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Best Day at G2G

Day 3 – Bhilwara to Kherwara, 19th Dec. 2016

We woke up again at 5 AM, got ready, had breakfast, dropped the luggage, checked the bikes, topped-up the air in wheels and started Day 3 of G2G around 6.45. While I enjoyed the Day 2 a lot in the company of Maggan and we rode really fast at times and it was a lot of fun, I was afraid that I can’t really keep up the same tempo on all the 6 days of riding involved in G2G. So I had already told Maggan during dinner the previous day that, I won’t be riding with her next day. I was thinking of taking things a little easier today.

As soon as I got on the saddle, I could feel my bones touching the saddle and it felt like there was no flesh between my bones and saddle. Chamoi butter was obviously not helping much. There was no choice but to ride on and hope that it will subside. Bhilwara is some kind of industrial town and I could see factories lined up on both sides of the road and many trucks parked to carry manufactured goods from them. I just wanted to get out of this city as soon as possible. It was difficult to ride but I decided to just focus on first couple of hours, after which I decided to stop and I was looking forward to it. We bypassed Chittaurgarh and some riders even managed to catch a glimpse of famous Chittorgarh fort, but I somehow missed it. I was continuously watching every minute pass by and I stopped as soon as 2 hours were over. I drank some water and was chewing on my energy bar, when I saw Maggan approaching. She saw me and stopped and we were just trying to figure out where is everybody else and suddenly we see Anubhav, Manoj, Divyesh and Dev riding in a formation. They wave us and ask us to join them. I was still eating my energy bar so I tell Maggan that she should go ahead and join the Gujju train (that’s what Divyesh and Manoj were referred to as). She went ahead and soon joined them at the back.

I quickly finished my energy bar and pedalled ahead, I thought it will be less boring and easier to ride with them, so I rode fast and after sometime joined the train myself. Anubhav had opted out of the train by now to wait for his riding partner Henry, so now there were 5 of us in the train. We all were taking turn for a few minutes at the front. It was very efficient and person leading the train used proper hand-signals always so it was helpful for people riding at the back. Manoj and Divyesh were riding as par plan, they never rode too fast and took short breaks every 25 KMs, they had their own support car, which helped them keep breaks short as all the food and drinks were already in the car, so they stopped where they wanted instead of finding a suitable dhaba or restaurant.

Whenever I rode even a little faster, Manoj will ask me to slow down. I am not used to such disciplined riding. I ride fast when I feel good and I ride really slow when I am not feeling good. So although efficient, I was not enjoying riding like this. However it was a long ride, so I played along as it was practical and beneficial to ride like that. After sometime however I started feeling really tired and was unable to sit on saddle. It is difficult to ride out of the saddle when riding in a group as it will disturb the riders behind, so I used to wait for my turn at the back of the group and will then go out of the saddle so that I can have some minutes of relief. This continued for sometime and around 11.30, we turned right at Mangalwada towards Udaipur and I started feeling really tired and it was really uncomfortable to sit on the saddle, so I decided to take a break and let the group pass me by. However Maggan also stopped a few meters ahead of me, I walked upto her and inquired what’s the matter and she said she wanted to have lunch around 12 if possible and not between 1-2PM as the rest of group were planning. I also like to eat early so we agreed to have lunch together whenever we spot a suitable place.

After riding for just a few KMs more, I spotted a good looking Dhaba and we decided to have lunch there. We had covered 110 KMs for the day in about 5.30 Hrs. We started again after an hour or so. Now me and Maggan were working together, however I was really tired, so Maggan was kind enough to let me ride behind her most of the time and take advantage of her slipstream. Occasionally I will feel an energy burst and will come in front for sometime. However it was still a struggle and I couldn’t sit comfortably yet. I was already looking forward to next break. That’s how I coped with riding all day for 6 days continuously. I just looked forward to next coffee or lunch break.

After riding for about 15 KMs more, we spotted Poonam on the roadside waving at us. I was so happy to see her and get an excuse to stop again. I got down and helped myself to some cool Lassi she had in her car and also got some more supplies from her to take along with us and we again started riding. After an hour or so I started dreaming about coffee and after a few KMs, I noticed the sign for Udaipur Airport and I became really happy to know that we are nearing Udaipur (Found out later that airport is actually 22 KMs before the city) so soon and excitement led to me again getting an energy boost and I came in front for sometime and rode fast. Me and Maggan even considered going to Udaipur Airport in the hope of finding some decent coffee shop but we were not sure how much of detour that would be so we just stuck to our road. When after sometime we couldn’t spot any good coffee shop, we decided to make do with a small road-side shack which has some tea, coffee and snacks. It was 3 PM now and we had done 145 KMs so far.

After having a long coffee break, we again started and soon we encountered first real climb of G2G, which has been flat so far except for the unending series of flyovers. When we reached at the top, we found many other riders stopped there, they were taking photos, we also stopped for sometime there but then downhill from there looked too tempting so me and Maggan decided to just roll down from there. Soon traffic got real crazy as we neared the Udaipur city and Maggan asked me to come at the front to navigate the traffic the Indian way and she just followed me, occasionally shouting and shaking head at motorists making close passes or cutting us in abruptly. We were asked by Chiro to go through the city but somehow we got confused and ended-up at the bypass and got stuck in the middle of a long line of trucks. Somehow we rode on and finally were out of the Udaipur city and were again on very wide National Highway 8. We were relieved and soon we encountered, what was definitely the craziest and most thrilling downhill of G2G. Both me and Maggan forgot about all the discomfort from riding so far and started having some real fun. We both slid on the highest gear and pedalled with full might and descended at some crazy speed. It was a lot of fun and definitely my best G2G moment.

Downhill was really long and we had lots of fun but then we encountered some climbs as well. That’s how rest of the route was for this day, lots of climbing and descending. It was getting dark so me and Maggan thought of capturing today’s awesome day, so we stopped for a few minutes at the top of one such climb and clicked this photo and continued.

We were really tired after all this climbing and descending now, but we were so close to finishing the day, we had already done about 230 KMs and thought only last 10 KMs are remaining. We kept ticking each KM and we had done 10 KMs soon, then 11, 12, 13, but still couldn’t find the ‘Jai Bhawani’ guesthouse where we were supposed to stay. Maggan decided to stop and call Divyesh, who along with Manoj and Dev has already finished the day. That’s when we got the bad news that we need to ride about 20 KMs more, as there was some miscommunication. We were told that today it’s gonna be 240 KMs, but it actually was 260 KMs.

We both were so frustrated by this and felt like stopping there, but we had no choice so continued and kept hoping that maybe guesthouse is not that far and will come soon, we kept riding but couldn’t really see our stop. Maggan was visibly upset and expressed her unhappiness quite clearly. However what she said after a few minutes, I will always remember, she said – “Maybe we should not be frustrated, we should be happy, that we both are fit and have got good legs and have already ridden 200+ KMs today, we sure can ride another 20”. I liked that she found way to remain positive even in that situation. Still it looked like the day is never going to end. We will look with all the excitement at any hotel or house with lights on hoping that, probably this is our stop for the day, but we kept getting disappointed. Finally after some 20+ such disappointments, we finally saw the ‘Jai Bhawani’ sign in it’s full glory and I can’t really express in words, how happy we were to finally end this day 3 of G2G. It was very dark already as it was about 8.45 PM we reached there. Now to quickly change, have shower, dinner and then rest. 3 down, 3 more to go.

Maggan, Satan & Devil

Day 2 –  Jaipur – Bhilwara, 18th Dec 2016

Both me and Dev thought that we were little fast on Day 1 due to excitement or we being fresh  so we decided that we should ride real easy for 2-3 days now. So we begin our day 2 ride slowly. We were riding at a comfortable speed and then suddenly I hear someone saying something in Hindi, but with a strange accent and I see Maggan (A journalist who has come all the way from Sweden for G2G and knows a bit Hindi) passing us. She and Gaurav Wadhwa were riding together and they pass us and I keep looking at them. I tell myself – “Let them go, we are riding as par our own plan”. I am still looking at them and thinking that they will slowly disappear ahead of us. After a few minutes, I can still see them and I increase our speed a little and soon we get close to them and I think maybe they are not riding that fast and it can be fun to ride with them and we can work together and not get tired even at a faster speed, so to hell with the original plan, I accelerate with full might and soon catch up with them and pass them. But to make my intentions clear that I am not really competing with them and want to work with them, I slow down and let them come in my slipstream.

Dev aka Devil and Maggan at our Coffee Break

I could see that Dev was behind me and Maggan probably behind him, judging from our shadows which I could see easily on our sides without turning my head. After riding at front for sometime, Dev comes at front and after sometime Maggan says, she will take some of the wind, so she starts riding at front and I get into her slipstream. Dev is still behind me, but I can’t see Gaurav. Maggan is riding really fast and I try to stay with her, it was not easy but it was fun and thrilling to ride with her. After sometime Dev fades away from behind and I decide to stay with Maggan. Me and Maggan kept taking turns at the front and another hour just flew by and I wanted to stop, so I tell Maggan that maybe we should stop for a coffee and she says yes. Soon we see a restaurant and stop, Dev it turns out was not really much behind and soon joins us as we were getting off from the bike. Maggan compliments me for my riding and asks my name, I tell her, my name is Sachin and she obviously doesn’t understand it at first, so I tell her a few more times and I hope she understood. But later I actually found out that she didn’t and in her mind she kept referring to me as Satan and to Dev as Devil :-D.

Waiting for Aloo Parathas

We ate some biscuits and Dev and Maggan had black coffee and since I wanted my coffee with milk, I had to wait as there was no milk at the shop and we had to stop for more time than we planned as milk came after a long time and finally I got my coffee. We left together after coffee and Maggan again set a fast tempo and we followed, after sometime Dev told us to go ahead as he was having some issue with his knee and wanted to ride slow. Me and Maggan rode ahead and after sometime probably coffee kicked in and I felt an energy surge or maybe it was a favourable wind pushing us and I really started enjoying riding fast with Maggan. But this lasted only for a few KMs and we had to turn left to bypass Kishangarh and go towards Chittorgarh. I caught a glimpse of Shaktivahini volunteers at the junction, they were clapping and cheering for us. That always helps on such long rides so big thanks to them. But as soon as we turned left, I found out that it were winds which were propelling us and now started punishing us. Also the route was lumpy now and we slowed down considerably but this section of road was really quiet with hardly any traffic and we could also see some beautiful mountains to our right, so that was nice. Still I was tired but kept pedalling without thinking too much. On such rides sometime you just need to keep pedalling no matter what. After some time it was almost 12 PM and I started feeling hungry and told this to Maggan and she also wanted to eat something so we started looking for a place to eat and soon came across a dhaba in front of a beautiful sandy mountain and we stopped.

Dev, Maggan and Me at Bhiwara

We resumed after having some aloo parathas, soft drinks and wafers, after riding for another 20 KMs we saw Chiro and Poonam waving us down at a dhaba so we again stopped and had some Roti and Daal. We filled our water bottles, got some Wild Water (It’s really refreshing) and Whole Foods energy bars (Probably the only energy bars which don’t taste awful) to carry with us and proceeded ahead. We took another coffee stop and a rest stop before we finally entered the Bhilwara city. We were asked to stop at some resort and we freshened up there. Dev and Anurag rolled in after sometime. After having hot Pakodas and tea, Chiro took us to main city where lots of local cyclists and district magistrate welcomed us. Manoj and Divyesh also joined us there as they have reached before us and were resting at hotel. We rode through the city with local cyclists and then went to a hall where Lions club of Bhilwara and Vivekananda Center felicitated us and we all shared our experiences with the people present there and after that we finally rode to our hotel and had dinner and went to bed. People from Bhilwara were nice, but I still would have wanted to reach hotel as soon as possible and go to bed a little earlier to be fully rested for another long day to come.

G2G Day 1. Delhi – Jaipur

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Day 1 – Delhi to Jaipur (275 KMs), 17th Dec 2016

Today was the big day, when this epic journey will finally begin. I was happy to get some good sleep as we went to bed early. We still had to wake up at 3.30 AM to be on time. Our alarms rang and both me and Dev were up. Dev got ready quickly and I took my usual long time. Due to some confusion last day, we couldn’t submit our bags to be taken to our next stop. There was a little tension and some frantic calls were made. Chiro was already at Gurgaon and he couldn’t help. As a last measure, I shared our predicament over our G2G WhatsApp group and thankfully Arko responded and offered to take our bags in his car next day. We were relieved. THANKS AGAIN ARKO.

So we got ready in time and came down with our bags and bikes by 4.30 AM. Slowly bikes and riders began to trickle in and energy began to build up near The Bike Shop. Arko came as promised and took our bags and assured us that they will reach our next stop. Now it was almost 5 and nobody was making a move. We were new and didn’t know the route to India Gate so we waited. Suddenly Mona Budhraja appeared on the scene and said – “Come On Guys, we should go” and everybody got on the bikes. Her husband, Gaurav and elder son Yash were also riding G2G with us. We reached India Gate around 5.15 and were greeted with band and garlands. We were wished luck in traditional Indian way by Tilak on forehead and were offered some sweet as it’s considered auspicious. Mona cut a cake standing in front of India Gate at 5.15 in morning, as it was her birthday.

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Chiro (Event Organiser) gave us briefing about the route and finally we were flagged off by Himanshu Kumar (a para-cyclist who had earlier done the Mumbai-Delhi by cycle with his prosthetic leg) and an official from Lava Mobiles (Event Sponsor). Some Delhi riders rode with us till a little beyond Gurgaon. After that we were on NH 8 and it was straight highway, from then on. Me and Dev were riding together. It was 11 degrees when we started from India Gate but mercury kept going down till around 8 AM I think, where it went upto 8 degrees and then started finally rising. Thankfully I had a baselayer, jacket and leg warmers on.

My plan was to try and ride at a speed of <25 KMPH and maintain HR <150 so that I can be comfortable on all 6 days. Atleast that was the plan, I tried to stick to it for first 20-30 KMs and then suddenly Manoj and Divyesh from Surat (both Double SRs this year) passed us by. I decided to accelerate a bit and maybe take advantage of their slipstream, so I latched onto them. It was good riding with them. Manoj and Divyesh were taking turns ahead. I didn’t want to be selfish and wanted to work with them, but so far we didn’t know each other well, so I just kept riding at the back with Dev. They stopped at some 50 KMs and we stopped with them. After sometime I wanted to move ahead but Manoj was waiting for their support car so me and Dev moved ahead. However soon they came from behind and passed us. I again started drafting behind them. I was feeling bad taking all the advantage so I decided to move ahead, so I passed them and slowed down so that they can ride behind me. However there was no clear communication among us till now, I am not sure they understood it or not. We hardly went a few KMs ahead and saw Maggan, Yash and Anurag having some breakfast at a Dhaba. I stopped but we soon found out that our scheduled breakfast point is a few KMs ahead, so me and Dev rode on.

At about 70 KMs, we found Chiro and Shaktivahini (social service partner) volunteers waiting for us with packed breakfast. We had breakfast and pedalled ahead. It was getting warmer so I took off jackets and baselayer after riding for some more time.  Somehow we kept pushing through pollution, crazy traffic and unending series of flyovers. We stopped for lunch after doing some 150+ KMs at a Dhaba. After riding for a couple more hours, we stopped for coffee and then continued but very soon, we again spotted Shakitvahini van and our official Ambulance parked. We again stopped to munch on some snacks and another cup of coffee. Why waste any chance to take a break and have some coffee right?

Some 60 odd KMs were left for the day and we were excited to finish off the day now. We kept riding and soon could see the Jaipur city which we bypassed and continued on the highway and finally reached our stop for the day at around 7.15. We changed, washed ourselves and waited for others to arrive. At around 9 PM dinner was served and we ate whatever we could and soon retired to our rooms. Both me and Dev were very satisfied with first day and we thought to ourselves that we should go a little easy next day to preserve ourselves for remaining days.

But could we follow the plan and finish rest of ride comfortably? Find out in posts which follow.

G2G Here We Come!

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It was in March this year that Delhi Randonneurs announced India Gate to Gateway of India ride, a ride which would start from India Gate, Delhi and finish at Gateway of India, Mumbai after covering a distance of 1450 KMs in 6 days. Ride was planned for mid December and they announcing it 9 months ago, gave lots of time to train and plan. I was not sure that I should do it or not, but then fellow rider from Nagpur, Dev called and said that he wants to do it and wanted me to accompany him. After some discussion, we agreed and registered.

I knew I had to build up my endurance so I did multiple brevets, got my first Super Randonneur title and also did one multi-day bike event- Tour of Aravallis. I also tried to do 100+ KMs rides whenever I could, once a week minimum and sometimes twice or thrice a week. I was not really confident about Dev’s practise and kept pushing him to ride more, but he had his own plan, which I was not very sure of.  I was feeling confident about my endurance after doing 400 KM Brevet twice and 600 KM Brevet once.

Maximum we needed to do on a single day during G2G was 270 KMs. So I knew I could do it if I take it easy and mostly ride in my endurance HR zone. Still I needed to recover at night and be ready next day to repeat this all over again. So I decided that I need to reach Delhi with some good sleep reserves and also try to sleep early during G2G. Beside that I was really worried about saddle discomfort, from doing this for 6 days continuously. I decided to invest in some good bike shorts and also bought some Chamois Butter for the first time. From our G2G WhatsApp group I came to know that some riders are using Infinity seats (seats with more hole than seat) or real comfy seats for saddle comfort. I was not sure about any of those, so I decided to not really experiment with my saddle.

I also changed my cassette and chain some 15-20 days before the event as you should not change components just before the event. I wanted to avoid punctures so I switched to Continental Gatorskin tyres. I also bought a Cateye Volt 50 back light to provide me good visibility even during daytime.

We packed our bikes in boxes on 15th December and flew Air India (They don’t charge for oversized baggage) and landed in Delhi on 16th December, morning. We had 2 bike boxes with us so our plan was to hire an Ola SUV. Network congestion at terminal resulted in very patchy internet on my phone, but after sometime I was able to book the taxi and we reached the guesthouse where we were staying without any problems.

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We unpacked and assembled our bikes, had some lunch and then joined 22 other G2G riders at India Gate for some photo opportunity in our official event T-shirts. After that we again came back to our guesthouse.

Ride started next day at 5.30 AM from India Gate and we were asked to reach by 5 AM, so we had an early dinner, had a short walk and went to bed by 8.30. In my future posts I shall cover each day of riding in detail, so do watch out for them 🙂

TOA Day 3 – #HumseNaHoga

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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 🙁

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.