling in. The first to come were the road bikers - because of their obvious advantage on this terrain. Couple of MTB guys rode their hearts out to match the road bikers. Some of them got unfortunate flats - Nelly and Iggy. A sense of accomplishment swept across the entire gathering. Riders were deservedly happy to have completed the longest stage of the tour. Organizers were happy that it went on without any major hiccups. The bikes seemed happy with the intense work out that they got. It was a time once again for riders to share stories. Most of them revolving around the newly discovered muscles that were making sure that their voice be heard. Some of the stories were about reckless drivers.

As the bikes rested and bikers waited for food, Aravind Teki - our star photographer took leave of TFN08 and returned to Bangalore. Riders kept cycling past the finish line to be welcomed by an orchestra of claps by other riders and wise-cracks by Nelly. Honestly, I did not believe no many riders could finish this stage, especially in this heat. We shifted our base from top of Chamundi Hills to the Mysore View point so that we could serve food well there. After all of us had food, we proceeded towards Wild Flower resort for the Mysore Press Meet. The hospitality at Wild Flower resort was amazing. Coffee, Tea, Samosa, cookies and pastries... as much as you like - and on the house. Are we just lucky or what?

Local ride was a let down. Not much local attendance. Not much of ride either. After that, we rode towards the YHAI hostel in Mysore for our final pitstop - Dinner. Puffed Parantha, Ghee rice, Mixed veg curry and Chocolate chip pastry. There was also a non-veg dish that I don't know the name of :-( Half the team went to Yatri Nivas to crash, while the other half made itself comfortable (really comfy) in the three dormitories of YHAI.

What went well:
The idea of spare cycles was a super hit. It is still the first-day and all the spare bikes have been used. The idea of all three kinds of sweeper vehicles worked out very well, even though we had to multiple sweeps. First aid, food supplies were all timely and much appreciated.

What needs change:
We have learnt a lot of lessons today. We have realized that agility is our strength. Agility sadly is also our weakness leading to some degree of confusion. I have seen our think tank give some serious thoughts into how the day paned out this way. They will deliver. The riders have now discovered their strengths/limits. Tomorrow each one of us is wiser than today - and that should count.

Tomorrow will be another day. A better one.

5 comments:

Srikanth said...

Good Wishes for all those associated with TFN !!! Excellent Coverage, PK.
Please keep us posted.This is great way of sharing information with those who are interested in the event and want to follow the updates, but cannot make it to the event personally.

Keep them coming!

- Srikanth V (keenly following the event from Florida)

Ramki said...

Good reporting there. I felt as if I was with the riders. Keep the good work, mate!

Subra ....[ V . Subramanian ] said...

WISHING A HAPPY AND TROUBLE FREE FINISH TO ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE EVENT . HOPE NATURE WILL HELP EACH AND EVERYONE OF THE RIDERS . HAPPY JOURNEY AND JOYFUL RIDE .
THANKS FOR THE NICE POST FRIEND .

Jayadeep(JDP) said...

Great coverage of the event, Prashanth. How about twittering as well through the day ? http://twitter.com/tourofnilgiris seems silent after the start of TFN.

ROhan said...

good stuff