Thursday, December 22, 2011

BSA Tour of Nilgiris - 2011 - Say 7 - Climb to Ooty

Rishi Goyal (57) leading the riders out of the hotel
Today can be called as 'The Drama' day. Events right from breakfast were very emotional. TD decided to rest Rishi Goyal due to the exhaustions the previous day. Poor Rishi was devastated. He is just 14 years old, but showed enough maturity to hold back the tears that only a few could see. Finally, it was decided that he would lead the pack out of the start line till they get out town limits of Bathery. After the usual ooty-climb-speech by Vasu, the pack left the hotel for their final tryst with the mountains this year. As the first few motor cycle support crew reported back, there was a border check point which was collecting toll - how much? What for? Were all arbitrary. The money-man of Deepak rushed to spot to enable free passage to all the TFN vehicles - cycles, motor-bikes, cars and the support vehicles.

Srinath - liaison with the local police
Next drama got unfolded when another set of motor bikers relayed in the news that Gudalur and adjoining areas like Devarsholai were observing a day long bandh in protest against Kerala Government on the Mullai Periyar Dam issue. There was utter confusion as to how severe was the bandh. Were they burning tires? Stone pelting? Will cyclists be safe? All questions were answered one by one. Cyclists - per se were acceptable. Although there was no violence reported, it was not safe for the Kerala Registered vehicles. Our video crew was in one of them. Our TD and the entire operational crew started exploring alternatives - alternate route, cancel CS, mass float till after Gudalur... So on. .. This is where the 'request for cooperation' letter from Bhaskar Rao, IGP (ATC) helped. The local police after getting in touch with their SP offered us full support. Srinath from the LeapSky wireless was asset due to his language and experience in dealing with officials. He was a pro at it. We got a police escort vehicle all the way till Neduvattam. Each police station on the way handing us over safely to the next. Thanks TN police.

Rajesh Nair (51) had a bad fall ahead of the last CS
Another drama that was developing was that of Rajesh. Those who know his association with previous TFNs do recollect that his Ooty climb in any TFN is jinxed. This one also started out to go the same way. Couple of Kms before the Devarsholai climb his tubeless tire came off the wheel ... And threw his off the bike for dirt testing. Result was a badly bruised hip, elbow, knee  and shoulders. Anyone else may have entertained thoughts of withdrawal. But having seen him suffer last evening after the race, I was sure he was not going to give up. He waited for the ambulance and got his bruises dressed and got on his bike again. The delay in getting the police escort helped him since every one else (esp Mark A) also waited for the time. It was a fresh start for all the cold legs again.

Balu in CS
The Devarsholai tea estates were very enchanting... But there is little any rider can enjoy when he is being escorted by police vehicle for security purposes. Somehow, everyone reached the SS2 (start of the CS section) safely. The last of the CS is a 22Km long climb. This climb has an unrelenting 4% gradient through out and kicks up to 8% at certain sections. To add to the woes of the riders, there are some patches of really bad roads. This CS is all about pacing oneself and riding in your zone and not bother about the inclines. You try to hard, you could bonk. You take it light, you could go backwards in GC. This CS also had Support Station - 3 in between. For those riders who are not bothered about their GC standings can opt to take ample rest in SS-3. Many of them did not mind the time hit and took a nap at SS-3. The Gudalur bandh gave the much needed solitude for the climbers with very less traffic. The canopy provided by the Nilgiris (eucalyptus) trees was also very inviting for many to stop, rest and move on.

Solitude during CS
 As the riders started crossing the line one by one, the suspense for the winner of the tour was getting tense. Rajesh Nair had finished and Mark Anderson had left the start line a minute behind him. This meant that if Mark came home any faster than 3 minutes after Rajesh, he would have defended the lead. Those must have been the longest 3 minutes for Rajesh. 3, 3.5, 4, and 5 minutes passed and still no sign of Mark. Rajesh Nair had won the tour. He can now rest the Ooty demon to rest once for all.

The duel between Mark and Rajesh is just one part of the story. There have been many such duel today since it is the last chance for anyone to climb up the leader board. The MTBs had a competition of their own and many others just wanted to remain in GC without getting disqualified. Once the race got over, every one was relieved. From then on, the journey is mostly downhill. After lunch people took really long breaks and had hot chai. As they were sipping various flavors of tea, they applauded every incoming rider to pump in a sense of huge accomplishment. Indeed it was.

Pykara Lake
We proceeded towards Ooty after a couple of cups of tea ourselves. On the way we visited the Pykara lake. It is a very silent place compared to the rest of the town. The boat service there uses LPG instead of gasoline - perhaps more environment friendly. After a brief photo shoot we headed to the YWCA hostel in Ooty. The place is very colonial and also has a chapel in its quarters. The amenities are very Spartan, but the leisurely setting makes up for it. As we freshened up, the MTB riders came on one by one. Boy-o-Boy, you can not describe the joy in the eyes of the finishers. Actually, the MTB riders have put in about 50% more effort than the roadies. Kudos to all those who have finished this tour standing shoulder to shoulder to others on better fitting machines.

High tea and dinner served. Winners congratulated. All finishers recollecting their toughest moments. Rajesh and other old timers recollected how the first TFN shaped. Akshat Jain celebrated his anniversary... All huddled around a warm campfire.

Cold night ahead of tomorrows joy ride.

Uploaded wireless using LeapSky devices (

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