Day 2 of the Montra Tour of the Nilgiris was probably the most awaited day of the tour, and it had finally arrived! As morning dawned, the participants at the KVC hotel in Mysore geared themselves for the biggest challenge yet—to tame the mighty Kalhati. A challenge for experienced riders, I can’t help but wonder if newbies and amateurs will be able to live up to this task or fall prey to fatigue and give up along the way. After all, there are abundant dangerous hairpin loops and curves along the nasty Kalhati. What I can say for sure is that with riders not yet recovered completely from the 185 km ride from Bangalore to Mysore, this ride is going to test everyone’s mettle. As the riders were busy loading carbs for the ride, the organizers announced the following winners of the competitive section (day 1) as below:
- Master’s Category
- Vivek Radhakrishnan
- Womens Category
- Vicki Nicholson
- Men’s Category
- Nils Eigil Bradtberg
Day 2 of the race was flagged off at 7 a.m. (IST) as riders made their way out of the hotel premises and pedalled towards the open roads. With the Bike Patrol loaded and ready with the first aid, the pros quickly took the lead and headed towards time station 1. Not to forget the day includes one competitive stretch and 1 king of Kalhatty and master of Kalhatty challenge. The ride was extremely enjoyable, with huge coconut trees and abundant flora growing by the roads. In the meantime, volunteers headed to their respective time stations to pitch the tents and load them with food and other supplies.
The mesmerizing weather and pleasantly aching muscles didn’t really allow anyone to push ahead as everyone rode together in small groups, except the leading peloton. Even some of the leaders who lead the expressway on day 1 decided to cruise with the others. It was hard to miss the tires’ traction on the road and the colliding ball bearings created the perfect melody. To top it off, the cool breeze is always like an instant high for a cycling addict.
As we followed the leading peloton they were stopped by the police at the entrance of Mudumalai National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary which also served as an entrance to the neighbouring state Tamil Nadu. To deal with this concern a few of the organizers paid a visit to the head office and got permission. The organizers were bit late as 9 of the riders were already sent on the other side of the 4km stretch from the support vehicle. It seemed the forest officials found the wildlife population on a rise and hence the riders were put in cars and transported to the other side along with their bikes.
The Other Side: After covering a bit of distance the participants reached Time Station 3 situated few kilometers away from the Kalhatti. Considered a ‘Hors Categorie’ climb, it consists of 36 hairpins pushed over 12kms of terrain with waterfalls and a stunning view of the Kalhatty as it rises like a wall. The1200 metres distance has an average of around 10% to 15% or more of a gradient with the loops gradually getting tighter. However, organisers warn against underestimating the mighty Kalhatty, as cyclists have paid a heavy price for this folly in the past. As we approached the vast mountains, they became more distinct and featured deadly cuts with flora and fauna flourishing by its side.
As a cyclist, I was regretting my decision to blog for the Montra Tour of Nilgiris more and more. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but by the time this ride came along, I was loathing myself. At that moment, all I wanted to do was throw my laptop out of the window, jump onto the nearest bike and feel the wind rushing past me. I sat in the support vehicle along with the RAY Photographers (Adarsh Shetkar, Yogan Naik and Raj Kumar), enviously watching the riders zoom by. As we sat on one of the bends of Kalhatti waiting to get a glimpse of the passing cyclists’ something unusual caught our eye. A thousand words would be too few to describe the breathtaking view that the emerald green fields and the azure blue skies offered.
I looked around, absorbing the sights and sounds around me in an almost dream-like state until I was jolted back to reality by a passing car. I looked around at a reality that many of us wouldn’t mind. A few cyclists passed us, their deep, loud breaths pleading for an extra pair of lungs, screaming of their pain and fatigue. It was understandable the riders used the lowest ratio possible with every hairpin taking a toll on their minds and body. Many of them cursed as they rode their wobbling bike from left to right cursing, swearing and soon they were found walking on the ghat. Climbing Kalhatti standing and riding all the way up was impossible as was sitting the entire way. It wouldn’t be easy to push on gradients where if you stop, you fall. I waited patiently as the number of riders who were walking kept growing. It was evident that Kalhatti swallowed the weak and only the strong survived. There were several riders who hopped on the bike in and out on the mountain.
In spite of the cold foggy weather, every rider on the climb was bathed in a layer of sweat which glittered in the sunlight. For some of the warriors, it was hard to say a word as they simply nodded when asked about their whereabouts. The chirping birds, the melodious waterfalls, the scenic view, or the cheering volunteers—nothing mattered as every resource was concentrated on holding on to the handlebar. In the meanwhile, the leading peloton had already finished the massive climb and were on their way to the hotel. While a few got swept by the sweeping truck others continued their journey pedaling according to their convenience.
As darkness started, mounting riders made their way to the Elk Hill Hotel situated in Ooty within the deep blue Mountain. It would be a mistake to even ask the riders about their journey on arrival on one of the toughest mountains situated in South India.Take a look at the results of the top riders for Montra Tour of Nilgiris 2014- Day 2.
Also, read the account from fellow blogger Venkateswara Rao Navanasi on his blog.