Cycling & Brevets

All Flat Slopes…really???

After the disappointment of a DNF on the Mumbai-Dhule-Mumbai 600km brevet on 7th December, I was quite pumped up and determined to finish the series. With the 400 already done, I went out with a vengeance to do some tough routes, mainly to prepare for another 600, and hence decided to do the BRM300 – Strawberry Fields (Pune-Mahableshwar-Satara-Pune) and BRM200 – Mandhardevi Climber (Pune-Bhor-Wai via Mandhardevi and back) with Pune Randonneurs – these two rides were probably the toughest in their respective distances. Finished them well within time and thoroughly enjoyed myself riding with Pune riders, who are perhaps the most enthusiastic riders around.

Then looking at the Brevet Calendar, I figured I’d have 3 opportunities to do a 600 before summer – 18th/19th All Flat Slopes in Goa (Panjim to Saligrama and back), 25th/26th Power It Up (Mumbai-Mahableshwar-Satara-Mumbai) or the Kasa Kai (Baroda-Charoti-Baroda) and the 8th February Deccan Naadkhulla (Pune-Kolhapur-Lonavla-Pune). So planned to do the Goa Brevet and even if I DNF’ed, it would be like a training ride for the next one.

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Chandramouly Bogadi joined me for the drive down to Goa and we met up with another Mumbai Randonneur Baylon Fonseca in Panjim. Pre ride briefing by Terence “The Boss” Moniz was precise and informative, but we did start having doubts about these so called “Flat Slopes”. We were told to zoom in on the elevation profile to get a better understanding – screw it…just wanted to ride 🙂

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My ride plan was pretty simple – I would take small rests at 50km or 2 hour marks, whichever comes first and a bit longer at the 154 km CP. I also planned to sleep at least 2 hours at the 320km rest halt. Finally, lunch at Karwar at the 494km CP. I had the pleasure of borrowing a Garmin Edge 510 (USB chargeable) from Don D’mello and fed in the route details on Garmin Connect – used 16 km/h as the average speed which gave a total ride time of 37 hrs 35 mins. This left me with a good buffer to handle any unforeseen issues. Then I used the Virtual Partner within the course which would give me how far ahead / behind I was in time and distance. I used the Live Track feature as well, by pairing the Garmin with my phone via Bluetooth, so that family and friends could see my progress and check where I was at any given time. All these worked quite well, but had to stop and restart the Garmin at the 184 km mark as the GPS setting was not right and so have 2 ride stats – 184 km and 422 km. I carried 3 headlights – a 1800 Lumens LED CREE which gives about 3 – 4 hours of powerful light, an Owleye 30 Lux which is USB chargeable and a Sigma Lightster which can take AA batteries. Now to keep all these gadgets working and souped up, I carried a 10,000 mAh battery pack.

Rides start on time and Goa Randonneurs are very particular about this, which is quite ironical considering the laid back sussegad approach to everything in Goa (except when Goans are driving!!!)…we started off bang at 0600 hrs.

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The first 5 – 6 km is flat, then we hit the first climb up to Bambolim and the terrain is rolling from here on with some tough climbs between Margao and Cancona. Reached Karwar (100 km) at 1100 hrs and stocked up on Coconut water here.

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Then another couple of climbs between Karwar and Gokarna which are quite tough as the heat, humidity and head/cross winds started taking effect. Realised that on the return journey, would need to keep at least around 10 hours in hand for the last 150 km. Reached the 154km CP at Gangavali Bridge at around 1400 hrs and had lunch out here. Chicken biryani, bananas and Enerzal packets were provided by the volunteers – Goa Randonneurs, you guys rock!!!

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The terrain eases up from Honawar onwards till the turnaround point at Saligrama – 301km. Road conditions are quite good with only a few bad patches.

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However, as it got dark and this being a 2 lane highway, the headlight glare of oncoming vehicles started to put a strain on us and were blinding at some times so as to push us off the tarmac. We reached Saligrama at around 2300 hrs, swiped our cards and turned back for the 20 km ride to Hotel Jewel Park at the 320 km mark for a much needed rest. Started off on the last 280 km journey at 0300 hrs hoping to make the most of the night ride. However, the curse of the oncoming headlight glare struck again and could not maintain speed as with me it’s always safety first. Took a couple of breaks to rest my eyes and sip on a Red Bull. It was quite an effort to stay awake, but the rest stops did help a bit. By daybreak, we had managed to do only about 60 – 70 km and then we stopped for breakfast about 10 km before Honawar at around the 390 km. Here we met up with Terence, Brian, Sundar, Vinod, Manoj and Mandar. Next target was reaching the 494 km CP before cut off time of 2:56 PM.

The weather now turned against us and it started getting quite hot and humid. The heat beat down on us continuously and the rolling terrain of endless ups and downs started taking a toll on us. Took a break at Gangavali Bridge at the 450 km mark and stocked up on water and bananas. The stretch between Gangavali Bridge and Karwar was the worst!!! Hot as hell!!! But thankfully was not cramping up as I was making it a point to stay adequately hydrated. Finally reached Karwar and found the SBI ATM after searching around a bit. Met up with Chandramouly and had lunch at what looked like a decent hotel….don’t know how the hotel could screw up a simple Dal-Rice…I puked out all of it in the toilet, which was a blessing I guess as Chandramouly got an upset stomach which hampered his progress from here on and thoughts of quitting entered his mind on a few occasions. Left Karwar around 3 pm and took a small 15 min sleep break at a culvert just before the Karnataka-Goa border check post.

The last 100 km – on the ride in, I knew this stretch would be a challenge. And it was!!! I targeted to reach Cancona by 5pm, giving me 5 hours to complete the last 70-75 odd kms. Since I had puked out my lunch at Karwar and my appetite had gone for a toss, I kind of hit a wall on the climbs before Cancona and waited for Chandramouly on one of the climbs to pick up a packet of dry fruits from him. He was soldiering on on the climbs and kudos to him for staying with it. The dry fruits helped a bit, but I needed something more and stopped at Cancona again to pick up a big pack of Bourbon biscuits. Had half of the packet and then moved on again. I targeted to reach Margao by 7:30 pm. The climbs to Cuncolim started almost immediately after Cancona and I thankfully got into a rhythm, fuelled by the biscuits and my playlist of “Sutta na mila”, “Chariots of Fire theme” and “Last of the Mohicans Promontory” playing on a loop. Mashed out these tough climbs and reached Margao at 7:15 pm. Now I had about 30-35 km to the finish and about 2 and half hours in hand. For the first time in the last 100 – 150 km I realised I could finish in time…and this buoyed me up quite a bit.

The last part of this ride is all about mind over body, mental toughness….ABOUT HOW BADLY YOU REALLY WANT THIS!!!! The body is fatigued, pushed way beyond normal limits and it only takes one negative thought to creep in and the whole ride disintegrates!!! There is this inspirational dialogue by Eric Liddell from the movie Chariots of Fire – I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape….. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within…. felt this 🙂 Right about now I found myself in silent bargains with a higher being, and as I passed Bambolim Church, I bowed down to this higher being, thankful for the last 7-8 odd km remaining….all downhill and then flat!!! It was as if my bike had wings as I flew down the last slope and then leisurely pedaled up to the end at Miramar Circle…welcomed by the Goa Randos. 39 hours 28 mins of so much mixed emotions, ending with indescribable elation. Was asked by the inimitable and ever smiling Franky Gracias as to whether I wanted water or “some other refreshments”…Beer it is and it never tasted so gooood!!!! And what a way to complete the series and become an SR

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The SR series – 1500 km plus and 94 hours….not a single puncture or any bike issues….Angie, you beauty, except for a sore arse, you did me proud baby!!! Here’s to many many many more rides 🙂

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