Cycling & Brevets

Strawberry Land ramblings…

After completing the BRM400, the craving I felt to continue and complete the Super Randonneur series just grew within me. Finding and pushing my limits and the resulting adrenaline rush is kind of addictive. Family and most friends have been left flabbergasted at these weekend escapades of mine over the last few months. I am enjoying proving wrong all that I have been typecast as 🙂

The next Brevet was the BRM 600 Mumbai – Dhule – Mumbai in the 1st week of December. The route starts from Mulund and takes the NH3 all the way to Dhule and back. We were of eight us and we started out around 6:30 AM on a cool day. We took our first break at around 50 km, at Kamat’s Restaurant at the food court at Shahapur. Just before this break, I had had a small accident, wherein a truck came quite close to me and to avoid a collision, I veered off to the left and off the tarmac. I landed quite awkwardly on my left leg and I and twisted my knee a bit. It didn’t seem like a big issue and it was not painful, well at least at the time it was not. I continued along with JP Shetty, Chandramouly Bogadi, Prashant Pashte and we were joined by the indefatigable Anil Uchil at the base of Kasara Ghat at around 95 km where we took another break. We climbed Kasara Ghat, my 3rd time and I love this climb, and reached Igatpuri around 1 PM.

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02_DNF 600 BRM 300 and BRM 200_03

By now, my knee started hurting and I noticed it was swelling a bit on the inner side. I should have known better and quit at this time, but I just applied some Volini pain balm and continued. We experienced some horrible head winds from Igatpuri to Nashik, the only silver lining being that these same winds would be at our tails on the way back J. We had lunch at a Sikh dhaba and I never enjoyed vegetarian food so much as I did here.

02_DNF 600 BRM 300 and BRM 200_04

Refuelled and fresh from a 40 minute break, we pushed the last 25 odd kms to Nashik which was the 2nd Control Point. Reached with about 15 minutes to spare and then continued onwards. 150 km down and still a lot to go. As it got dark and the temperatures cooled down, the pain in my knee got worse. At about the 200 km mark, I just couldn’t pedal or put pressure on the left leg and started using my right leg only. Anil advised against this as it would screw up my right knee as well, and he was speaking from his experience at the previous Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011. I knew then that I would not make the control at Dhule in time and decided, with a heavy heart, to quit. At Chandwad, Anil helped me get a bed for the night at the Gurudwara, and he took a dinner break here as well for a simple yet nourishing meal. He made sure I was comfortable and then continued on towards Dhule. The guys at the Gurudwara provided me with a hot compress for my knee and warm blankets for the night. I was out like a light and slept like a baby. Got up at 6:30 AM and had a simple, delicious breakfast at the Langar. Then I stood at the roadside and waited for the rest of the riders to come by on their way back to Mumbai. Apurva Verma and Aashish Joshi passed by around 9:00 AM followed closely by JP Shetty and Anil Uchil and then the Control Car with Subhankar Dey came in around 9:30 AM. Here I got to know that Kiran Patel and Chandramouly Bogadi had also quit. We loaded our bikes on the bike rack on the car and moved out to the next control at Nashik. On the way we stocked up on water bottles and snacks for the riders and took to volunteering wholeheartedly, cheering those riding on and keeping their spirits up. This was quite satisfying and took away some of the disappointment of not riding ourselves. The rest of the riders finished this tough route in time and was quite happy for them. I took away a lot of lessons from this DNF, a first for me. My fellow riders also helped out with suggestions and advice, some of them gems and quite motivational 🙂

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As it turned out, the knee injury was thankfully not that bad and I was up and riding in a few days. I registered for the BRM 300 – Strawberry Fields Pune-Mahableshwar-Satara-Pune the following weekend.

We started off at 6:00 AM along with the BRM 600 riders. It was cold….horribly cold. I was not at all prepared for this as the previous week on the BRM 600, it was quite warm. My fingers were freezing and changing gears was difficult. Stopped for a while and took out the two spare jerseys I was carrying and wore them as well and only then felt a little better. The climb up to New Katraj Tunnel (the 1st Cat 2 climb) was long but fun and then enjoyed the mostly downhill ride to Kapurhol (50 km) and reached here at around 8:15 AM. Stopped for breakfast here and then continued on towards Kambhakti Ghat. Had couple of glasses of sugarcane juice and then climbed the ghat. Reached Wai at around 11:00 AM and that left me enough time to complete the long tough Pasarni Ghat Climb to Panchgani and thereon to the Control Point at Mahableshwar (about 45 km from Wai), where I needed to reach before 2:34 PM.

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I enjoyed the views of the beautiful Pasarni Ghat climb and struck another Ghat off my to-do list J. Traffic on this ghat is unbelievable – heavy vehicles drivers act as if they own the roads and we cyclists are as insignificant as ants!! Our safety is in our hands only.

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02_DNF 600 BRM 300 and BRM 200_09

Reached the Mahableshwar Control Point at 1:30 PM or so and stopped for a quick lunch. Started off at 2:00 PM and rode down the beautiful Medha Ghat at breakneck speed. No traffic and superb road conditions just added to the pleasure of about 18 – 20 km of downhill riding. Reached the Satara Control Point (180 km) at around 4:30 PM and after a short break to stock up on water and Enerzal, then continued on towards NH4 and Mahableshwar Phata.

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I knew I had enough time in hand and rode at a relaxed pace on gentle rolling terrain. I took a “Chocolate Milkshake” break at Hotel Aaram Residency just before Kambhakti Tunnel and this got me through the next 50 km. I stopped for dinner around 9:00 PM a little before Khed Shivapur, with less than 50 kms to go and 5 hours in hand. The last part of the ride was quite a mixed bag. Total darkness after New Katraj tunnel and my headlights were not quite good enough to give me confidence to speed up on the descent. So I waited for some traffic to come by and rode carefully down to where there were more lights along the road. Finally reached Baner and Café Nook at around 11:45 PM. Finished with the ride end formalities and a strong “Yes, I want a Medal” 🙂

Packed up my baby in the car and took a nap in the front seat. Left Café Nook around 2:00 AM and proceeded back to Mumbai with sleep breaks at the Kamshet food court and the Khalapur food court to reach home around 8:30 AM on the Sunday morning. Along the drive back home and just to keep awake and alert, I started making plans for the next Pune brevet – the daunting Mandhardevi Climber 200 KM on 29th December.

The Mandhardevi Climber 200, in retrospect was the toughest ride I have ever done…one that was not on my bucket list, but will be there for the next monsoon ride for sure and not only for the Strawberry milkshake, but also the pickles and chutney 🙂

The journey started the previous day from Mumbai with my son and darling wife, whom I had conned into coming along, so as to meet her sister in Pune :-). It was about time I got my family involved in my trysts with Randonneuring, especially my son, who I hope will follow in my footsteps into the wild things that I do 🙂

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This time we all started out from Café Nook and would end here. As with the earlier BRM 300, the ride to Katraj Tunnel and Kapurhol was super fun. Turned right from here and rode on to Bhatghar Dam control point and was treated to a Idli breakfast by the Panchanadikar couple that my Iyer wife and Mom-in-Law would be super proud of 🙂

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From Bhatghar Dam to Bhor and onwards to the base of the Mandhardevi climb was gentle rolling terrain…then the bloody climb started and I cursed my way up 8-9 km of category 1 climb that was so bloody painful and fulfilling at the same time…

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Took a break at the top and met Anil Uchil and together we zoomed down towards Wai along with Gagan Grover….only later did I realize I was riding in the company of elite PBP riders.

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Then Anil suggested we go on ahead to Mapro and have a milkshake out there…or maybe I did, who cares 🙂

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It took me this bloody long to realize what Randonneuring is all about….thanks man Anil…I didn’t mind one bit that it cost us an extra hour….I loved the milkshake and the ride / walk back up to Mandhardevi top…I was enjoying this ride and the company so much that I didn’t care if I’d finish this Brevet within time or not. I was never as reckless as I was riding back down to Bhor….oh boy, what a rush, the first few hundred meters without my brakes locked!!!

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02_DNF 600 BRM 300 and BRM 200_19

Traffic was horrible on the last stretch from Kapurhol to Pune and weaving in and out as well as some off-roading became the norm for the next ten odd kilometers. I was cutting it real fine on time, but as I reached Katraj Tunnel, I knew I’d make it as it’s mostly downhill for the last part of this ride. I made it to Café Nook with about 15 minutes to spare. 400, 300 and now 200 done….only 600 left to finish my Super Randonneur series 🙂

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