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TOA Day 3 – #HumseNaHoga


After conquering Mount Abu on Day 1 and witnessing mesmerizing Rajasthan on Day 2, It’s 3rd September 2016, the final riding day (Strava) of Tour of Aravallis. As soon as I wake up, I realize that I don’t need to pack bags today as we are going to spend the night in the same hotel. Relieved, I get ready and get downstairs to help me with another delicious and sumptuous breakfast, after that I go and inspect my bike to ensure for another grueling day ahead. I inspect tires for unfriendlies and actually find and remove a little piece of glass from rear tire.

tac1606763Soon we line up to the start line, one final time and with lots of clapping and cheering, we are flagged off. Today we ride till very famous Kumbhalgarh fort (second largest wall after great wall of China,  NO! I AM NOT KIDDING), turn back and come back to our hotel via the same route. It meant riding that 7 KMs. of bad road twice on the same day, which I really hated. But the toughest part of today’s day was the competitive segment, it was nothing but the scary and turning descending portion of the road towards the end of Day 2, only this time we need to climb our way up that section. It proved to be the toughest day at the tour for me. I was first to be flagged off today on the segment but as soon as I hit up the first climb, I realised my legs were not up for any climbing today. I tried going out of the saddle, but couldn’t do it. I kept searching for one more lower gear on my 11-25 cassette, but it was not there. I had to shamefully get off the bike and walk till I reach the top of the climb. With several categorised climbs strewn across this 16KM segment, this walk of shame continued. I saw everybody passing me one by one. Most were struggling today, but not as much as me it seems. Finally I made it to the finish of the segment in some 1.5 hours, whereas guys like Karthik and Mayank did that in little over 40 mins. I have a long way to go before I match up with them 🙁

Oh god enough. Is anybody still behind me?

As soon as I finished the segment, I requested the technician accompanying us to fix my rear brake, I didn’t want to run out of braking capacity while returning and descending this treacherous road again. He quickly fixes my brake, while I take in some electrolytes and food. I adjust my Heart Rate chest belt as it was slipping and then me and Devang again start together. And again he slowly disappears ahead. I kept on riding and enjoying the roads passing through small villages. Sheriyar, Rudra, Madhu and Ryan soon join me, they didn’t seem to be in any hurry today and wanted to make the most of the last day of the tour. They stopped frequently to take pictures and take in the sights, this beautiful place had to offer.

Just a small portion of the mighty Kumbhalgarh Fort

We encountered some more steep climbs en route (which I obviously walked on) and some real fast descents. Kids from villages kept trying to sell us various fruits they picked from trees and wanted us to stop. One of them pushed a stick in Madhu’s wheel and he crashed. All bruised up but without any serious injury thankfully, he got up and continued riding. Finally we reached the Kumbhalgarh fort, where we were offered packed lunch by the organisers. Having lunch on top of the boundary wall of the fort was really a different feeling. We posed for a group photo after lunch and started our return journey. Soon I came across a fellow rider who has crashed after descending very fast, thankfully his helmet saved him and he also walked away without any serious injury.

I could now sense the end of this beautiful tour, we just need to go through those crazy descends and last few KMs of bad roads before we reach the finish at our hotel. Me and CP decide to ride together for the remaining portion so that we can help each other in case of any mishap. Decision proves to be a wise one, as CP gets a flat tire a few KMs ahead. I stop with him and he borrows my tool to open his tire, soon Anuj gets there in a support car and quickly fixes the flat for him and we are off again. We reach the finish line soon. We retire to our rooms, wash ourselves, eat some of the energy/protein bars and then get ready for the award ceremony and tour success party.

img_2014At the award ceremony – Karthik, Mayank, Rudra were declared winners in open category, Marko, Dr. Naresh, Chandan Purohit were winners in Veterans category and Eva won the women’s category. However everybody else got a finisher’s medal as well. After the awards music started and drinks flowed and I heard that party continued till early morning, but I was tired so I retired early to my room.

Next day we woke up a little late, got ready, had breakfast and left in our bus. We stopped at the famous Jain Temple and then proceeded towards Ahmedabad. I have been to a few cycling races/events, but this was for sure the best event I have been to. What’s quite impressive is that this was the first edition of the tour, so they haven’t had chance to perfect it through multiple iterations. Also entire tour was organised and managed by the volunteers of the Cyclone Cycling Club and not by a professional event organisation company. However attention to the details and perfect execution was evident throughout the tour. We all were provided tour jerseys customised with our names, nutrition and all the support throughout, route map for our top tubes (yup, felt like a real pro to have those), stay at great hotels, comfortable and safe transport, friendly and ever-present volunteers. I am sure they can only improve from here on and I hope that Tour of Aravallis becomes a must do event on list of every rider from India (and even abroad) very soon.

You can read the official tour report here, see official photographs here and read a cute poetic description of the tour by fellow rider Marco here. And this finally concludes my TOA posts. I am eagerly waiting for the second edition of Tour of Aravallis.

Happy Riding!

TOA Day 2 – Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat


So we conquered Mount Abu on Day 1 and it is Day 2 (Strava)  at Tour of Aravallis on 2nd September 2016.  I wake up even before the wake-up call today and soon get ready and pack bags, which again need to be deposited in support vehicle so that they can reach our next hotel. I borrow chain lubricant from my roommate Mayank and go and apply some to my chain. It was necessary after all that washing yesterday. I briefly think about the day ahead and realise that I just need to eat and ride all day today and then sleep and repeat the whole thing again tomorrow. I feel like a professional racer and think that I can get used to this lifestyle 🙂

Jonty Rhodes
Jonty Rhodes

As soon as we leave rooms with bags, we notice that it’s raining and visibility is really poor due to thick fog, but I choose to focus on the immediate task on hand, which was to have a hearty breakfast. I eat as much as I can and then come into lobby. We are told to stay put till organisers assess the riding conditions. After sometime organisers rightly decide that descending down the Mt. Abu would be dangerous due to low visibility and rains, so our ride would be started from the base of the Mt. Abu instead. Our bikes are loaded onto truck and we board our bus. Jonty Rhodes, ex- South African cricketer and greatest fielder, world has ever seen was going to ride with us on this day in capacity of brand ambassador of Montra, tour’s title sponsor.

Drive down the mountain proved to be equally tough for me as mid-way I started feeling nauseous due to all those bends and turns. Bus didn’t have any windows, which would have allowed me to do my business if it came to that. Sheriyar and Jonty were immersed in some conversation on the seats on other side of the aisle. Everybody else looked calm and I didn’t know what to do. My mind started racing to find some solution. I needed a vomit-bag, but there was none. Soon I realise that I had my saddle bag and helmet on my lap and my saddle bag contained a small plastic bag with cards and some cash. I reach for it and soon empty all it’s content on the vacant seat next to me and grab the bag in my hand and start breathing deeply and try to control it just a little longer. I look out the window and realise that we are almost at the base. Maybe a few more turns now. I was right and soon bus is at the base and my motion-sickness subsides. I put coins, cash back where they belonged. At the dhaba at base, where our bikes had already reached and were waiting for us, I was welcomed with one real yummy Lassi and I started feeling a lot better.

I top-up the air in my tires and we line up for the start of day 2. It’s 10 AM, instead of scheduled 7 AM start and we are flagged off by Anuj. Today was different and as soon as we were flagged off, a lead bunch of riders was formed and they were riding together in a peloton really fast. I tried to go after them and was trailing them for first few KMs, but gradually I slipped away and couldn’t catch up with them. Devang came from behind once again and started riding with me. I soon realised, he was not as tired as me and was riding at better speeds than mine. I had to let him go ahead and he too slowly slipped away.

Before start of CS on Day 2

I decided to just ride comfortably from then on and enjoy the scenic route and it was indeed the most beautiful day of the tour with breath-taking landscapes, meadows, greenery, tunnels and what not. After sometime I reached the starting point for the Competitive Segment of the day, which was 24 KMs long. After resting and refuelling for sometime, I decided to go for the segment. It was a lumpy road and at times, you were not sure if you are climbing or descending. I tried my best for about 10 KMs but then fatigue caught up and I became slow and only accelerated when there was a descent. Just when I thought, there is some 5-7 KMs of segment still remaining, I notice a huge crowd on both side of the highway. Thought of some accident, possibly involving one of our fellow riders did cross my mind, but as I reached near the crowd, I realised that it was actually the end of the segment and I slowed down to a halt. I again misjudged my segment and also I really didn’t come charging up till the finish. Anyways I was done with the segment and realised that huge crowd was actually to see us cyclists.

TOA Day 2 route in it’s full glory

After everyone was through with the segment, we were offered packed lunch. After lunch me and Devang again started together for onward journey, but again he gradually slipped ahead. I was really tired and didn’t want to work hard, so I kept on riding at slower pace. After riding for sometime, We turned left from highway to take road for Ranakpur, our destination for today. As soon as we turned left, route became really beautiful. I never expected Rajasthan to be so beautiful, green and full of little water-bodies along the route. I also noticed that in these parts of the country even women were greeting you, when you passed by, by saying hello. This is not something which you experience in other parts of India. May be Rajasthan gets lots of foreign tourists and people here are used to saying hello to them. Kids also said hello and kept on saying hello, bye-bye even after I responded back. I enjoyed it most of the time, but at times, some kids were pretty annoying as well. They will say hello and when I will reply, then will start asking for some money. At times kids will just obstruct the road ahead and want you to stop to chat with them, they even threw small stones at some of the riders.

This is not Europe 🙂

We encountered some light rain and drizzle enroute but it was all fun. You can’t be really sad when you are in the midst of such beauty. As we neared towards the end of the day, we went through some crazy and scary descents. Toughest descending I have ever done in my life. We were descending at 50+ speed and negotiating some real tricky turns as well. My rear break gave up and even after I left the lever, it will remain stuck to the rim and I had to press the lever in opposite direction to remove it from rim. This went on for some 10-12 KMs and finally we were closing in to our destination for the day – The Mana Hotel but we were greeted with some real bad patch of road for last few KMs. Slowly I made through these last few KMs and finished a very exciting Day 2.

TOA Day 1 – Abu Pe Kabu

abu-pe-kabuSo it’s 1st September (Strava), day when much awaited Tour of Aravallis (3 days, 350 KMs, 4500+ meters of elevation) finally begins. How I prepared and how I reached to the starting point is detailed in my previous post.

It’s 5 AM and we get a wakeup call at room by a volunteer. I spring up from the bed, worried that if I don’t hurry, I will get late.  My room-mate Mayank seems chilled out and in no particular hurry. While he spends some more time lying in bed, I get into bathroom. I try to be as quick as possible and change into cycling clothing. I pack my bag, pick-up helmet and other bike accessories and walk out of the room. Walking with cycling shoes on hotel’s marble floor and descending down staircase was scary but somehow I managed to reach the lobby without any drama. We deposited our bags to be loaded onto support vehicle and then went to take breakfast. It was drizzling, but tour has to begin.

Tour Director Anuj was on megaphone giving us instructions and details for the day to come. After that we warmed up under guidance of physiotherapist accompanying us on the tour. Soon it was 7 am and we were flagged off. I forgot to wear my gloves, so I stopped briefly to put them on and off I went again. Everybody was riding easy so I quickly caught up to the bunch. I noticed, most people were chatting and riding casually, most of them knew each other. Since I didn’t know anybody, I decided to keep moving ahead. Kishan said hi to me, when I caught up to him. We talked briefly and I kept moving ahead. Soon I caught up to the lead bunch of 4 riders from Team Montra (Rudra, Sheriyar, Madhu and Ryan). I decided to follow them, they seem to know, what they were doing. Soon Devang joined me and we started talking. He gave me good company throughout the tour.

First 20 KMs or so were flat and went by without any real effort. We soon reached the base of Mount Abu and here started my first HC climb of life. It was just 18 KMs from base but with an avg. gradient of 5%, it took us 800 meters up. Soon I started slipping away from front bunch of Team Montra, but I knew you can’t fight with mountain, so I slipped into lowest gear and just kept pedalling at a comfortable cadence. My only aim before coming to the tour was to climb Mt. Abu in one go, without any breaks and I was working my way up towards that.

It was drizzling when we started the day and as we climbed up, it turned foggy. It was difficult, but I was enjoying every moment of it. Many times, I thought that I won’t be able to keep riding without break till top, but I kept pushing for a little more distance. At times gradient climbed up to 25% making it really hard to keep pedalling, so I revised my aim to reach at least till the first support station, which was a a few KMs before the top and I kept riding. Sometimes I tried looking at the road in front of me and I had to literally look into the sky to see the road after next bend. However after sometime gradient eased up a little bit and I felt better and support station came, but I kept going without stopping and finally I stopped on top of Mt. Abu. only. What a feeling!! Ya it was back-breaking and ya Mayank and Marco came from behind and passed me with ease while I was fighting my way up, but I was very pleased nonetheless.

img_1976After riding through outer Mt. Abu town for sometime, I reached the start point of Competitive Segment (modeled like an Individual Time Trial). Ya after climbing up the Mt. Abu, they wanted us to now sprint with all our might up a Category 2 climb to reach Guru Shikhar, which was at the top of Aravalli mountain range. I rested for sometime, drank water and electrolytes, ate chikki etc and then decided to be done with the CS. Tour Director Gaurav recorded my time and off I went. I was expecting this section to be easier than the Mt. Abu part and also it started with a descent, so I pedalled with all my might but soon gradient started climbing and fatigue took over and I couldn’t really pedal as fast as I wanted to. I gave up on my CS ambitions and settled to just finishing it somehow. I kept pedalling through fog and mist somehow and after sometime, which really felt like an eternity finally encountered Anuj coolly sitting on a camping chair on the side of the road. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was finally on top of Aravallis and I climbed all the way up on my bike. I was definitely feeling proud and satisfied.

Ever helpful Avishi was there with all the snacks supplies, glucose, water and soft drinks. I rested for sometime there. Devang soon joined me at the top and we decided to start our journey down to Mt. Abu where we were staying for the day today.


Descending from Gurushikhar at really high speed was very scary for me. I kept pressing brakes really hard most of the time. I soon reached the Mt. Abu town and found my way back to the Hotel. It was a beautiful heritage hotel and we were there right on lunch time.

However our bikes were completely dirty after riding in rain, so we decided to first wash our bikes. After cleaning up the bikes, it was time to clean ourselves and then enjoy a much deserved lunch. After lunch I wandered around the hotel for sometime, but I was feeling really tired and wanted to recover before the start of next day, so I decided to go and take a nap at the room. After the nap too, I just lazed away most of the time till dinner.


After a sumptuous dinner, results for the CS were announced with Kartik, Mayank and Rudra taking the honours on first day. Women category was won by Eva and veteran category was won by Marco. We all soon retired to our respective rooms to rest and be fully fresh and ready for a big day tomorrow.

Tour of Aravallis – Prep and Day 0


Since I started cycling a little more than a year back, I have always tried to find about various events happening in India and try to attend a couple of events each year. While last year Deccan Cliffhanger was a great experience, this year in March I did The Impossible Race and plan to do India Gate to Gateway of India ride in December, so I was not really planning to do anymore events this year. However my friend Yash told me about Tour of Aravallis and I really liked the route. Climbing famous Mt. Abu on Day 1 was really tempting, but I didn’t register right away. I kept following the event on social media. Their website looked quite professional, soon they announced hotels where participants were going to stay and they all looked really luxurious hotels. Regular updates on social media and on their website gave me an impression of a very professionally managed event.

Nagpur is really a plateau and on our daily rides, it’s really hard for us to even do a 100+ meters elevation. Toughest climb we have nearby are only Category 4, so doing an HC climb was definitely very-very tempting to me and finally I gave in to my inner voice and registered for TOA. I thought it will be a good experience to test my climbing capabilities. I wanted to be ready for the tour so I tried to do repeats of local climbs whenever I could. I fell sick during early days of August for a few days but since TOA started in september, I didn’t worry much. After I got well, I decided to do 300 KM brevet on 14th August to test my recovery and do some endurance training. I have already finished 300 and 400 KMs brevets earlier, so I was comfortable going for it. I started ok but after sometime headwinds made the day really tough for me. I suffered a lot that day and took lots of breaks to rest and recover, but finished well within allotted time of 20 hrs. I took a few days rest after the brevet and then resumed my usual daily riding and as the TOA approached, I felt that I was ready to do my best.

Next challenge for me was how to travel to Ahmedabad with my bike. I first thought of travelling by train but they all were taking a long time and I didn’t want to tire myself before the tour, so I booked flight. I got my bike serviced, unassembled and packed in the box at Ncyclopedia a day before leaving and was all set. Thankfully I have booked my flights with Air India and Jet Airways both of which don’t charge anything extra for over-sized boxes, if you are within weight-limit and box is for a sports equipment. So I landed at Ahmedabad on 31st morning and was a bit apprehensive about bike box fitting in a taxi. I called up an Ola Cab and found out that bike box actually fits in most small cars (hatchbacks) after folding back seats. I deposited my bike box with organisers and went to visit an NGO called Jeevantirth, as I was free till evening. It was nice to get some rest, home-made food and see some of the projects being run by them. In the evening they dropped me at the departure location.

Our luxury bus was already waiting for us there and was ready to take us to Abu Road town, from where the Tour was scheduled to start next morning. Delicious snacks and drinks were offered during the journey of about 4 hours. Our bikes had reached before us and were waiting for us at the Hotel. Mine was still in the box though and I was a bit worried as I had not assembled a bike on my own till then. I wanted to check if it arrived safe through it’s air and road journey. I also wanted to eat and sleep soon so as to get enough rest before the tour starts. I started opening the box myself, but was really struggling to even cut the zip ties which held together bike parts. Thankfully Montra, title sponsor of the TOA, had also sent 2 really good bike technicians to accompany us riders for the full tour. One of them came to my aid and quickly opened and assembled my bike. I was relieved.


By that time dinner was ready and I went and did some much needed refueling for the days to come. After the dinner I rode my bike inside the hotel area itself, just to check if everything was fine. Thankfully nothing seemed amiss, so I placed my bike in the bike area and went up to catch some sleep.

How the tour unfolded? Watch out for my next post.