First shot at the 200K Brevet
I have been dormant for so long that it seemed to be a far fetched idea that I would be doing anything endurance related for a while to come. The medical team gave me the go ahead to do some low impact cardio towards the end of Dec 2014. I went for a few rides towards the airport and the base of Nandi between 29th Dec 2014- 5th Jan 2015. On one of the rides Ankush had a fall on the downhill from Nandi and fractured his right wrist. I was crewing that day so we put him in the car and took him to the hospital for the customary X-ray and cast.
After it settled down, we went away for a short getaway to Goa and from 6th Jan – 11th Jan, there was no workouts included there. When I got back, the weather change got me and I was in bed for the next week. As soon as I felt better, we got out for a Century ride. That evening, I had a relapse and was in bed for yet another week. Along the way, I realised that the 2015 Brevet season has started and I felt it was time for me to start getting out and doing some base miles. For those of you wondering what a Brevet is, I can best define it as a self supported long distance ride with control check points and a specified time limit for completion. It starts with 200K and goes on uptil 1200K.
Just like in running, I feel it becomes easier to stick to a regular schedule when you have some events planned for yourself. As I was surfing through the net, I saw that there was an opportunity in the form of the Nelligere Night Brevet which was scheduled for 24th Jan 2015. When I spoke to Ankush to assess if I am ready for the ride, he was supportive and asked me to go for it.
I spoke to a few of the gang and eventually it was decided that Shuveshek, Harsha KT and myself would attempt the ride. This was a decision taken on the 21st Jan – ridiculously close to the event date. On 22nd Jan, we went about the registration process which included a multiple step process.
Step 1: membership with the Audax India Radonneurs (AIR)
This is a lifetime membership and you are given a permanent Rider # which belongs to only you.
Step 2: Registration for the particular event that you choose.
Huge thanks to Dipankar Paul who extended the registration deadline to accommodate our last minute registrations for the night brevet.
Now that the registration was done, I had another decision to take – should this be my last ride on the Scott (my old roadbike) or should it be my first ride on the Polygon ( my new road bike)
I decided it would be best to move on from the Scott and use this as the start of my relationship with my new bike, the Polygon Helios 500. I reached out to Venkatesh Shivarama, owner of Wheelsports on the 23rd and told him of my plans. Fondly known as Venky, he is a man who whole-heartedly supports cyclists and other athletes. He himself was a keen runner and cyclist and has been a key player in increasing awareness and introducing quality product to India. He said he that the bike is in stock and that I should reach out to Naveen for getting it assembled and do the bike-fit.
Naveen Raj is one of the calmest and most passionate cyclists that I know (and I know a few). Alongwith being the resident authority on bikes at Wheelsports, he is also a reputed cyclist on the National circuit and a store-house of knowledge. It was late afternoon when I spoke to Naveen. He said he was busy but that he would have the bike ready by 11am on 24th morning. 11am, and five of us went to collect the bike – Ankush, Henna, Akash, Niteesh and myself.
As we walked into the shop, there she was all ready, shiny and sparkly in white and blue – a sleek machine that will be my best friend for most of this year through recovery. Naveen got about to transferring the bottle cages, bike computer and cleats. After this, he went about doing the bike fit. Once the bike fit was done, I took the Polygon for a test ride and how she flew – love in an instant!!! Since the brevet is a self-supported ride, it was imperative that I know how to fix a puncture and change a tyre tube. Both Naveen and Ankush supervised while I struggled with learning how to change the tube. After a few repetitions, I felt a lot more comfortable. Naveen finally packed my puncture kit and tyre tubes in the saddle bag for my journey that night.
On our way back, we stopped en route to pick up visibility vests for Shuve and Harsha. It was 3pm by the time I got home – I had a quick lunch and was in bed for a nap by 3:30pm. Ankush, as always, was my knight who fixed up my bike and rest of the requirements for my ride .This included the lights for night riding, extra batteries, another torch for Shuve’s ride, the cherry bomb, one bottle of water and one bottle of tang for the ride, double checked all the parts of the bike again and did the final checks to ensure that nothing would go wrong on my first ride out. He also got my rider # placard ready as per the requirements of AIR
By 4:30pm I was up and about. I had a cuppa green tea and started getting ready to leave.I got into my cycling apparel and started packing myself up. In went the hand pump, cash, ipod, phone and cash for the ride. I wore the wind cheater for the cold in the evening and right on top was the reflector vests. I say vests because I was wearing the other two I had to hand over to Harsha and Shuve at the start point. As I was getting ready people started trickling in. By the time I left at 5:55pm there was a pretty big crowd waving me off and wishing me luck – Ankush, Mum, Nancy, Henna, Akash, Bhatta and Shiv.
The start point
The Brevet start time was 6:30pm and we had to cover the distance in 13.5Hrs. The meeting point was the Punjab National Bank opposite Cauvery Emporium on MG Road. This distance is about 9K from my home and due to the traffic, it took me about 30mins to reach the venue.
We were welcomed at the venue by the veteran Ironman Dipankar Paul and off course his staple naughty grin. Once we reached, there were a few formalities like payment of the registration, signing the indemnity, bike check, receiving the rider card and the cue sheet and off course the formal briefing. By the time the three of us settled down, it was already 6:45pm. Akshay, who was also on a roadie decided to start the brevet with us.
Vijay also came to the start point to wish us luck and ensure everything went smoothly. He then informed me that he was going to head home to pick Ankush up and that they would come and receive us at the finish line in the morning. As we started moving away, Dipankar ran to us with some bananas and handed each of us a couple bananas for the route.
One would think that after all this talk and all this preparation, we would all fly away at the word go, but no – how can things be so simple with us? If you have ever been out on the streets of Bangalore, you would know about the menace that I speak of – Traffic! Apparently all of Bangalore, all over the city has decided to take their vehicles out for a ride/drive (to the next traffic Jam). So, as we made our way out, we started with missing the Sankey Road turn and got into the New BEL Road turn. This was choc-a-bloc with traffic, so much so that we got off our bikes and walked about 2-3Kms just so that we could move. Next look at the clock and it is 8pm and we are still just 11K away from the start line. Not to mention – frustrated as hell!
Slowly, we made our way through traffic, through Yeshwantpur, then Peenya and soon we were at the toll gate. As soon as we reached open road, without a word, all four of us picked up speed and started moving – FAST! One behind the other sticking to the left side of the road unless overtaking another vehicle. Harsha and Akshay were ahead and from the corner of my eye I saw Shuve slow down and stop. His torch was giving him some issues so he stopped to fix it. I stopped with him. The other two didn’t realise that we had stopped and flew on ahead.
As we joined the highway, we saw a few of the riders who had left earlier and waved as we moved ahead. A little further, at the toll gate, we saw another rider resting. He waved to us and confirmed that everything was ok so we went on ahead. Shuve and me rode together until the turn to Mangalore – it was dark by now. As we made a left into the Mangalore Highway, we knew this was going to be a long lonely ride – we were both looking forward to it. Over the next 10K or so we rode together quietly with maybe a few words thrown in here and there. Shuve soon pulled away on the climb and was out of sight. I put my left headphone in and with music for company under the starlit night was a happy trooper who kept pedaling on.
The route was a rolling – slow continual gradients up with mostly no street lights. There would be patches of street lights. The traffic was not very heavy but the vehicles traversing were the big, huge lorries and trucks. Right at the beginning, near the turn off onto NH75 I had a small issue. As I was riding, some clown on a bike came and slapped my back. I got agitated and returned the favour with a shower of MC’s, BC’s and whatever else flowed. Other than that it was a peaceful ride. No one else bothered me and it was essentially a solitary experience of the road, the bike and me.
And so the story rolled until the 60K mark. It was around 10pm and I was feeling a little drained and hungry. As I looked towards my left, there was the blink of a cherry bomb in the darkness next to a bakery. I pulled up and said hi to a fellow rider. Him and his buddy were about to leave. They asked if I would like for them to give me company – I looked around and everything seemed in order so asked them to carry on. I had a chai and a bun, checked my phone and realised that Harsha had left a message saying they had missed the turn and shortly after, another one saying that they were back on track. The curious on-lookers came and checked out my bike. I looked on as I sipped the chai. But before I knew it, they were touching it and picking it up. At that point, I had to be a bit rude and asked them to keep their hands off. As I saw it attract more attention, I gulped the chai, got back on the saddle and started moving on ahead.
And so the story went, pedal on and on – so simple! Up, then down, some places flat but mostly rolling. I passed a couple riders along the way, waved out and kept going. Around the 72K mark, Shuve came up from behind and we chatted for a bit before he sped on ahead. Soon, it was the 100K mark and I started looking for the CCD which was our control point. The toll booth came, then the toll booth went by – and still no CCD. 102K, then 103K – I started wondering if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere – but that was highly impossible since it was a straight road. There was nothing around me to stop and ask either so I did the one thing I could – I pedaled on – 108, 109 and finally around 110K I saw the CCD. Oh! The thrill.
I turned in and moved towards the coffee shop. There were two riders there – Shuve and Shreevathsa. As I rode in, Shuve was on the phone with Ankush. He gave me the phone and I spoke to Ankush and gave him an update. I was feeling fine, just needed some stretches and food and would be back on the road. The time was exactly 12:03am as I checked my phone post our conversation – guess what we did – take a selfie! damn straight!
Ankush was obviously worried so I made a mental note to drop him a text every place I stopped at. The recent spate of accidents amongst cyclists has left him quite anxious and I could sense that it was unlikely that he would be getting any sleep until I reach the finish line.
We got a sandwich and coffee each, did some stretches, rest room break and a fair bit of talking. Another rider Anshuman soon rode in. Around 12:30am we decided to start the journey back before the muscles got too cold and fatigue started setting in. Shuve and me decided that we would break the rest of the ride into 40K, 30K and then the final home stretch to the end.
As we were walking out, we saw Harsha and Akshay ride in. They filled us in with their ride – they had inadvertently done an extra 2K when they missed the turn into the Mangalore Highway but realised in time so didn’t end up doing any more than 4K – could have been worse, losses were cut, corrections were made and they were back on track.
We waved good bye to them and got on the other side of the road to start moving. Shuve soon moved on ahead. I carried on at my pace. I wasn’t feeling particularly tired, I was OK, not overwhelmed, just normal with a keen realization that I had another 110 odd K to go and that this brevet was in the bag. The worse was done.
Personally I always find the return a lot easier than the onward journey. Psychologically I am usually at an advantage cos I am always thinking – the worse is done, now its all easy peasy. So anyway, I carried on at my own pace. Soon I came by a bunch of 4 riders riding on, quick wave hello and found out they were the 600K heroes. Inspirational stuff! I moved on ahead at my pace.
Next stop was at the 150K mark where I saw Shuve on the side of the road. His quads had started cramping so we both did some stretches to loosen the muscles and got back on the saddle. We rode together for a while and realised that his torch was dying. I had a spare battery which we put in Shuve’s torch. And so we continued. Shortly ahead, we saw a lone rider on an MTB standing and looking at his crank.
We stopped and showed him some light. Once he fixed his chain he got back on and started pedaling away. A 600K brevet rider, on an MTB and easily sped away from us – no words!! Then as usual, Shuve surged on ahead shortly after. And it was back to the road, the bike and me.
I was looking forward to the 180K break. And as luck would have it, so was Shuve. A little further from the 180K mark was a small shop. The shop owner was an absolute sweetheart – he didn’t have food and was preparing for breakfast ( idly’s etc.) but when he saw us, he was kind enough to make chai for Shuve and coffee for me. There were also some coconut biscuits. I had some coffee and a biscuit. Got a good sugar rush and thereafter it was the final stretch – 40K to go!!
We both got on the saddle and promised to meet each other at the finish line. By this time, my battery was almost discharged as well. However, I was hoping that in 5K, once I get back on the Bangalore Highway, the streets will be completely lit and I would be able to ride back happy as a lark. However, for whatever reason the streets were not lit up. This was a cause of concern and slowed me down considerably. Traffic increased as well, and the high beams blinded me. Made a mental note of just how important torch light is at the time of riding.
Anyway, I carried on the best that I could. Across Peenya and over the Yeshwantpur Bridge, then I came down and was cycling along. I was around the 215K mark when I heard “TIMTIM” from the other side of the road. It was Ankush and Vijay! Something about hearing a familiar voice – I was re-energized. The sun was also on the horizon and although I still couldn’t see clearly it was way better than earlier. I continued on.
After a bit the boys caught upto me. Ankush was very encouraging and told me that I was looking strong. They then sped off. Soon after, I crossed Sankey Road and onto the palace grounds road. Suddenly from behind I heard a roar and it was Harsha KT speeding away towards the finish point. We reached the Windsor Manor underpass, then on it was home territory – race course road, Infantry road, chinnaswamy stadium, MG Road and the good ole Punjab National Bank.
I forgot to look at the clock but I am sure it was somewhere between 6:15 – 6:45am. Shuve was at the finish line stretching and chilling. So was Harsha. As promised, so was Vijay and Ankush. So was Dipankar – and with a whole lot of goodies for the riders – biscuits, bananas, fruit juice – the works. There were also a bunch of the other finishers.
I gave Dipankar my proof of reaching the control points. We all congratulated each other. We then sat around for a while chit chatting, swapping stories and off course clicking pics.
And then we were back on the saddle making our way home. Vijay came over to drop Ankush home. We had breakfast together, then I had a warm shower and slipped into bed for a well-deserved rest. Damn! it feels normal to get out of the comfort zone once again!!!