There are two ways to write about specific events, Right after the event, with lots of anecdotes and details. The other way is to do it a while after, when details fade away and the big things stand clear. Latter is what i am trying to do now.
It’s been a month since we returned from Tour of Nilgiris (TFN for short) a 8 day cycling tour across a lot of south India. This was my second TFN, as I rode my Giant OCR in the inagural TFN. This time I took my ORBEA Onix. And I am glad to report that I survived whole of the tour, with just sore ass problem, and even bested my Ooty climb time by atleast 3 hrs (Last time I arrived at 6PM, but this time i was in the Hostel by 2.30PM)
The biggest surprise of the tour was how far the Road biking community had come. The first TFN was evenly divided between Mountain Bikers and Roadbikers. This tour was probably 90% Roadbikers. And what bikes they had, some of the most expensive and awesome bikes came to the Tour, Most of the top riders had bikes in excess of USD 5,000 (not counting the upgrades). OH my god that beautiful Pinarello Dogma. And fast they were, riding the in excess of 25kmph over distances of 150 km on the hills and the heat. Most early riders would be at the hotel in 6-8 hrs depending on the distances, however this was not the case in the first TFN, most early riders came much later in the afternoon.
Maybe the riders then were not as fast as they are now, but also there was a huge sense of Competition, while earlier it was camaraderie. This did not man there was dearth of camaraderie, Bangalore riders had formed teams to ride as a peloton, so that they could save their legs for the Competitive section.
The organization of the Tour has certainly gone to the next level. The first year, We would reach the end and find our Bags have not arrived, food not ready and shoddy conditions at the hotel. One of the worst thing from riders perspective coming in after hours of hard ride, is not having clean cloths to wear after a cold shower and not having some food ( I don’t mean energy bars) to eat. The recovery for the next day’s ride has to start immediately. This year the organization was impeccable. We would arrive early to the hotel and find the bags were already in the room, food in place, and above average hotels to stay at.
Also different was the planning and communication from the organizers, I do not believe in the whole tour anybody missed a turn or went the wrong way. The markings on the roads were impeccable, and support stations and vehicle support were great as well.
The Tour definitely has become harder since the first edition, that probably explains the drop in number of Mountain Bikes entering the tour. It’s a Road Bike tour and even though it sounds hash, there is no reason for Mountain bikers to enter TFN. Maybe the have fun the few days there are downhills and bad roads, but most of the 900km are tarred roads that offer no respite to the heavy MountainBikes. The tour is also getting faster, most riders train rigorously for TFN and the riding speeds are on average higher (thanks also to the super awesome bikes)
There is one final change, Of the 10 people I hung out with Cycling wise, 5 were CEOs or Head of their Organizations. It may be too early to call Cycling the new Golf, but there definitely seemed to be a lot more successful people( and a loser among them), at the TFN.
TFN is evolving, and has come a long way since it started 4 years ago, and it could soon be the preeminent Tour in India the sort of Tour de France of India.