Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BSA - Tour of Nilgiris 2011 - Day 6 - Kannur to Sultan Bathery

The instructions for this day was simple. Drink Drink Drink . Water of course. Drink water before going to bed. Drink water as soon as you wake up. Drink water while on the bike. It is going to be a long hot sultry day with Sun sucking all the energy and sap you have left in you. The only way to get through it is to hydrate as much and as often as you can. The breakfast was again not something to look for.  But first time on the tour menu was Dosa with chutney. Chola Batura, eggs, cereals, and bread complete the list.

Today was all about strategies. Mark Anderson was trying to see how best he can defend his 79 seconds over Rajesh Nair. He knows that Ooty is a tough climb and he needs all the buffer he can get against Rajesh - coz he is a much heavier rider than Rajesh (+15 to be precise). Lighter riders can climb fast - even if they get spent by the time they reach the summit. He left the hotel at the earliest to be able to do the CS when the Sun has not warmed up yet. Rajesh Nair on his part was playing a team game. As an honorary member of spectrum, the whole team gave their services to pace him to the CS keeping him fresh all along. But their efforts were hampered by strange mechanical  problems (missing 8th cog. How often do we see such problems?) just yards after the start. Team spectrum want to push Shankar up the leader board - perhaps to a podium position. Towards this goal, they have deiced that Siva will swap his Scott for Shankar's Trek. It is not just the top 5-10 who are worried about their positions. Every one below is trying to get past the one above them and a lot of battles are taking shape. Amidst all this, young Rishi Goyal is knocking a top-20 spot.  If you have any doubts about this tour being competitive, drop them now. Things have got way too much serious now.

Arun Thakur - happy to find well paved stretches
The roads in Kerala are generally well paved. Today seems to be an exception. Bad roads rattled every bone on the body - even of those MTB riders. Riders encountered some patches of good tarmac when joy knew no bounds for these speed junkies. There is another problem with Kerala. There is no gap between villages. Where one ends, another begins. Its not like that in Karnataka. There one can find long stretches of fields, forests or plantations between human settlement. Solitude is rarity on Kerala roads. Those who share the road are also not decent. Bus drivers are always a menace. They honk once in a 'please' tone. Second time they honk in 'caution' tone... Warning. The Third time, it’s a war cry. They go all out to mow you down. Riders had to hear a lot of choicest words from other motorist - some for not letting them pass, some for being different than them, some for being a woman and some for minding one's own business. Amidst all this, our happy riders reached the first Support Station. This is where most of the serious contenders shed all their extra weight - second water bottle, saddle packs, pumps, gels, rider docket etc... Soon, Siva's car became courier service to the top of the climb.

Bikey "Fixie" Venky chasing a tempo during CS
After the support station, there is 6 Kms of flat terrain. Then, there is a sweeping right-hand turn. That is where the climb starts. The CS start line is less than a Km from there. As the rider's left one by one, the tension in the legs (and minds) of those waiting for their turn increased. 3..2..1.. and Go. Every one was chasing the guy ahead of them. The climb is strong and every rider had some or the other story to tell about it. Mark Anderson 'cooked' it in the first 3 Kms and soon went into the red-zone. If he continued, there was every chance that he would bonk. Wisely, he spent the next kilometer just spinning at 16 Kmph to recover his breath. He again came good in the last two to regain whatever he lost while spinning. Rakesh Nair was obstructed by a lady alighting a bus. Both the lady and him were surprised at each other's position on the road. Being on cleats, Rakesh fell - the lady just walked away. Rakesh - 0: Bad Luck - 2. Rajesh on the other had got caught in a traffic jam just before the finish line. While these were going on, Jeff announced how good a climber he is by posting a 18' 18" ride to the top.

Kumar and Mohan at our resting joint. (pic: Srinath)
CS finish line (also support station - 2)is not the end of the climb. The climb continues for another 6-7 Kms before giving way to flatter terrain. For those who spent all their energy during the CS, this is no less an ordeal. For about half an hour, I opened a small resting joint  for the riders where the only refreshments that were offered were small talk and hearty laughs. Some of them keen on seeing the climb through passed it, while others took a breather. Calculations of sweep timings were made. Every body got going towards the lunch point which was at SS-3 (Varayal). Pasta was served for lunch with tomato and chilly sauce. After a leisurely lunch the riders pedaled towards a promise of ice-cream caravans at SS-4. The road to SS-4 was much better than most of the day. We passed a lot of coffee and tea estates on our way. But, they have become such a cliché.

From SS-4, the route gets a little easy but through towns and villages. Every climb looks like it is the last, but small and smaller climbs kept on coming all the way up to Sultan Bathery city. Only 2 riders got swept today. Quality bunch this. Special mentions: Rishi Goyal, the teenager managed to stay ahead of the sweep truck on such a grueling day. Applause all around when he came by!! By about 5:30 in the evening all riders made it back to Hotel Isaac's Regency. It’s a nice drive through hotel where the lobby is the parking lot. High-tea and dinner are subsequently served.

Results of CS section today:
Mark Anderson:  17' 11"
Rajesh Nair:  17' 46"
Jeff Shmidt: 18' 18"

Vicki Nicholson: 19' 26"

Everyone has the last CS of the day in their mind - Climbing up to the queen of the hills. It is to be seen who is crowned the King at the end of it.

1 comment:

Venky said...

Excellent flow to your writing, Prasanth. Loved the coverage. Great job! :)